NaturHeals – Undershrub 1 - Desmodium Gangeticum - Shalparni – One of the Dashamoola Herbs
India is a goldmine of medicinal plants used traditionally. Ayurveda is an Indian system of medicine, which has been using medicinal plants for curing various ailments and diseases. One such plant is Shalparni, known for its incredible health benefits, thus called because the leaves of Shalparni resemble the leaves of the herb Shala. The roots of Shalparni, laden with several ayurvedic properties, are one of the herbs in the Dashamoola, one of the important ingredients of Chyavanprash, Dashmoolarishta, and Dashmoolakwaath. It is known for its carminative, stomachic, astringent, aphrodisiac, febrifuge, and expectorant properties. It is useful in the treatment of asthma, piles, typhoid, dysentery, and bronchitis in the Ayurvedic system of medicine.
Different Names of Shalparni
The botanical name of Shalparni is Desmodium Gangeticum DC which belongs to the Fabaceae (pea or legume) family. Desmodium is from the Greek word desmos (chain or band) that refers to jointed seed pods and Gangeticim from the Ganges River. The English name of the plant is Sal Leaved Desmodium.
In Vernacular Indian languages, the Shalparni plant is called Dirghamuli, Pivari, Dhruva, Sarivan, or Salaparni in Hindi; Vidarigandha, Dirghamoola, Shalaparni, Pivari, or Anshumati in Sanskrit; Salavan, Dai, Davala, or Ranganjya in Marathi; Sarivan, Shalpurhi, or Shalpurni in Punjabi; Chalani, or Shalapani in Bengali; Shaliparni, Ban Gahat, or Bidarikanda in Nepalese; Seloporno, Saloporni, or Sharpani in Oriya; Kolakuponna, Gitanaram, or Nakkatokaponna in Telugu; Moovilai, or Pulladi in Tamil; Moovial, Orila, or Pullati in Malayalam; Murele Honne, or Nariyalavona in Kannada; Shalavan in Gujarati; and Salparni in Konkani.
Ideal Soil and Climate
The Shalparni is mostly found in China, Myanmar, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Africa, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia. In the Indian subcontinent, the Shalparni is found commonly as an undershrub in the wastelands and forests throughout the tropical and subtropical regions, predominantly found in the Himalayan regions and the Gangetic plains as an orchard weed.
The Shalparni prefers a tropical or subtropical dry climate, growing well in semi-shade areas in moist orchards in loamy to clayey loamy soil with a pH between 8.5 to 9 (alkaline). It thrives well in heavy soil with high clay content.
Shalparni is an erect undershrub that grows up to 2 to 3 feet high. It has a woody stem, slender branches irregularly angled and is covered with soft grey hairs. The leaves are alternate, ovate, obtuse, oblong, unifoliate, pubescent, and membranous that grow up to 15 cm in length. Petioles are around 1 cm long, stipules 6 to 8 mm long, and striate at the base. The inflorescence is axillary raceme and terminal. The pea-shaped flowers are white, lilac, or purple colored. The fruits in pods are moniliform, flat, thin, and curved, with 6 to 8 nodes bearing hair-like structures. The seeds are kidney-shaped and compressed. The roots are light yellow and smooth, and the root bark is yellowish white with a leathery texture. Flowering and fruiting usually happen from May to June and September to October.
The Shalparni, loaded with bioactive compounds, has numerous health-benefiting properties. The phytochemicals present in the plant are Caudicin, Hordenine, Hypaphorine, N-dimethyltryptamine, Gangetin-3H, Desmodin, and Gangetinin. The roots contain resin, essential oils, and alkaloids. The Shalparni plant has bioactive chemicals like sterols, pterocarpans, phospholipids, lactones, glycolipids, and flavonoid glycosides.
