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A range of potent bioactive compounds such as hypoxanthine 9-L-arabinofuranoside, serratagenic acid, boeravinone A to F, liriodendron, ursolic acid, oleanolic acid, and punarnavoside may account for its many healing properties.
Punarnava or hogweed has an important place among therapeutic herbs prescribed in ayurveda. In fact, the rejuvenating powers of this herb are so famous that its name can be literally translated into “that which renews.” Punarnava plants come in white and red varieties, of which the white variety (Boerhavia diffusa) is considered more beneficial and used more extensively in herbal medicine.[ref]Bhowmik, Debjit, KPSampath Kumar, Shravan Paswan, Shweta Srivatava, Akhilesh pd Yadav, and Amitsankar Dutta. “Traditional Indian herbs Punarnava and its medicinal importance.” Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry 1, no. 1 (2012).[/ref] The leaves and roots of this trailing herb are traditionally used for treating a range of health problems from abdominal pain and inflammation to heart conditions and jaundice. Let’s take a closer look at how this herb can help you.[ref]Giresha, Aladahalli S., Siddanakoppalu N. Pramod, A. D. Sathisha, and K. K. Dharmappa. “Neutralization of Inflammation by Inhibiting In vitro and In vivo Secretory Phospholipase A2 by Ethanol Extract of Boerhaavia diffusa L.” Pharmacognosy research 9, no. 2 (2017): 174.[/ref]
1. Fights Respiratory Problems
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, punarnava can fight and ease respiratory ailments. It can expel phlegm, soothe the respiratory airway, and protect against inflammation of the mucous membrane.[ref]Bhowmik, Debjit, KP Sampath Kumar, Shravan Paswan, Shweta Srivatava, Akhilesh pd Yadav, and Amitsankar Dutta. “Traditional Indian herbs Punarnava and its medicinal importance.” Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry 1, no. 1 (2012).[/ref]
Traditional healers use punarnava as an expectorant and for clearing nasal congestion. It can even help tackle asthma – a decoction of the leaves of the Malabar nut plant and punarnava is combined with black pepper and ginger juice and customarily used to treat the condition.[ref]Kala, M., S. Kumar, and K. Gauthaman. “Relevance of the use of Alternative Medicine for Bronchial Asthma: A review.” Journal of Young Pharmacists 1, no. 2 (2009): 184.[/ref] Animal studies confirm its ability to relax the airway and curb spasms.[ref]Irié-N’guessan, Geneviève, Pierre Champy, Gisèle Kouakou-Siransy, Armand Koffi, Brou Jérôme Kablan, and Véronique Leblais. “Tracheal relaxation of five Ivorian anti-asthmatic plants: Role of epithelium and K+ channels in the effect of the aqueous-alcoholic extract of Dichrostachys cinerea root bark.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 138, no. 2 (2011): 432-438.[/ref]
2. Counters Stress
Ayurveda categorizes punarnava as a rasayana that can flush out toxins, balance doshas (tridoshahara), and rejuvenate the body. It also optimizes the immune system function.[ref]Rao, P. Pundareekaksha. “Ophthalmic uses of Boerhaavia Diffusa L.(Punarnava).”[/ref]
Punarnava has potential as an adaptogen which can help you fight stress. In one study, when mice were forced to swim in a limited space, they became immobile after a while. This was a behavioral sign of a mental state resembling depression. But when they were given an extract of the roots of punarnava, they were able to tolerate the stress better and swim longer. The extract also combated biochemical indicators of stress such as increased blood glucose and cortisol.[ref]Sumanth, Meera, and S. S. Mustafa. “Antistress, adoptogenic and immunopotentiating activity roots of Boerhaavia diffusa in mice.” International Journal of Pharmacology 3, no. 5 (2007): 416-420.[/ref]
3. Fights Inflammation
Inflammation is a normal immune response to infection or injury and plays an important part in healing. However, it is a double-edged sword. If your body is constantly in a fight mode, it can lead to chronic inflammation which is linked to a range of diseases such as coronary heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and asthma. Punarnava can help counter this. An enzyme known as secretory phospholipase A2 (sPLA2) plays a vital part in producing inflammatory mediators in chronic inflammatory disorders. Research shows that punarnava can inhibit sPLA2 and function as an anti-inflammatory agent.[ref]Giresha, Aladahalli S., Siddanakoppalu N. Pramod, A. D. Sathisha, and K. K. Dharmappa. “Neutralization of Inflammation by Inhibiting In vitro and In vivo Secretory Phospholipase A2 by Ethanol Extract of Boerhaavia diffusa L.” Pharmacognosy research 9, no. 2 (2017): 174.[/ref]
4. Protects Your Liver
Punarnava has traditionally been used to treat various liver disorders, including jaundice. Research backs this up. Both the leaves and roots of punarnava have been found to have hepatoprotective properties and may protect your liver from the onslaught of harmful chemicals.
