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Karkatshringi: Health Benefits, Uses, Dosage and Side Effects

By NS Desk | Herbs | Posted on :   17-Dec-2020

Karkatshringi (called Crab's claws in common English) is a multi-branched, single-stemmed, deciduous tree and is also known as Shikari, pistacia chinesis, kakkara, Chinese pistache, or gall plant in different cultures.
 
This is a plant with gall (shringi) like structures on it that are produced by an insect called Aphis (Dasia asdifactor). The horn-like outgrowths (called Karkatshringi) are hollow, large, and cylindrical in shape and are rich in medicinal properties. Its pungent odor and bitter taste characterize this plant.
 
The botanical name of the plant is Pistacia Integerimma, and it belongs to the family Anacardiaceae.
 
How did the word ‘Karkatshringi’ originate?
There is no particular point in time or place that can give us a conclusive explanation as to how the word 'Karkashringi' originated. However, gall is commonly called 'shringi,' which explains the second word's inclusion in the herbs' name. As for 'Karkat,' it has a multitude of meanings and explanations because in the-then North-Western India (during the ancient period), there was a village named 'Karkat,' which is barely existent even now in modern-day Afghanistan.
 
So, the word 'Karkatshringi' might just have been a local name for the herb in the-then Karkat village and may have been communicated or sold off with the same name in many parts the-then the Northern provinces.
 
In Hindi, however, 'Karkat' literally means waste, which does not do well for people who believe that the herb's commonly known name has its origin in the Hindi language.
 
How is Karkatshringi obtained?
This herb is a glabrous shrub with a dark grey or blackish sort of bark and grows unto 16m. Its leaves are 22-25cm in length (with or without terminal leaflets). The leaves are bright green in color, and in the autumn, they turn bright red. The bright red form of the plant makes it recognizable. It is a native of Japan and China. In India, this plant is grown in the temperate parts of the Himalayan range, from Kashmir, Sikkim to Bhutan at altitudes of more than 600m but under 2500 (Indus to Kumaon).
 
The tree/plant grows on hot and dry slopes with a shallow amount of soil or open rocky grounds or limestone-based soil forms.
 
The gall like structures present at the branch's extremes is collected and ground to obtain a much simpler powdered form that can be used in multiple ways later on. The powder is used with rose water to make a paste, or the gall itself is boiled with certain other herbs mixed in water to make certain concoctions and Kwath (decoctions).
 
How it is stored: This herb should be stored at room temperature (25*C) and should be kept away from direct exposure to sunlight.
 
Ayurvedic formulations:
Karkatshringi is a major constituent of various types of Ayurvedic formulations such as Karkatadi Chra, Brihat palisade, Chawanprash, Siva Gutika, and Devadarvayadi Chura, which is used in various therapeutic processes.
 
Classical background:
Research on ancient literature has revealed the different classical identification of Karkatshringi in its different forms. The ancient scholars identified and categorized the herb-based on their knowledge and assumptions. There are some ambiguity and debate over such literature due to the use of different names, which are offsets of the herb's name itself.
 
There have been mentions of the herb in Charak Samhita, where it is identified as a small variety of Amalaki. In Sushruta Samhita, this herb is viewed as a Kanda Visa poisonous tuber) as he identified the toxic nature of the plant when taken in an everyday diet.
 
Scientifically identified qualities:
The herb is rich in secondary metabolites such as alkaloids, tannins, flavonoids, and terpenoids, which are reported to be found in the galls (shringi) itself. Apart from these, some minor constituents like gum mastic, crystalline hydrocarbons, resinous substances, and crystalline acids are also found in the herb. Many of the factors of the plant, such as its astringent nature, come from the presence of secondary metabolites (tannins in this case).
 
Chemical constituents:
Karkatshringi is comprised of many important chemicals that are components of major medicines sold separately for treating different diseases and disorders. Some of the chemical constituents identified in the herb by scientists are:
1. Riboflavin
2. Ascorbic acid
3. Carotene.
4. Thiamine
5. Nicontinic Acid
6. Citruline
7. Glutamic acid/Glutamine
8. Proline, Serine, Threonine
9. Luteolin
10. Pipecolic
11. Phloretic
12. Momordin/ Momordica agglutinin.
 
What are some of the benefits of Karkatshringi?
As mentioned earlier, this plant is rich in medicinal properties. Thus, it presents a multitude of benefits, such as the prevention of fluid loss from the body and hinders the growth of infection-causing bacteria due to its antimicrobial properties. When taken with water, it helps in managing diarrhea and fever, all credit to its astringent (Kashaya), and antipyretic nature.
 
As per Ayurveda, an intake of Karkatshringi in its powdered form and honey helps manage cough and cold by removing excess mucus in the respiratory tracts, allowing unobstructed air passage to the lungs. It also helps manage bronchitis due to its 'Kapha-dosha' balancing qualities. Moreover, the application of a paste comprising the powdered form and rose-water on the skin helps curb blisters, inflammation, bleeding, and itchiness due to its Ropan (healing) properties. Some people have also reported the benefits of gargling with karkatshringi kwath (decoction) on gum problems.
 
