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Rare Herb of Patalkot: Hemidesmus indicus

Hemidesmus root is said to be tonic, diuretic, and alterative. The native healers in India are said to use it in nephritic complaints, syphilis and in the sore mouth of children (Joseph et al., 1918). It promotes health and energy and always cures all kinds of diseases caused by vitiated blood (Pioneerherbs, 2005).

Introduction: This sequence of popular articles would bring detailed information of 50 herbs that are seen not often in Patalkot these days. We have already discussed about 3 plants in our previous columns. In the following piece of writing, we would discuss the enumeration, medicinal value and conservation strategy for Hemidesmus indicus. The medicinal values of the plant are based on the information obtained from the tribals. We have added information that we retrieved from Internet and also by accessing various libraries. The aim about bringing this article is to generate awareness among the common people of the area. This is an effort to make the first move to conserve the virgin land and its community.

Location Profile: Chhindwara district lies between latitude 21 deg 23' - 22 deg 49' north and longitude 78 deg 10' - 79 deg 24' east. Generally, the impenetrable forest covers the majority of the vicinity of the district. The forest in the district is very peculiar. Sal, Teak, Shisham, Tendu, Harra, Baheda, Mahua are among the common wood trees whereas numerous fruit bearing trees are also found in the woodland that is lively hood of tribals of the district. In the Western Division of forest, there is a cache of medicinal plants known as Patalkot. Patalkot is a lovely landscape located at a depth of 1200-1500 feet in a valley near Tamia. Because of the great depth at which it is sited, this place is christened as 'Patalkot' ("Patal' means very deep, in Sanskrit). Patalkot is extended over an area of 79 Sq. Km. at a standard height of 2750-3250 feet above Mean Sea Level.

It is a treasure of forest and herbal wealth. There are 12 villages and 13 hamlets in this valley, with total inhabitants of nearly 2000. Because of the detachment of this area, the tribals of this region were totally cut off from the sophisticated world. Most of the natives in Patalkot belong to 'Bharia' and 'Gond' tribes. This valley is situated on the Satpura Plateau in the southern central part of the Madhya Pradesh, India.

Authors have explored the area of Patalkot valley that includes- Gaildubbha, Kareyam, Rathed, Ghatlinga, Gudichhathri, Karrapani, Tamia, Bharia Dhana, Bijauri, Pandu Piparia, Sajkui, Lahgadua, Karrapani, Sidhouli, Chhindi, Jaitpur, Chimtipur and Harra-ka-Char (Rai & Acharya, 1999, 2000; Acharya, 2002, 2004).

Why we select this plant?

Hemidesmus indicus was found plentiful in Patalkot forest. This herb is having much significance in a common tribal life.

Plant profile:

Hemidesmus indicus R. Br. in Mem. Wern. Soc. I (1811) 57; Wight Ic. t. 594.

Synonym: Periploca indica L.

Family: Asclepiadaceae

English name: Hemidesmus, Indian sarsaparilla, East Indian sarsaparilla

Sanskrit names: Anantamula, Sariva, Naga-jihva, Gopakanya

Local names in India: Hindi- Anantamul, Kapuri, Hindi-salsa, Magrabu; Bengali-Anantamul; Marathi- Anantamul, Upalasari; Gujarat- Sariva, Upalasari, Durivel; Telugu- Sugandhi-pala, Gadisugandhi, Muttavapulagamu; Tamil- Nannari; Kannada- Karibandha, Sogade; Malayalam- Naruninti; Oriya- Onontomulo.

Common names in World:

Taxonomic description: A perennial prostrate or twining shrub; root-stock woody, thick, rigid, cylindrical; bark brownish corky, marked with longitudinal furrows and transverse fissures, with aromatic smell. Stems woody, slender, thickened at the nodes. Leaves opposite, petiolate, much variable, linear to broadly lanceolate, acute or ovate, entire, smooth, shining, dark green, later variegated with white above. Flowers in racemes or cymes in opposite axils, small, green outside, purple within; corolla tubular. Fruit of two follicles, long, slender, tapering, spreading. Seeds with silvery white coma. Fl.: almost throughout the year.


Distribution: In India, the plant meet within almost throughout all parts. It is found from the upper Gangetic plain eastwards to Assam and throughout central, western and southern India. The Moluccas and Sri Lanka are the other places of its distribution (Globalherbal, 2005).

