Kantakari or Solanum xanthocarpum is an important medicinal plant. It is an extremely popular herb for the treatment of respiratory diseases in Ayurveda. All the parts of Kantakari- the roots, stem, flowers and the fruits are used as medicines. Kantakari is an important constituent of the popular Ayurvedic formulation Dashamoola which is prescribed for the treatment of a variety of ailments.
What is Kantakari?
Kantakari is a prickly, bright-green perennial plant with a thick woody base and numerous branches. It yields yellow berries which may have green stripes. It is a summer crop grown mainly in tropical and sub-tropical regions. This plant requires dry weather and abundant sunshine to grow. The plant yields flowers and fruits throughout the year. It belongs to the family Solanaceae.
This plant is a native of Asian countries such as India, Srilanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. In India, it is found in dry districts in the plains and the foothills in Northern India. In the south, it is found abundantly in Kanyakumari and the Coromandel Coast.
- The Kondh tribe of Dhenkanal district, Orissa, use hot aqueous Kantakari fruit extract for the treatment of diabetes.
- Kantakari is also a part of an Ayurvedic formulation Arkadhi which is useful for the treatment of dengue fever and acute bronchitis.
- The decoction of the roots or crushed fruits are given to cattle for the treatment of constipation or stomach-ache.
Kantakari has been found to have the following medicinal properties:
- Antiasthmatic: Clinical studies have proven the efficacy of extracts of S. xanthocarpum in treating bronchial asthma. Its efficacy has also been advocated in the Siddha system of medicine. The powder of the whole plant or its decoction has been found to improve respiratory parameters in patient with mild to moderate asthma. It has been suggested that improvement in asthma can be due to- bronchodilation, decrease in the edema of the bronchial mucosa, decreased mucus secretion within the airways.
- Anti-inflammatory: Histamine is an important inflammatory mediator, which plays a major role in the pathophysiology of asthma. Kantakari has been found to have anti-histaminic activity and this can be one of the reasons for its effectiveness in asthma.
- 3. Hypoglycemia: Aqueous extracts of Kantakari has been found to be as effective as a standard antidiabetic drug- glibenclamide, in bringing about reduction in the blood sugar levels.
- Antifertility activity: Solasodine, which is an alkaloid present in Kantakari is known to reduce sperm production and motility.
- Hepatoprotective: Kantakari is known to have potential antioxidant activity and thus can be useful for the treatment of various liver problems.
- Mosquito larvicidal activity: Crude extracts of Kantakari have been found to be an effective larvicide (agents that kill the mosquito larvae) and can be used for protection against various vector borne diseases.
- Antibacterial, antifungal: Leaf extracts of Kantakari has been found to be effective against the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, which is a common pathogen for various wound infections. It has also been found to be effective for infections caused by fungus such as Aspergillus niger and Candida albicans.
According to Ayurveda, all the parts of the plant have different medicinal uses:
- Roots and seeds are prescribed as expectorant in patients with asthma and cough. The plant powder is also prescribed as an anti-tussive.
- The warm extracts obtained from the dried fruits are useful for treating fever, cough and heart problems.
- The juice obtained from the fruits is used to treat sore throat and rheumatic diseases. The paste of the fruits can also be applied externally to treat acne and swelling.
- The stems, flowers and the fruits have been used to treat burning sensation and vesicular eruption in the feet.
Side effects and Safety:
Kantakari has not been found to have any side effects or drug interactions in adults and children. However, as for any herbal formulation, Kantakari should also be taken in dosages as prescribed by the physician.