The recommended intake of Karkatshringi for treating some common problems:
Karkatshringi Powder- ¼ - ½ teaspoons mixed with water and honey, once or twice-a-day after a meal.
This shall benefit you by boosting your bodily resilience towards common problems such as as-.
 
1. Cough and cold:
Also known as Kapha disorder, it is caused by the accumulation of mucus in the respiratory tract. A regulated intake of Karkatshringi balances the Kapha in the body and helps expel excess mucus accumulated in the lungs.
In some of the clinical trials conducted using Karkatshringi rich Brihat talisadi Churna, the patients of productive cough when administered with a dose of 500mg QID with honey as an adjuvant was found useful and therefore, was recognized as an able remedy for cough.
 
2. Bronchitis:
Known as Kasroga in Ayurveda, this disease is caused by improper digestion due to poor diet or incomplete elimination of wastes from the body, leading to Ama's formation (toxic substances remaining in the body due to improper digestion) in the form of mucus in the lungs. The regular intake of Karkashringi helps in reducing Ama and expels excess mucus from the lung due to its previously mentioned Kapha-balancing properties and Ushna(hot).
 
3. Anorexia:
This is an eating disorder, and its occurrence has been increasing day-by-day due to people's current lifestyles. This eating order is characterized by the fear of gaining weight and the build-up of toxic substances in the body (Ama) caused by improper digestion. Ama blocks the gastro-intestinal channels, which, therefore, results in Aruchi (Anorexia). The role of Karkatshringi is somewhat similar to its role in inhibiting bronchitis in reducing and expulsion of Ama from the body and improving the body's digestive capacity, hence increasing the appetite.
 
4. Diarrhea:
Also known as Atiasar in Ayurveda, is caused due to improper intake of food, impure water, toxins, mental stress, and weak digestive fire (Agnimandiya), which are responsible for aggravating the Vata of the body. As a result of the aggravated Vata, fluids from different tissues of the body are brought to the intestine and mixes with the stool leading to loose or watery motions or diarrhea.
 
Karkatshringi plays a crucial role in the intestine's water retention and ensures that the Vata remains balanced in the body, thereby ensuring the thickening of stool and control over the frequency of loose motion or diarrhea. Due to its carminative and astringent factors, this herb also helps in reducing flatulence in the gastrointestinal tract, which further strengthens the bowel movements.
 
5. Bleeding Gums:
The kwath (water decoction) generated from Karkatshringi helps in controlling the bleeding from the gums termed as 'Sheetada' in Ayurveda. This kwath, when gargled with hot water regularly, helps to curb Sheetada due to its Kashaya(astringent) and Ropan(healing) factors.
The use of this herb is quite beneficial in certain other gum diseases like pyorrhoea, gingivitis. The Kwath(decoction) of this herb plays a crucial role in the removal of pus from the gum.
 
6. Skin disease:
Skin diseases such as eczema and its symptoms can be dealt with, with the application of Karkatshringi and rose water paste on the affected area. Some of the common symptoms of eczema are rough skin, blisters, itchiness, and bleeding. The paste's said application reduces the inflammation and helps in stopping the bleeding due to its Ropan and kashaya properties.
 

                       The Ayurvedic View

 

         The Modern Scientific View

 

The use of Karkatshringi powder with rose water is recommended, especially for people with hypersensitive skin due to its potent Ushna(hot) factor.

 

Certain factors present in Karkatshringi might lead to it having an irritant effect on the skin. So, a doctor should be consulted before using it.

 

 

 
However, breastfeeding mothers, diabetic patients, patients with heart disease, and pregnant patients should consult a doctor before starting a regular consumption of Karkashringi as its effect is not conclusive. There is a lack of scientific evidence of its role in such scenarios. 
 
FAQs on Karkatshringi:
 
What is Karkatshringi’s impact on Male sexual health?
There is some scientific evidence to suggest that Karkatshringi might have aphrodisiacal properties and tends to increase sexual desire in males but, as to its effects on sexual health, both Ayurveda and modern science have had non-conclusive results.
 
This herb also acts as a spermato genetic and spermatozoic agent, i.e., it effectively increases the sperm count and sperm quality and, thus, resolves a multitude of sexual issues in men. It is also known to help increase strength and libido in males.
 
What is Karkatshringi’s impact on Hiccups?

                        Ayurvedic View

 

             Modern Scientific View

 

Ayurveda attributes the occurrence of hiccups to the imbalance of Vata and Kapha doshas, and since karkatshringi is known for its Kapha and Vata dosha balancing properties, it is considered an able remedy.

 

 

There is not enough scientific evidence that makes the case of Karkatshringi as a remedy for hiccups conclusive.

 

 

 
What are the effects of Karkashringi on Menstruation?

                            Ayurvedic View

 

      Modern Scientific View

 

 

Affirmative, Karkatshringi has been attributed by Ayurveda as an effective agent in managing symptoms and side effects of menstruation, such as cramps or pain. These problems occur due to an imbalance in Vata dosha, which leads to the over-contraction of muscles. Karkatshringi may play a crucial role in managing these problems due to their Ushna and Vata-balancing properties.

