(Last Updated on : 03-01-2014)
Aditya, the medicinal plant is botanically called Asclepias Gigantea. Aditya thrives on a variety of soils that is found throughout the country up to an altitude of 1000 metres. This plant can be found from Punjab and Rajasthan to West Bengal and Assam southwards through peninsular India. It grows in open habitats such as sandy riverbanks, roadsides, cultivated fields, grazing lands and other degraded regions throughout the drier parts of its range.
In Bengali, Aditya plant is known as Akand, Gurakand, Akanda and Swe-Takand; while in English it is known as Bowstring Hemp, Madar, Gigantic Swallowwort and Milkweed. Aditya plant is known Akado in Gujarat; Ag, Ak, Akand, Akaua in Hindi, in Kannada it is called Arka, Lekkedagide and Yekkadagida; while in Konkani, Aditya is known as Rhui. This medicinal plant is known as Bukam, Dinesam, Erikku and Erukka in Malayalam, Akado, Akondo, Bikhortono, Kotuki and Uruk in Oriya.
Aditya is extensively used in Ayurvedic practices. This branched, hardy; erect evergreen shrub rise upto 5 metres height. The stems of Aditya plant are woody with yellowish-white bark; young stems and branches that are covered with soft, loosely appressed, whitish, waxy or sometimes dusty pubescence. Bark is thick, light yellow or ash-grey, corky and deeply fissured. The leaves of Aditya plant are fleshy, obovate or obovate-oblong, apex acute and rarely rounded. The base of the leaves is cordate, 6-20 cms long and 3-8 cms wide, glaucous green and smooth.
The petioles of Aditya plant are 0.3-2 cms long and the flowers are lilac, pale rose or purple in color. However, sometimes they are also seen in light greenish-yellow or white shades with spreading corolla lobes, growing on the axillary pedunculate corymbs. The flowers are often seen throughout the year but most commonly from November to March in central India. The fruits of Aditya plants are single or paired, hard, re-curved and 7-10 cm long. They mature mainly between February and August. Numerous seeds are enclosed in the Aditya plant that is broadly ovate, flattened and brown in colour. The 2.5-3.2 cms long, seeds have white tuft of silky hair (coma) at the pointed end.
In Ayurvedic practice, the leaves, roots, flowers and latex of this medicinal plant is indispensable. The body parts of Aditya are made into many compound preparations such as Dhanvantaram Ghritam, Kaccoradi oil, Vajrakatailam and Nagaradi tailam. The root bark of Aditya plant is highly valued and commonly used in traditional Indian medicine. It is used as a substitute for it in the treatment of a variety of ailments. In small doses it is diaphoretic and expectorant, acts as a mild stimulant, and prescribed with carminatives to treat dyspepsia.
The powdered root bark of Aditya plant is used to ease diarrhoea and dysentery, syphilis, coughs, asthma and fevers. A paste prepared from the Aditya plant's root bark and is used externally for the relief in elephantiasis and hydrocele. Among the Kondhs of southwestern Orissa, a paste of the Aditya plant's roots is applied as a poultice to relieve rheumatic pain. In the Homeopathic system of medicine, Aditya plant is reported to be useful in the treatment of elephantiasis, lupus and chronic rheumatism.
The Bhils of Maharashtra widely use the root extract of this medicinal plant in the form of a pill to kill guinea worms and they also use the latex from the plant as a local application to treat ringworm and other skin diseases. The Paharia and Santhalis of Bihar take a mixture of the Aditya plant's stem bark and black pepper internally for the treatment of epilepsy. The flowers of the Aditya plant possess digestive and tonic properties, and are used in the form of powder for healing cough, catarrh and asthma. The dried powdered flowers of the Aditya plant are recommended in small doses with honey to treat mental disorders by the tribal inhabitants of Maharashtra.
Among the Baigas of northeastern Madhya Pradesh, the ashes of the Aditya plant's burned flowers are mixed with honey and given orally to treat whooping cough and asthma; they also apply the paste of the flowers to stiff joints in order to relieve pain. The roasted leaves of the Aditya plant are also at times applied to relieve painful joints or swellings.
The dried, powdered leaf is sometimes boiled in sweet oil for external use to heal eczema, infectious skin eruptions, ulcers, toothache and wounds. The paste of Aditya plant's leaves is used for relieving intermittent fevers. The leaves and stalk of this Indian plant include calotropin, which is apparently effective in fertility control. However, large doses of this plant's extracts can cause nausea, headache, vomiting and diarrhoea.