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Tuesday, May 15, 2012
ROCKFOIL, ZAKHM-E-HAYAT ONE OF THE SAXIFRAGE FAMILY: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF ROCKFOIL
Rockfoil is in the Bergenia or begonia genus of plants and a member of the Saxifragaceae family, although it is not related to the lesser and greater burnet saxifrages which are in the carrot family of Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family of plants. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and a close relation of Bergenia cordifolia Purpureae which is cultivated in
Britain in gardens. I never liked this plant which grew in a neighbour’s garden as it reminded me of a cabbage (and like most children I didn’t like the taste of these green vegetables).
This plant has several synonyms for its genus which include Bergenia ligulata, Saxifraga ciliata, and several others. It is used in medicine in several countries including
Nepal, Tibet, India and Pakistan. It grows to heights of only a foot and has a spread of one foot and eight inches. In Urdu the plant is called Zakhm-e-Hayat, although this name is given to several of the saxifrages.
The pink-white flowers are boiled and then pickled, and the leaves and roots are used in medicinal preparations. For external use the root is crushed slightly and applied as a poultice to sores and abscesses and other skin eruptions, and is also thought to relieve the pain of backaches. A paste made with the roots is applied on wounds and skin infections as it has an anti-inflammatory effect.
The root can also be used for diarrhoea as it is astringent and contains tannin, and is used as a tonic during a fever, and it is often prescribed for lung and chest infections including asthma.
The root powder is massaged into the gums of teething infants and young children to take away the pain. However the roots are primarily used for urinary calculus and kidney stones, as it has a lithotropic effect and is also a diuretic, which means that the dispersed stones can easily flow out of the body in urine. In some parts, the root powder is used as a treatment for diabetes mellitus and as an antidote to opium poisoning.
Other uses for the root include menstrual problems, heart disease, vaginal discharge and diseases and for the protection of the spleen.
It can be combined with shilajit (mineral pitch), pippali (long pepper), cardamom and rice water to stop cystitis. It is given to disperse kidney stones either alone or mixed with Puncture vine (Tribulus terrestris).
The expressed juice from the root is dropped into the ear for earaches, and is also used on piles and as an expectorant for coughs and so on. In
Nepal either the powdered root or the juice is used for urinary tract problems.
The root contains bergenin, which has anti-inflammatory effects and may be used in future in the treatment of arthritis and neobergenin which has potent immunomodulatory effects according to research.The plant has also been shown to have antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties, and most of its traditional uses have been vindicated by research