TOXIC PLANTS IN TRADITIONAL INDIAN SYSTEMS OF  MEDICINE

 

              The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 80% of the population of developing countries relies on traditional medicines, mostly plant drugs, for their primary health care needs. Also, modern pharmacopoeia still contains at least 25% drugs derived from plants and many others which are synthetic analogues built on prototype compounds isolated from plants. Siddha system is one of the oldest systems of medicine in India. The Siddha system is capable of treating all types of disease (especially chronic diseases) other than emergency cases.


The Pharmacology (Materia Medica) of Siddha system is divided into three major parts namely Herbal kingdom, Metals & Minerals and Animal kingdom. The initial treatment consists of Herbal treatment followed by metal and mineral preparations. It is important to have an awareness regarding the poisonous plants which when used in the proper, prescribed dose, acts as potent therapeutic agents.


Toxins are molecules that are harmful to living organisms. It is a fact that virtually any substance can be harmful at high enough concentrations - as Paracelsus (1493-1541) said in the sixteenth century, "the dose makes the poison." Poisons include both naturally produced compounds and chemicals manufactured by humans. Natural poisons are produced by species of bacteria, fungi, protists, plants, and animals.


This article has the basic details such as the Botanical & Family names, Common names, toxic parts of the plant, chemical constituents, signs and symptoms of toxicity, its use in Traditional Indian Systems of Medicine (in prescribed doses), and information about Lethal dose and Fatal period of the important plants (such as Papaver somniferum, Datura alba, Nerium oleander, Strychnos nux vomica, Cleistanthus collinus, Cannabis sativa, Gloriosa superba, Anamirta cocculus, Citrulus colocynthis, Abrus precatorius, Semecarpus anacardium, Excoecaria agallocha, Digitalis purpurea, Aconitum ferrox, Crotontiglium and Plumbago zeylanica) noted as poisons in the Traditional  Indian Systems of Medicine.

 

 

Botanical name &
Family
Common  Name Toxic parts Constituents Action Uses  note

Abrus Precatorius

 

Jequirity,
Indian
Jamaica or
Wild
Liquorices
Roots,
seeds,&
leaves
Abrin Vomiting,
Cardiac
poison.
Externally
used in
Alopecia,
Sciatica,
Paralysis&
Other nervous
diseases
LD: 90gm-
120gm.
FP: 24-72
hrs.
 Aconitum ferox  Indian aconite
or Monkshood
 Dried
tuberous
root
 Napelline or
Pseudo
aconite
 Gastro
Intestinal
Tract
irritant
&Cardiac
poison.
 Externally
used in
Neuralgia,
Muscular
rheumatism,
Nervine tonic
in case of
paralysis.
 LD: 2.5-
4gm
FP: 5 hrs
 Anamirta cocculus,  Indian berry,
fish berry.
 Fresh
fruit
 Picrotoxin    In smallest
doses it is
given in
epilepsy
 
 Cannabis sativa  Indian hemp  Dried
flowers
and fruits
 Cannabin,
cannabinon,
cannabinol
 Deliriant
poison,
produce
Over
excitement
, Narcotic
stage &
Death.
 Neuralgia,
Migraine,
Whooping
cough,
Asthma,
Dysmenorrhea
&
Menorrhagia.
 LD:
Bhang:10g
m
Ganja:8gm
Charas:2g
m.
FP: 24hrs-
7 days.
 Cleistanthus collinus    Bark  Saponins  Extremely
poisonous
 Bark is a fish
poison.
 
 Citrullus colocynthis  Colocynth,
Indian wild
Gourd or bitter
apple, bitter
cucumber.
 Fruit,
Root,
Dried
Pulp of
the fruit.
 Colocynthin    Ascitis,
Jaundice,
Amenorrhea,
Fever,
Constipation
 
 Croton tiglium  Purgative
croton, croton
oil seed.
 Seed, oil.  Tiglinic acid,
Crotonic, or
quartenylic
acid.
 GIT irritant
&Cardiac
poison.
 Dropsy,
Cerebral
affection like
apoplexy,
Convulsions,
Insanity,
Obstinate
constipation,
intestinal
obstruction
 LD: 1 seed
Oil: 15-
20ml.
FP: 6 -
36hrs.
 Datura alba  Thorn apple  Whole
plant
 Daturine  Deliriant
poison
produce
collapse &
death.
 Spasmodic
asthma.
 LD: 0.6-
1gm.
FP: 24 hrs
 Digitalis purpurea  Fox glove      Cardiac
poison.
   LD: 15-30
mg
FP: 30 min
- 24 hrs
Excoecaria
agallocha
Tiger’s milk
tree
      Epilepsy,
externally in
ulcers, snake
poison.
 
Gloriosa superba Superblily Tubers(roots) Superbine&
glucosine
GIT irritant
&Respiratory poison
Gonorrhea,
externally in
snake bite&
Scorpion
Sting.
LD:800mg
FP: 12-24
hrs.
Nerium oleander Sweet scented
oleander,
Roseberry
spurge
Root & root bark Neriodorin Cardiac poison Small doses in
Snake bites&
powerful
venomous
bites,
externally
used in
Hamorrhoids,
Cancers
LD:16gm
FP: 24-36
hrs.
Papaver somniferum Opium poppy
capsules,
White poppy,
poppy seeds.
Ripe
&dried
capsules,
petals
seeds
Morphine,
Narcotine,
Codeine,
Thebaine
Depression
Narcotic
poison
Cough,
Asthma,
Insomnia,
Diarrhoea,
Dysentry,
Intestinal
inflammatory
pain.
LD:Opium:
0.9-1.8gm
Morphine:3
0mg
Codeine:1
0-60mg
Tincture
opium:250
mg
Pethedine:
1gm
FP: 6-12
hrs.
Plumbago zeylanica Ceylon
leadwort,
White
leadwort.
Root Plumbagin Externally
it produces
rashes &
Gastro
intestinal
poison.
Internally root
causes
Abortion,
Externally in
Abscess,
Leprosy and
Scabies.
LD:5gm
Semecarpus
anacardium
Markins nut
tree.
Fruit,
Gum, oil.
Anacardiac
acid &
Cardol
anacardol
GIT irritant,
Externally
it produces
Rashes on
skin.
Internally used
in Syphilis,
Piles,
Rheumatism,
Palsy,
Epilepsy,
Chronic
enlargement
of spleen

LD: 5 – 10
gm
FP: 12 –
24 hours
             
             
             

 

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