According to Ayurveda, the Shalparni plant has a bitter (Tikta) and sweet (Madhur) taste, Oily (Guru) and heavy (Snigdha), Hot (Ushna) potency, and sweet (Madhur) Vipaka. It helps balance the Kapha and Vata doshas in our bodies. This herb possesses anti-catarrhal, anthelmintic, antipyretic, antioxidants, anti-rheumatic, anti-diarrheal, and diuretic properties. The uses of Shalparni are even mentioned in the ayurvedic scriptures and the Charak Samhita. It is Shothahara (anti-inflammatory), Balya (improves strength), Angamardhaprashamana (relieves myalgia), and Snehopaga (used in Panchakarma). Consumption of the Shalparni provides several long-term health benefits. A few are listed below:
1) Useful in Bronchitis
Shalparni is an effective medicinal plant when it comes to controlling bronchitis. As per research in Ayurveda, bronchitis, also known as Kasroga, is caused by the poor digestive function of our system. The improper elimination of waste and an unhealthy diet lead to the toxic remains or Ama, found in the form of phlegm in the lungs, which leads to bronchitis. The potent Kapha and Ushna pacifying nature of Shalparni herb gets rid of excessive mucus from the lungs and reduces Ama, thereby offering a respite from bronchitis.
2) Treats Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a disorder in which there is an imbalance of Vata dosha and accumulation of Ama (toxic remains) in the joints. The Ama accumulated in the joints results in severe muscle and joint pain. As the Shalparni extract possesses Ushna potency and Vata balancing properties, it helps to reduce Ama. Regular use of Shalparni extract offers relief from the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, such as swelling and pain in the joints.
3) Improves Digestive Health
Shalparni is an effective herb well known to enhance gut health and maintain good health of the digestive system. This herb is very effective in giving relief from problems like vomiting, gastritis, burning sensation, diarrhea, flatulence, and anorexia. Consuming the herb reduces acid secretion and increases the release of mucins, helping to safeguard the intestinal lining and cells, which thereby helps to treat peptic ulcers.
4) Improves Male Reproductive Heath
Shalparni is a very effective herbal supplement and is highly recommended to boost reproductive health in men. The Vrishya (aphrodisiac) traits in Shalparni boost male sexual performance, increasing the flow of blood to the penis and thereby improving the quantity and quality of the semen. Henceforth, taking this supplement also helps to promote vitality and strength and correct problems of premature ejaculation.
5) Treats Headache
Shalparni aids in easing the headaches that are caused due to stress. The Shalparni plant is valuable in relieving pain and relaxing strained muscles due to its Vata pacifying nature. Applying the Shalparni juice extracts or leaf powder of Shalparni leaves on the forehead reduces headaches and fatigue-related symptoms.
6) Nervine Tonic
Shalparni herb is known to be an effective nervine tonic. The herb is quite effective when facing stress, anxiety, depression, and tension.
7) Cardiovascular Problems
Shalparni herb helps in strengthening the heart muscles and maintaining a better blood flow in the body by dilating the blood vessels. It also helps in maintaining cholesterol better with good HDL levels in the body and decreasing the level of LDL. Regular use of the herb is useful in maintaining healthy blood pressure in the body.
8) Immune Stimulant
Shalparni herb is an effective immune stimulator, helping in the stimulation of components of our immune system like T cells, B cell, macrophages, and monocytes. Due to its anti-inflammatory property, it is an excellent herb to boost overall immunity.
9) Skin Diseases
Shalparni extracts are very beneficial for the treatment of skin diseases, as they help to provide relief from problems such as itching, dry scales, and redness on the skin, thereby rejuvenating the skin.
Shalparni herb acts as a laxative as it facilitates the easier passing of stools that provides relief from the problems of constipation. Furthermore, Shalparni's anti-inflammatory properties help to relieve the symptoms of itching, redness, soreness, swelling, and irritation around the anus.
Researchers have found that Shalparni helps in reducing blood sugar levels, facilitating insulin secretion, and thereby is very useful in managing diabetes.