One animal study found that administering an extract of the leaf of this plant protected subjects against liver damage induced with an overdose of acetaminophen, a common pain reliever. The antioxidant property of the leaves may account for this beneficial effect.[ref]Olaleye, M. Tolulope, Afolabi C. Akinmoladun, Adebayo A. Ogunboye, and Afolabi A. Akindahunsi. “Antioxidant activity and hepatoprotective property of leaf extracts of Boerhaavia diffusa Linn against acetaminophen-induced liver damage in rats.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 48, no. 8-9 (2010): 2200-2205.[/ref]
Punarnava is often a component in anti-obesity formulations. It is believed to stimulate the digestive fire and boost sluggish digestion. It also reduces water retention in the body because of its diuretic effect.[ref]Bhowmik, Debjit, KPSampath Kumar, Shravan Paswan, Shweta Srivatava, Akhilesh pd Yadav, and Amitsankar Dutta. “Traditional Indian herbs Punarnava and its medicinal importance.” Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry 1, no. 1 (2012).[/ref]
Other animal studies show that the roots also have a similar effect, countering damage by harmful chemicals. Interestingly, it was observed that the root was more effective when taken in a liquid form than a powdered form, possibly because it is more easily absorbed that way.[ref]Rawat, A. K. S., S. Mehrotra, S. C. Tripathi, and U. Shome. “Hepatoprotective activity of Boerhaavia diffusa L. roots—a popular Indian ethnomedicine.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 56, no. 1 (1997): 61-66.[/ref]
5. Relieves Pain
Traditional healers use a decoction of punarnava leaves for treating inflammation and pain. And this has been backed up by scientific research too. One animal study found that it reduced abdominal writhing caused by acetic acid by half and was also significantly effective at tackling pain caused by exposure to heat. The exact mechanism through which punarnava worked was not clear. However, the researchers suggested that it has an impact on our endogenous opioid system which consists of neurons that produce opioids in your body and naturally relieve pain.[ref]Holden, Janean E., Younhee Jeong, and Jeannine M. Forrest. “The endogenous opioid system and clinical pain management.” AACN Advanced Critical Care 16, no. 3 (2005): 291-301.[/ref] [ref]Hiruma-Lima, C. A., J. S. Gracioso, E. J. B. Bighetti, L. Germonsén Robineou, and ARM Souza Brito. “The juice of fresh leaves of Boerhaavia diffusa L.(Nyctaginaceae) markedly reduces pain in mice.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 71, no. 1-2 (2000): 267-274.[/ref]
6. Tackles Eye Diseases
Punarnava is used in ayurveda for tackling many eye disorders. The leaf juice may be used along with honey as an eye drop for ophthalmia or inflammation. The root is ground up and applied as collyrium to battle eye irritations and infections. It is also part of beneficial formulations. For instance, punarnava root is ground with ghee for a collyrium for corneal opacity; with honey for watering of the eye and swelling; with rice flour water for night blindness. It is also used with other herbs such as turmeric and devakanchana (red verity). Punarnava has demonstrated potent antimicrobial activity against a range of infection-causing germs like E. coli, S. aureus, and P. aeruginosa and this might be one reason it works against infective eye diseases.[ref]Rao, P. Pundareekaksha. “Ophthalmic uses of Boerhaavia Diffusa L.(Punarnava).”[/ref] However, lab studies on punarnava’s role in eye health is limited.
7. Treats Kidney Disorders
Another traditional use of punarnava is for treating kidney disorders and urinary tract and kidney stones. It even finds mention in ancient ayurvedic texts such as Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita for renal conditions. Animal studies show that it may help with kidney regeneration and tackle conditions like nephrotic syndrome where excessive protein is excreted in the urine.
Punarnava may indeed have the ability to reduce kidney stones (anti-urolithiasis). One study found it helped counter oxidative stress associated with the excessive excretion of oxalate in urine and could help prevent the deposition of calcium oxalate stones. Phenolic compounds present in this herb which show antioxidant activity may account for this benefit. A compound known as punarnavine may also have a diuretic effect, that is, it increases urination. And this can flush your kidneys and help prevent the formation of stones.[ref]Pareta, Surendra K., Kartik C. Patra, Papiya M. Mazumder, and Dinakar Sasmal. “Aqueous extract of Boerhaavia diffusa root ameliorates ethylene glycol-induced hyperoxaluric oxidative stress and renal injury in rat kidney.” Pharmaceutical biology 49, no. 12 (2011): 1224-1233.[/ref]
8. Helps Manage Diabetes
The leaves of punarnava are cooked and eaten like a vegetable in India. You can prepare it, say, in a curry and have along with other foods to make the most of its healing effects.[ref]Boerhavia diffusa (Mukirattai). National Health Portal.[/ref] It also helps that it is rich in iron and may help protect against iron deficiency anemia.[ref][ref]Bhowmik, Debjit, KPSampath Kumar, Shravan Paswan, Shweta Srivatava, Akhilesh pd Yadav, and Amitsankar Dutta. “Traditional Indian herbs Punarnava and its medicinal importance.” Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry 1, no. 1 (2012).[/ref]
Ayurvedic physicians have long valued punarnava for treating diabetes. And research indicates that it can indeed help. One animal study found that an extract of the leaf had a blood glucose lowering effect in diabetic rats. It has even been found to outperform or perform comparably to the antidiabetic drug glibenclamide in some animal tests.[ref]Nalamolu, Rao K., Krishna M. Boini, and Srinivas Nammi. “Effect of chronic administration of Boerhaavia diffusa Linn. leaf extract on experimental diabetes in rats.” Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research 3, no. 1 (2004): 305-309.[/ref] [ref]Pari, L., and M. Amarnath Satheesh. “Antidiabetic effect of Boerhavia diffusa: effect on serum and tissue lipids in experimental diabetes.” Journal of medicinal food 7, no. 4 (2004): 472-476.[/ref] Punarnava may work by improving the secretion of insulin. While it can’t replace your diabetes medication, speak to your doctor about taking punarnava as a supplementary therapy.
