NaturHeals – Wild Weeds 7 - Kantakari – Solanum Surattense – Indian Nightshade
The world of medicine is continuously evolving and has come a long way. Today, there are drugs for many diseases that were once life-threatening. However, all said and done, these drugs are synthetic medicines made in a laboratory. While we cannot ignore the effectiveness of these drugs, the fact that they come with their own side effects cannot be ignored. This is the reason why many people opt for more natural ways of treating certain diseases. Our planet is home to some of the most incredible plants that can heal innumerable diseases. Some of these medicinal plants are actually weeds that are seen as threatening to food crops. One such weed is Kantakari, which is a herb used in Ayurveda for treating a vast number of diseases.
Different Names of Kantakari
Solanum Surattense is the botanical name of Kantakari, while it is called Indian nightshade, yellow-berried nightshade, febrifuge plant, wild eggplant, Thai green eggplant, Thai striped eggplant, and thorny nightshade in English. The Sanskrit names of this plant are Kshudra, Vyaghri, Dhavanim Dusparsa, and Nidigdha.
In Hindi, the plant is called Katali, Katai, Choti Kateli, Bhatakatiya. It is called Kantakari chunda in Malayalam; Kandankatri, Kandanghathiri, and Kandanatri in Tamil; Nelamulaka, Mulaka, Vakudu, Pinnamulaka, and Chinnamulaka in Telegu; Nelagulla and Kiragulla in Kannada; Bhauringani and Kataringani in Marathi; Bhejibaugana, Chakada Bhoj, and Ankarati in Oriya; Bharingani in Gujarati; Kandiari in Punjabi; and Kath in Kashmiri.
Ideal Soil and Climate
As it is a weed, Kantakari grows everywhere quite rapidly. However, for optimum growth, this perennial herb requires well-drained sandy loam to rich loamy soil that have a pH between 7.0 to 8.0. Kantakari is most commonly seen in tropical and sub-tropical regions like Southeast Malaysia, the Polynesian Region, and Australia. In India, it commonly grows in open spaces, roadside, and wetlands. It can be seen in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan. It requires a temperature of around 21oC to 27oC for ideal growth.
Kantakari is a prickly plant that grows up to 50-70 cm in length. Woody at the base, the roots of this plant are tapering and cylindrical. The leaves of the plant are ovate-oblong and unequally paired. The leaves have stellate hairs on either sides. The flowers of this plant are blue-purple in color. Its petals are ovate, short, and curved. The fruits of Kantakari are berry like and pale yellow in color. The seeds inside the fruits are 0.25 cm in diameter. They are yellowish-brown in color and have a smooth finish.
Kantakari is endowed with numerous nutrients and chemical constituents that make it a wonder drug in the world of Ayurveda. Some of its main chemical constituents include solanocarpine, glucoalkaloids, sterols, carpesterol, solasonine, etc. It is also home to B-carotene, sitosterol, diosgenin, solanocarpidine, tomatidienol, chromogenic acid, caffeic acid, apogenin, scopolin, solamine-s, campestrol, esculin and esculetin, histamine, apigenin, coumarine, acetylcholine, neochronogenic acid, quercetin acid, apigenin, acetylcholine, coumarins, scopolin, etc.
The numerous chemical constituents in Kantakari make it one of the most important medicinal herbs as per Ayurveda. It is one of the herbs of the Dashamoola group. The properties of Kantakari according to Ayurveda are as follows:
- Guna (qualities): Rooksha (dry), Laghu (dry), and Veerya (potency)
- Rasa (taste): Tikta (bitter) and Katu (pungent)
- Veerya (potency): Ushna (hot)
- Tridosha (action): Balances Vatta and Kapha doshas. Increases Pitta dosha
- Vipaka: Katu (undergoes pungent taste)
This medicinal weed has antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, stimulant, aphrodisiac, cardio stimulant, expectorant, appetizer, carminative, and analgesic properties. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it is used for treating different types of allergic reactions. Here are some of the medical benefits of Kantakari:
Cold and Cough: Cold and cough are generally caused by Kapha imbalance in the body, which leads to accumulation of excess mucus in the respiratory tract. Kantakari with its Kapha balancing properties helps in thinning the mucus as well as lowering its production in the body, thus treating the symptoms of cold and cough.
Asthma: Apart from cold and cough, Kantakari is one of the most effective ways of treating asthma and such other chronic respiratory diseases. The Kapha-balancing properties of this herb helps in expelling the excess mucus from the lungs, thus easing the person’s breathing. It also aids in diluting the bronchioles, thus decreasing the swelling of the respiratory tract and the production of mucus as well. Other than asthma, Kanthakari works to cure chronic bronchitis and pneumonia and prevent respiratory allergies, sinusitis, etc.
Fever: The antipyretic properties of Kantakari help in controlling and managing fever. The antioxidant properties present in the herb help in lowering down the temperature of a person, thus reducing fever. It also helps in preventing cell damage that is caused by free radicals in the body.