12) Urinary Problems
The diuretic properties of the Shalparni herb are beneficial for resolving problems like frequent urination, burning sensation when passing urine, and difficulty in urination.
Bioactive constituents in Shalparni like flavonoids and flavones are antioxidants. These plant chemicals improve the ability of the brain to transmit signals, making the herb useful for the prevention and management of dementia.
The antiseptic properties of the Shalparni help to treat cuts and wounds. It reduces inflammation and prevents any infection.
Uses of Shalparni
Shaplaparni is available in the form of kwath and root powder.
1) In Piles - Take Shalparni powder with water or apply the paste made of leaves on the anus twice daily.
2) Dandruff - Apply the leaf paste to the scalp.
3) Male sexual disorder - Take a decoction made of the root.
4) Headache - Apply leaf powder with rose water on the forehead.
5) Hair fall - Apply the leaf paste with Aloe vera to the scalp.
6) Bronchitis - Take a decoction made of the root.
7) Rheumatoid Arthritis - Take a decoction made from the root.
8) Gouty Arthritis - Take pounded Shalparni and Uraria picta with milk.
9) Asthma - Take the powdered root with honey.
10) Vomiting - Take the decoction made using the root.
11) In Diarrhea - Take a decoction made of the root.
12) Cough - Take 3 to 5 gm of Shalparni powder with honey.
13) Typhoid - Chew the roots.
14) Toothache - Apply the root paste to the gums.
15) Eczema - Apply the leaf paste to the affected area.
16) Snakebite - Take half a cup of root decoction as an antidote.
Decoction of the whole plant is useful for the treatment of intermittent fever, edema, digestive problems, urinary tract infections, and malaria.
Since Shalparni is one of the ten herbs in Dashamoola, it is a very safe herb. Some ayurvedic herbs may react with certain medications. Therefore, it is better to seek a doctor's advice if consuming Shalparni with other modern medicines. As enough scientific evidence is unavailable, avoid taking the herb during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Planting and Harvesting
The Shalparni crop can be easily grown through seeds that do not require any pre-treatment to germinate. In the nursery, the seedlings are usually raised in March or April. The seeds are sown in polybags with potting mix that contains an equal amount of soil, FYM (farmyard manure), and sand. The seeds germinate between 7 to 10 days and are ready for transplanting in the main field after 45-50 days. The land is prepared by giving two harrowing and one plowing, followed by planking. During the field preparation, manure should be at a rate of 10 Tonnes per hectare and mixed with the soil thoroughly.
At the time of planting, nitrogen and phosphorus have to be applied at the rate of 20 kg per hectare and 40 kg per hectare, respectively. The ideal spacing of 45 cm x 45 cm is usually recommended to accommodate roughly 50,000 saplings in 1 hectare of land. Planting is done in adjacent rows at 30 cm x 30 cm space for intercropping. The plant can be either grown as a pure crop or as an intercrop with trees like Populus deltoidea (poplar). Mango, Guava, and Aavla are also suitable for intercropping. The first irrigation is essential just after transplanting, which must be followed by irrigation at intervals of 12 to 15 days in summer (May or June). Irrigation can be done depending on the rains received during the monsoon season. In rain-fed conditions, irrigation is dependent upon the frequency and amount of rainfall. In the winter season, once a month of irrigation is sufficient.
The plant matures in November or December (after six to seven months) and is to be harvested as a whole plant. If a root is needed for medical purposes, the plant is allowed to stand for one year, and harvesting is done in April, as a one-year-old crop produces a higher root yield. The plant is dug out with a spade, and the roots are separated. They are then washed, dried, cleaned, powdered, packed, and stored in gunny bags in the shade at ambient temperature.
Jaivik Farms, an agro-based company, is continuously on the lookout for farmers, encouraging them to grow medicinal plants like the Shalparni. The expert team is always ready to help and guide the farmers for a better yield so that they can earn a good income that will improve their economic growth and encourage them to grow the medicinal plant organically without using any pesticides or chemicals.