9. Tackles Epilepsy
The roots of punarnava are used in Nigeria to treat epilepsy. Research indicates that a compound known as liriodendron present in its roots has a protective effect against seizures. This anticonvulsant activity is thought to be due to its calcium channel antagonistic action – that is, it blocks calcium channels. Seizures are caused by sudden changes in the normal electrical activity of your brain and calcium ions have a role in passing electric messages in your brain. Blocking a calcium channel can, therefore, stop electric messages from being sent across and may prevent seizures.[ref]how anti-epileptic drugs work. Epilepsy Society.[/ref] [ref]Kaur, Mandeep, and Rajesh Kumar Goel. “Anti-convulsant activity of Boerhaavia diffusa: plausible role of calcium channel antagonism.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011 (2011).[/ref]
10. Protects The Heart
Punarnava may also have potential as a cardiotonic. The enlargement of the heart or cardiac hypertrophy has been linked to a deterioration in the function of the heart and in the development of heart failure. Oxidative stress caused by free radicals plays a significant role in the development of cardiac hypertrophy. Research indicates that punarnava can exert a protective effect on your heart since it contains many phenolic compounds that have strong antioxidant properties.[ref]Prathapan, Ayyappan, Vadavanath Prabhakaran Vineetha, and Kozhiparambil Gopalan Raghu. “Protective effect of Boerhaavia diffusa L. against mitochondrial dysfunction in angiotensin II induced hypertrophy in H9c2 cardiomyoblast cells.” PLoS One 9, no. 4 (2014): e96220.[/ref]
11.Tackles Skin Diseases
A paste of punarnava roots can help heal skin wounds and reduce swelling.[ref][ref]Bhowmik, Debjit, KP, Sampath Kumar, Shravan Paswan, Shweta Srivatava, Akhilesh pd Yadav, and Amitsankar Dutta. “Traditional Indian herbs Punarnava and its medicinal importance.” Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry 1, no. 1 (2012).[/ref]
Another long-established benefit of punarnava is for the treatment of skin diseases. And research indicates that this herb can inhibit fungi such as Microsporum gypseum which infect your skin and cause redness, fissures, scaling, and blisters. In fact, ayurvedic medicines like punarnavadi mandura and punarnavadyarishta which contain punarnava have long been used to treat skin diseases with such symptoms.[ref]Mishra, Shikha, Vidhu Aeri, Praveen Kumar Gaur, and Sanjay M. Jachak. “Phytochemical, therapeutic, and ethnopharmacological overview for a traditionally important herb: Boerhavia diffusa Linn.” BioMed research international 2014 (2014).[/ref]
12. Helps Treat Tuberculosis
Punarnava has been used in traditional medicine to treat tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection of the lungs but it may also impact other parts such as your nervous system and bones as well. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat this condition though in some cases chemotherapy may also be used. Left untreated tuberculosis can be fatal and it is important to strictly follow the prescribed course of antibiotics if you have this disease.[ref]Tuberculosis (TB). National Health Service.[/ref] But punarnava may be beneficial as an adjuvant therapy in your treatment. One study found that patients with pulmonary tuberculosis who received punarnava along with chemotherapy recovered faster than those who had chemotherapy alone. They showed earlier clinical recovery, better weight gain, improved white blood cell counts, and better relief from cough and fever. Speak to your doctor to figure out if punarnava can help in your fight against tuberculosis.[ref]Kant, S., M. S. Agnihotri, and K. S. Dixit. “Clinical evaluation of Boerhaavia diffusa as an adjuvant in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.” Phytomedica 2, no. 1-2 (2001): 89-94.[/ref] [ref]Mishra, Shikha, Vidhu Aeri, Praveen Kumar Gaur, and Sanjay M. Jachak. “Phytochemical, therapeutic, and ethnopharmacological overview for a traditionally important herb: Boerhavia diffusa Linn.” BioMed research international 2014 (2014).[/ref]
Punarnava can have both a protective and a restorative effect on your health. But to make most of its benefits, consult an ayurvedic practitioner about ideal dosage and the exact preparation you should take. While no major side effects have been reported, it may have a mild laxative effect. It is not recommended for use in children and pregnant women.[ref]Bhowmik, Debjit, KP Sampath Kumar, Shravan Paswan, Shweta Srivatava, Akhilesh pd Yadav, and Amitsankar Dutta. “Traditional Indian herbs Punarnava and its medicinal importance.” Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry 1, no. 1 (2012).[/ref]