Distribution in Patalkot:

Medicinal Importance: The plant enjoys a status as tonic, alterative, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic and blood purifier. It is employed in nutritional disorders, syphilis, chronic rheumatism, gravel and other urinary diseases and skin affections. It is administered in the form of powder, infusion or decoction as syrup. It is also an component of several medicinal preparations. It is used as a alternate for Sarsaparilla (from Smilax spp.) and employed as a vehicle for potassium iodide and for purposes for which Sarsaparilla is used. Syrup prepared from the roots is used as a flavoring agent and in the preparation of a sherbet which have cooling properties.

As medicine "Anantmool' holds a reputed place in all systems of medicine in India. The roots are used as addition in main treatment of snakebite and scorpion sting. It improves the general health; plumpness, clearness, and strength, succeeding to emaciation, said to be useful in affections of the kidneys, scrofula, cutaneous diseases, thrush, rheumatism, scrofula, skin diseases, venereal disease, nephritic complaints, for sore mouths of children, syphilis, gonorrhea and appetite.

Hemidesmus root is said to be tonic, diuretic, and alterative. The native healers in India are said to use it in nephritic complaints, syphilis and in the sore mouth of children (Joseph et al., 1918). It promotes health and energy and always cures all kinds of diseases caused by vitiated blood (Pioneerherbs, 2005). The plant is said to be alterative, depurative, diaphoretic, tonic, used in autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic skin disorders, asthma, bronchitis, gonorrheal neuralgia, syphilis, venereal diseases, nephritic complaints, scrofula, chronic skin diseases, ulcers etc. (Globalherbal, 2005).

According to Ayurveda, root is cooling, aphrodisiac, antipyretic, alexiteric, antidiarrhoeal, astringent to bowels and useful in treatment of fevers, foul body odour, asthma, bronchitis, blood disorders, leucorrhoea, dysentery, diarrhoea, thirst, burning sensation, piles, eye troubles, epileptic fits, poisoning, rat bites etc. According to Unani system of medicine, root and stem are laxative, diaphoretic, diuretic and useful in treatment of syphilis and leucoderma. Roots are useful in hemicrania, joint pains and syphilis whereas stem is good in treatment of brain, lever and kidney related diseases. It is also useful in treatment of urinary discharges, uterine complaints, paralysis, cough, asthma etc. In central India, a special "Herbal Mala" is made from the root pieces of Anantmool and Semal (Bombax ceiba) which is used in the treatment of Marasmus. They also prepare a special herbal tea from bark and give twice a day for treatment of impurities of blood. Sometimes "Kevatch' (Mucuna pruriens) and "Gokhru' (Tribulus terrestris) are also added in this mixture. The natives use the roots internally in treatment of premature graying of hairs, jaundice, eye related diseases. A decoction is prepared by adding roots of anantmool, Vetiveria zizanioides, dried ginger, Cyperus rotundus and Holarrhena antidysenterica for the treatment of chronic fever and appetite. To take away extra heat from body, root powder is fried in ghee and given to the patients for up to one month. The root is also used with cow milk for treatment of renal calculi.

The root is an alterative tonic, diuretic, demulcent, diaphoretic and carminative. It is said to be good for gout, rheumatism, colds, fevers and catarrhal problems as well as for relieving flatulence, skin problems, scrofula and ringworms. It is blood purifier and said to be promoting health and cure all kinds of diseases caused by vitiated blood. It is useful in venereal diseases, herpes, skin diseases, arthritis, rheumatism, gout, epilepsy, insanity, chronic nervous diseases, abdominal distention, intestinal gas, debility, impotence and turbid urine in Ayurvedic system. It also purifies the urino-genital tract, blood and helps cleanse the mind of negative emotions; therefore it is useful in many nervous disorders.
It promotes health and vigor. Decoction of stalks and leaves is used for skin eruptions, hearing disorders, fevers etc. Root decoction helps in skin diseases, syphilis, elephantiasis, loss of sensation, hemiplegia, loss of appetite, blood purification and for kidney and urinary disorders (herbsforever, 2005).

The roots are used by the tribals India to cure gonorrhoea, leucoderma, bleeding piles, jaundice and dysentery. Powdered root is used in pre and post-natal care. The tribals of Rajasthan use the paste of roots in scorpion sting.

Other Uses: Syrup is prepared for flavoring medicinal mixtures; found in many medical and cosmetic facial packs. It is often called 'Sugandha' because of the wonderful fragrance of its roots.