 

 

There is not enough scientific evidence to suggest either negative or positive effects of Karkatshringi on menstruation.

 

However, some of the scientists have vouched for this herb’s role in the removal of debris and impurities after menstruation and in the healing of the uterine lining.

 

 

                
Does Karkatshringi help with Spasms of the stomach?
Modern scientific studies say that Karkatshrinigi may help manage spasms due to its antispasmodic action, i.e., it inhibits the involuntary movement of muscles, thereby providing relief from spasms.
 
Does Karkatshringi help patients with asthma?
As per Modern Scientific evidence, the essentials oils present in Karkatshringi paste get absorbed by the skin and help in reducing the swelling in the lungs due to its anti-inflammatory properties, which decreases resistance in the air passages leading to an ease in breathing. It further hinders the release of allergy-causing chemicals and reduces allergic symptoms due to its anti-asthmatic properties.
 
This herb is also useful in resolving other respiratory complications, such as dyspnea. As the use of the herb strengthens the air passages and keeps them clear, it is also an effective agent in Tuberculosis treatment.
 
What is Karkatshringi’s impact on Leishmania Infection?
Leishmania parasites cause this infection. The oil generated from Karkatshringi helps prevent the infection as it inhibits the growth and spread of the parasite because of its antibacterial and antiprotozoal properties.
 
Does Karkatshringi help in the healing of cuts and wounds?

                            Ayurvedic View

 

      Modern Scientific View

 

 

Affirmative, Karkatshringi has been attributed by Ayurveda as an effective agent in managing symptoms and side effects of menstruation, such as cramps or pain. These problems occur due to an imbalance in Vata dosha, which leads to the over-contraction of muscles. Karkatshringi may play a crucial role in managing these problems due to their Ushna and Vata-balancing properties.

 

 

There is not enough scientific evidence to suggest either negative or positive effects of Karkatshringi on menstruation.

 

However, some of the scientists have vouched for this herb’s role in the removal of debris and impurities after menstruation and in the healing of the uterine lining.

 

 

 
Karkatshringi's role in the treatment of fungal infections?

                            Ayurvedic View

 

      Modern Scientific View

 

 

Affirmative, Karkatshringi has been attributed by Ayurveda as an effective agent in managing symptoms and side effects of menstruation, such as cramps or pain. These problems occur due to an imbalance in Vata dosha, which leads to the over-contraction of muscles. Karkatshringi may play a crucial role in managing these problems due to their Ushna and Vata-balancing properties.

 

 

There is not enough scientific evidence to suggest either negative or positive effects of Karkatshringi on menstruation.

 

However, some of the scientists have vouched for this herb’s role in the removal of debris and impurities after menstruation and in the healing of the uterine lining.

 

 

 
Does Karkatshringi benefit Cancer patients?

                     Ayurvedic View

 

                 Modern Scientific view

 

 

Even though Ayurveda vouches for most of the benefits of this herb, when it comes to cancer, however, it does not consider Karkatshringi as an able remedy.

 

 

Karkatshringi plays a critical role in reducing cancer risk or as it is called malignancy due to its antipyretic property resulting in the death and removal of the cancer cells.

 

 
What is Karkatshringi’s impact on overall health?

Ayurvedic View

 

                  Modern Scientific View

 

Ayurveda has been open about the various benefits of this herb and, therefore, concurs and vouches for its overall impact on the individual's health.

 

Karkatshringi is comprised of certain constituents such as Vitamin C, which have antioxidant properties, i.e., they help protect the body from and against certain chemicals (free radicals) and prevent cell damage. This has a major impact on overall health.

 
Overdose of Karkatshringi:
The essential oils present in the herb have a depressant action on the Central Nervous System, which in some cases can provide relief to an individual with elevated blood pressure and breathing. However, in certain experiments done on guinea pigs and rats, a dose of more than 100g was administered, and it resulted in them developing a deeply unconscious state in the matter of an hour.
 
Such lethal doses of anything more than 50g to 100g can cause deep narcosis and may even lead to death within a matter of a few hours. The herbs' oil may also cause an irritant reaction on certain susceptible individuals' skin and mucous membranes.
 
Common market prices of Karkatshringi in its different forms:
There are abundant options in the market, whether it is for the raw form of the herb or its other forms. Some of the average prices are listed below-
1. Raw herb: Rs1400-1500
2. Extract: Rs 4000-4700
3. Oil- Rs 2500-3000
4. Powder- Rs1700-1900.
Some of the prices might be a bit inflated during certain seasons, but it is recommended that these herbs are bought from trusted brands and not compromise on the quality.
 
Conclusion:
All in all, Karkatshringi has many beneficial factors and constituents in itself and is extremely useful in treating mild to serious diseases or disorders. Like with all good things, there are some side effects and immune response factors that may govern its use for certain individuals. The notable part with this herb is its judicial use and not overuse.
 
The dosage of the herb should be monitored, and doctors' regular opinions and advice should be taken into account. The herb can do wonders for an individual's body if all the recommendations and precautions are abided by.

NS Desk

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