Vasaka

Justicia adhatoda / Adhatoda Vasica

Herbs gallery - Vasaka

Common names

  • Adhatoda
  • Adulsa
  • Arusha
  • Lion's Muzzle
  • Malabar Nut
  • Stallion's Tooth
  • Vasaka

Vasaka (scientific name Justicia adhatoda) is a remedial herb having its origin in Asia. It is a small evergreen shrub-like plant belonging to the Acanthaceae family. This herb is widely used in a variety of medicine systems including Ayurvedic, Unani, homeopathy and Siddha.

This herb is found growing over a wide range in Asia, including India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, Malaysia and Indonesia. In addition, it also grows in Panama, where vasaka is believed to have been introduced several years ago.

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The leaves of vasaka are lance-shaped and they grow up to a length of 10 cm to 15 cm, while measuring 4 cm in width. The smooth-edged leaves are arranged oppositely on short petioles. When the leaves become dry, their color changes to dull brownish-green. The leaves have a bitter taste. When you examine the leaves under a microscope after cleaning them with chloral hydrate, you can see the oval stomata, which is encircled by two crescent-shaped cells positioned perpendicularly to the ostiole. The epidermis of the vasaka leaf contains warty hairs having one to three cells, in addition to a few small glandular hairs. Cystoliths take place under the epidermis on the underside of the leaf blade.

The trunk of this shrub-like plant bears several elongated, ascending branches that are arranged oppositely. The bark of vasaka has a yellowish hue. Generally, this herb bears white flowers, while the inflorescence exhibits large, thick, axillary spikes. The fruits of this plant are pubescent containing small capsules having the shape of clubs.

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Parts used

Leaves, flowers, roots, fruits.

Uses

A petite evergreen shrub, vasaka is employed for various therapeutic purposes in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. In fact, vasaka is a very well-known herb because of its efficacy in curing health conditions related to the respiratory system. Sometimes, sadhus and yogis chew the leaf buds of vasaka together with ginger as this herb helps to stimulate the entire respiratory system. This herb possesses expectorant as well as antispasmodic properties and has been employed by practitioners of herbal medicine for several centuries to successfully cure chronic bronchitis, asthma and many other conditions related to the respiratory system. In recent times, researchers have studied this herb for its potential use in curing tuberculosis - another condition related to the respiratory tract.

Sometimes, the leaves of vasaka are also employed in the form of insecticides. This herb also possesses antispasmodic properties and, therefore, it helps to alleviate pain. In addition, it has been found that the leaves of this herb also have moderate hypotensive activity, as they work to lower high blood pressure.

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This shrub is also a vital constituent of a drug, which is very popular in the home-grown medicine systems. This drug offers several beneficial effects, especially in treating bronchitis. Almost all the parts of this herb, including the leaves, fruits, flowers and roots, are widely employed for curing asthma, chronic bronchitis, cough, whooping cough and colds. This herb also serves as an expectorant, antispasmodic, anthelmintic and sedative. In addition, vasaka is a bronchodilator, bronchial antiseptic and expectorant. The leaves, flowers, roots as well as its active principles possess several pharmacological attributes and are employed for treating asthma, chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, cough and rheumatism. Juice extracted from the fresh leaves of this herb has been employed widely to treat tuberculosis. Applying the juice of vasaka leaves topically also helps to alleviate bleeding gums and provides relief to people suffering from pyorrhoea.

It is worth mentioning here that every part of vasaka has great therapeutic value. The whole herb is dried and pulverized to produce a powder, which is then boiled in sesame oil. This formulation is effective in treating ear infections as well as in stopping bleeding. The leaves of vasaka are also boiled in water and applied in the form of a poultice to cure rheumatic pain. In addition, the poultice made from this herbal formula is also employed to alleviated pain due to infections in the urinary tract. It is also believed that vasaka possesses abortifacient properties. In some parts of India, this herb is used to encourage uterine contractions, thereby accelerating the process of childbirth.

Often, vasaka is also employed to arrest bleeding in a number of conditions like gingivitis, peptic ulcers and excessive menstrual bleeding as well as haemorrhoids. A decoction prepared from the leaves of this herb may also be employed in the form of an herbal remedy for cough as well as various symptoms related to colds.

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This plant also has a soothing action, which helps to pacify throat irritations. Moreover, the expectorant property of vasaka is helpful in loosening up the deposits of phlegm inside the airways, making vasaka an excellent herbal remedy for sore throat.

A poultice prepared with the leaves of this plant may also be applied directly to wounds to speed up the healing as well as to prevent the wound from becoming septic. These are attributed to the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of the plant. Some people also believe that applying this poultice to joints can also be effective in alleviating the symptoms related to rheumatism.

In the ancient Indian Ayurvedic medicine, this herb is employed for treating numerous health problems including fever, jaundice, vomiting, indigestion, heart disease, blood disorders, leucoderma, tumours, sore-eye, leprosy and even gonorrhoea.

Vasaka is a very well-known herb, especially for its expectorant, blood-purifying and anti-spasmodic properties.

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Apart from being a useful remedy for respiratory conditions, this herb is also excellent for curing flatulence and indigestion. For treating these conditions, you need to extract the juice of fresh herb by pounding the plant in a mortar and crush it along with some boiled water. Subsequently, strain the liquid. The standard dosage is blending two teaspoon of vasaka juice with half teaspoon of freshly obtained ginger juice and taking the formulation twice daily - once in the morning and again in the evening. This mixture is also effective in improving your appetite.

Earlier, people extracted the juice of fresh vasaka leaves and employed it to treat dysentery and diarrhea. In south India, the leaves were dried and pulverized to make a powder, which was employed for treating malaria.

Vasaka is a wonderful herbal remedy for all types of skin diseases. In fact, this plant has a cooling effect, while its juice can be employed in the form of a poultice for treating various types of skin complains. This poultice has a very soothing effect. If you wish to use the plant's leaves for this purpose, you need to pound them first to prepare a fine paste and subsequently apply the paste in the form of a poultice on the affected area of your skin.

Habitat and cultivation

Vasaka (Justicia adhatoda) has its origin in India as well as the Himalayan foothills. This plant also has its origin in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. This plant is widely cultivated in the tropical regions and it can even grow in places located at 1300 meters above the sea level. While this species has excellent growth in various types of soils, it actually flourishes when grown in arid areas.

Constituents

Chemical analysis of the vasaka has revealed that the plant encloses more than a few alkaloids and quinazoline alkaloid is the principal component. The leaves of this herb contain elevated levels of vitamin C and carotene, in addition to yielding an essential oil.

Side effects and cautions

Vasaka is a safe herb when used for recommended purposes and right doses. As the safety of vasaka in children is yet to be tested, it is advisable that you should avoid administering this herb to them. However, children may be given this herb and its formulations only when directed by medical practitioners.

Pregnant women, except at birth, should strictly avoid using this herb. Moreover, it is essential for them to use this plant only under the guidance of a qualified medical practitioner.

Since vasaka can interact with some medications, it is advisable that people using it should exercise great caution when they are already taking other medications or supplements that have anti-spasmodic or expectorant actions.

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