Chemical Components: The flavanoid glycosides recognized in the flowers, were hyperoside, isoquercitin and rutin whereas in the leaves, only hyperoside and rutin were identified (Subramaniam & Nair, 1968). Tannins 2.5 % present in leaves; roots are reported to contain sitoserol (Chatterjee & Bhattacharya, 1955). A new ester identified as lupeol octacosanoate in addition to the known compounds viz., lupeol, (-amyrin, (-amyrin, lupeol acetate, (-amyrin acetate, and hexatriacontane (Pioneerherbs, 2005). Coumarins, triterpenoid saponins, essential oil, starch, tannic acid, triterpenoid saponins present (Globalherbal, 2005). A stearopten smilasperic acid is also obtained by distillation with water (Joseph et al., 1918).

Pharmacology: The herb is mildly immuno-suppressant. The aqueous, alcoholic and steam distilled fractions of the crushed roots had no significant diuretic activity. The 50% ethanolic extract of the whole plant did not exhibit any effect on respiration, normal blood pressure and also on pressor response to adrenaline and depressor response to acetylalcholine and histamine in experimental animals. The extract also had no antispasmodic effect on guinea pig ileum. A saponin from the plant is found to have antiinflammatory activity against formalin induced edema (Pioneerherbs, 2005).

The antioxidant activity of methanolic extract of H. indicus root bark is evaluated in several in vitro and ex vivo models. Preliminary phytochemical analysis and TLC fingerprint profile of the extract was established to characterize the extract which showed antioxidant properties (Ravishankara et al., 2002).

Modern studies have confirmed the antibacterial activity of the root extract and essential oil. Clinical trials have shown a benefit in ringworm infection and for malnutrition. The clinically used doses are considered safe and beneficial, but overdose can be toxic (kalyx, 2005). Hemidesmus indicus has been shown to have significant activity against immunotoxicity and other pharmacological and physiological disorders (Sultana et al., 2003).

Conclusion: A few decades back the herb was very common in this region but due to its heavy demand, the natural population is decreasing at an upsetting rate. The herb has become almost wiped out in these parts. Researchers and state authorities should give special attention on this problem. The herb growers should start its commercial cultivation.

Extreme commercial collection of medicinal plants from their natural habitat due to the growing demand for herbal cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and food industries may be a result of failure of plant populations. Collection of medicinal plants from their natural habitat is cost-effective than farming. One has to obtain land, fertilizers and other required material for cultivation. Medicinal plants growing in natural habitat are known to have organic value. Harvest of such medicinal plants are rarely reported or monitored. Local people should be encouraged for conservational activities. In other way, there is a larger need of a "community-based' approach in protection. Consciousness among the local community is one the most important job. For this, various activities like poster presentation, campaigns, educational pamphlets and slogans can be useful. A society can be made in the villages that will look after the conservation of important medicinal and economical plants. Universities, Colleges, NGOs and other agencies should come ahead and take up a village of their own region. These organizations can play a essential role in conservation of significant medicinal plant. A medicinal plant garden/ herbal garden and green house can be prepared in the village itself. At one side there is need of Ex-situ and in-situ conservation, on the other hand, preservation of traditional Ethno-medicinal-botanic knowledge is highly desirable. Local healers of targeted region should be given support time to time.

This plant is believed as most vital herb. The whole series of traditional medicines and plants, which have been in use for thousands of years, will be threatened if plants like H. indicus are allowed to become damaged through excessive collection. It is therefore need of the hour to come ahead and save this key herb of Patalkot. Active contribution from everyone is highly desired specially people from Chhindwara district.

Acknowledgement: Authors (DA, MKR and SP) are indebted to Dr S A Brown, Principal, Danielson College, Chhindwara, for supporting all the way. We are obliged to tribals of Patalkot and Tamia for their knowledge sharing and kindness during the work. Thanks are due to various workers of ECO- Campus and Friends Nature Club, Chhindwara for their help during the mission.


Chatterjee, RC and Bhattacharya, BK. 1955. A note on the isolation of (-sitoserol from Hemidesmus indicus. J Indian Chem Soc. 32: 485.

Subramaniam, SS and Nair, AGR. 1968. Flavanoids of some Asclepiadaceous plants. Phytochemistry. 7: 1703.

Pioneerherbs, 2005. (Viewed on 15. 01. 2005).

Prabakan, M, Anandan, R and Devaki, T. 2000. Protective effect of Hemidesmus indicus against rifampicin and isoniazid-induced hepatotoxicity in rats. Fitoterapia. 71(1): 55-59.