Indigestion: Indigestion can be treated with the help of Kantakari. Indigestion is caused by weak digestive fire that is a result of Kahpa imbalance in the body. The Pachan (digestive) and Deepan (appetizer) properties of Kanthakari improve the digestive fire in the body, thus treating the problem of indigestion.
Acidity: Kantakari has a similar effect on acidity. The consumption of Kantakari acts like an antacid and neutralizes the excess acid in the stomach. It also prevents excess acid production in the body. It gives quick relief in problems like acid reflux, heartburn, flatulence, stomach pain, constipation, etc.
Hair Loss: Vatta dosha is one of the main reasons for hair loss, which can also cause dryness of the scalp. Kantakari helps in maintaining Vatta balance in the body, and thus controlling the issue of hair loss and even dandruff. Regular application of Kantakari juice on the scalp not only helps in preventing hair loss but also in boosting hair growth.
Osteoarthritis: The Vatta-balancing property and Ushna potency of Kantakari help in curing osteoarthritis. Joint pain and arthritis are caused due to imbalance of Vatta in the bones and joints, where Vatta resides. Application of the paste of Kantakari on the affected areas helps in reducing the pain and other symptoms of arthritis.
Liver Disorder: The hepataprotective and antioxidant properties of Kantakari protect the liver from the damage caused by free radicals. The herb has the ability to regenerate new cells and improve the metabolism of the liver, ensuring its proper functioning.
Dental and Gum Problems: The anti-inflammatory properties of Kantakari make it an ideal cure for dental issues. Bacteria causing plaque in the teeth can lead to inflammation, puffiness, irritation, and bleeding in the gums. Kantakari helps in getting rid of the bacteria that causes plaque, thus reducing the symptoms. It also helps in making the teeth and gums strong and healthy.
Skin Problems: Kantakari has one of the best treatments for a variety of skin problems, especially pimples and swellings due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, the paste of the Kantakari fruit acts a pain killer for insect bites. It also helps in reducing the pain and inflammation caused by allergic reactions.
Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are a few more health issues that can be resolved with the help of Kantakari:
- The anti-inflammatory properties of the herb make it a great remedy for nasal disorders.
- Some of the constituents of Kantakari make it an effective treatment for high blood pressure and cardiac disorders.
- Worm infestation is another health problem that can be cured using Kantakari.
- The Kantakari herb is useful in treating various female health issues like irregular menstruation, amenorrhea, etc.
- Urinary tract infections, anorexia, tastelessness, etc. can also be treated with this herb.
Uses of Kantakari
The entire plant of Kantakari, including its roots, leaves, fruits, flowers, and seeds can be used for making medicines. Kantakari is available in the form of paste, powder, juice, decoction, tonic, etc. for treating various diseases.
- The powder of Kantakari mixed with water and honey is used in treating cold, cough, asthma, fever, and indigestion. This should be taken after a light meal and never in an empty stomach.
- The juice of Kantakari applied on the scalp can reduce dandruff and prevent hair loss.
- A paste made with Kantakari powder and water can be applied to the affected areas to cure joint pain and arthritis.
- A paste made with the fruit of Kantakari is the most effective in treating pimples and swelling.
- To cure worm infestation, a mixture of Kantakari powder and honey will do the trick.
- Dental or gum infection can be treated by smoking the dried fruits of the herbs by rolling it in a piece of paper.
Although the side effects of Kantakari are rare, it is important to be careful about certain things. Pregnant women should avoid taking Kantakari, as there is not much research on the effects of the herb on to-be-mothers. It should also be avoided by breastfeeding mothers too. If you are a heart patient or a diabetic patient, you must not consume Kantakari without consulting a doctor.
Planting and Harvesting
As the herb has so many health benefits, there is a demand for cultivating the Kantakari plant in an organic way. Here is the process of planting and harvesting Kantakari without using fertilizers and herbicides.
- The seeds are first sown in nursery beds before being transplanted to farm lands.
- Before the seeds are sown, they are soaked in water for at least 24 hours. This helps in germination.
- The nursery beds are prepared using well-decomposed farmyard manure.
- The seeds are sown in mid-June.
- It is important to irrigate the soil lightly after sowing them.
- Once the seeds are sown, it takes around 10-15 days for germination.
- The saplings of Kantakari would be ready for transplantation after 6-7 weeks, once they attain 10-12 cm height.
- The field should be thoroughly ploughed, harrowed, and planked before transplanting.
- Once the saplings are transplanted, it is important to water them from time to time.
- It is important to remember that saplings of Kantakari grow slower than the other rainy season weeds. It would take around 5 months for the 1st picking of matured berries. However, the first harvest of this herb happens only in March.
- The fruits and berries are harvested first, followed by the remaining part of the plant, including the roots.
- The plant is then dried in the sun and then stored in gunny bags. These bags are then stored in a cool and dark place.
Jaivik Farms is an agro-based organization that is always on the lookout for farmers who are ready to plant and cultivate medicinal weeds like Kantakari. Our only condition is that these herbs should be free of herbicides or fertilizers, as they would be used for making medicines and other health products. Farmers who are ready to take up this type of farming would be given 100% support from our experts to obtain maximum yield and the best prices as well.