Roy, SK, Ali, M, Sharma, MP and Ramachandram, R. 2001. New pentacyclic triterpenes from the roots of Hemidesmus indicus. Pharmazie. 56(3): 244-246.

Qureshi, S, Rai, MK and Agrawal, SC. 1997. In vitro evaluation of inhibitory nature of extracts of 18-plant species of Chhindwara against 3-keratinophilic fungi. Hindustan Antibiot Bull. 39(1-4): 56-60.

Alam, MI and Gomes, A. 1998. Adjuvant effects and antiserum action potentiation by a (herbal) compound 2-hydroxy-4-methoxy benzoic acid isolated from the root extract of the Indian medicinal plant 'sarsaparilla' (Hemidesmus indicus R. Br.). Toxicon. 36(10): 1423-1431.

Alam, MI and Gomes, A. 1998. Viper venom-induced inflammation and inhibition of free radical formation by pure compound (2-hydroxy-4-methoxy benzoic acid) isolated and purified from anantamul (Hemidesmus indicus R. Br.) root extract. Toxicon. 36(1): 207-215.

Deepak, D, Srivastava, S and Khare, A. 1997. Pregnane glycosides from Hemidesmus indicus. Phytochemistry. 44(1): 145-151.

Alam, MI, Auddy, B and Gomes, A. 1994. Isolation, purification and partial characterization of viper venom inhibiting factor from the root extract of the Indian medicinal plant sarsaparilla (Hemidesmus indicus R. Br.). Toxicon. 32(12): 1551-1557.

Atal, CK, Sharma, ML, Kaul, A and Khajuria, A. 1986. Immunomodulating agents of plant origin. I: Preliminary screening. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 18(2): 133-141.

Arseculeratne, SN, Gunatilaka, AA and Panabokke, RG. 1985. Studies of medicinal plants of Sri Lanka. Part 14: Toxicity of some traditional medicinal herbs. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 13(3): 323-335.

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Ravishankara, MN, Shrivastava, N, Padh, H and Rajani, M. 2002. Evaluation of antioxidant properties of root bark of Hemidesmus indicus R. Br. (Anantmul). Phytomedicine. 9(2): 153-160.

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Sultana, S, Khan, N, Sharma, S and Aftab Alam. 2003. Modulation of biochemical parameters by Hemidesmus indicus in cumene hydroperoxide-induced murine skin: possible role in protection against free radicals-induced cutaneous oxidatve stress and tumor promotion. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 85 (1): 33-41.

Alam, MI, Auddy, B and Gomes, A. 1994. Isolation, purification and Partial characterization of Viper Venom inhibiting factor from the root extract of the Indian medicinal plant "Sarsaparilla" (Hemidesmus indicus R. Br.). Toxicon. 32(12): 1151-1157.

Alam, MI, Auddy, B and Gomes, A. 1996. Viper Venom neutralization by Indian medicinal plant (Hemidesmus indicus and Pluchea indica) root extract. Phytotherapy Research. 10(1): 58-61.

Alam, MI and Gomes, A. 1998. Viper Venom-induced inflammation and inhibition of free radicals formation by pure compound (2-hydroxy-4-methoxy benzoic acid) isolated and purified from 'Anantamul' (Hemidesmus indicus R Br.) root extract. Toxicon. 36: 207-215.

Alam, MI and Gomes, A. 1998. Adjuvant effects and antiserum action potentiation by a herbal compound 2-hydroxy-4-methoxy benzoic acid isolated and purified from the root extract of the Indian medicinal plant "Sarsaparilla." Toxicon. 36: 1423-1431.

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About the Authors:

Dr Deepak Acharya: He is the Director of a herbal formulation company in Ahmedabad, India. He has been documenting ethnobotanical knowledge of tribals of Central and Western India. He has written 30 research papers in National and International journals of repute. He writes popular articles for web and magazines. Meet him on his homepage or contact via email on

Ms Garima Sancheti: She is a research scholar, working in the field of Radiation and Cancer Biology from Department of Zoology (University of Rajasthan, India). She has to her credit various research papers in scientific journals as well as articles on web. Contact her on

Dr Anshu Shrivastava: He is a Botanist and PhD from BSI- Jodhpur, currently working as Research Associate in SRISTI- Ahmedabad. He can be contacted on

Dr Sanjay Pawar: He is a botanist in Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh. Contacted him on

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