Little known medicinal herb
ABELMOSCHUS MOSCHATUS Medikus is a medicinal and aromatic herb, found across the Deccan and the foothills of the Himalayas. It is an erect, annual herb. Its flowers are a bright yellow.
It is called Kasturibenda in Telugu, Kasturidana, Muskdana in Hindi, Kadu Kasturi in Kannada, Kattukasthuri in Malayalam, Muskbendibij in Marathi Gandapuri, Kasturilatika, Latakasturikam in Sanskrit, Kattukasthuri and Varttilai Kasturi in Tamil. The plants are grown for their musk-scented seeds that are useful in perfumery and medicine. The seeds, also known as Ambrette seeds, are valued for the volatile oil present in the seed coat.
The seeds contain moisture 11.14 per cent; protein 2.3 per cent; starch 13.35 per cent; crude fibre 31.46 per cent; fatty acid 14.5 per cent; volatile oil 0.2-0.6 per cent and resin 6.55 per cent. The presence of beta-sitosterol and its glucoside has also been reported in this plant. On steam distillation the crushed seeds yield oil that has a peculiar and lasting odour, reminiscent of musk. The crude oil, known as concrete, is semi-solid at ordinary temperature because of a large amount of higher fatty acids, chiefly palmitic acid.
The oil is used in high-grade perfumery. The main constituent is a sesquiterpene alcohol, fornesol. The seeds are valued medicinally for their diuretic, demulcent and stomachic properties. They are also said to be a stimulant, an antiseptic, cooling, a tonic, a carminative and an aphrodisiac. A decoction, infusion or tincture of the seeds is useful in nervous debility, hysteria and other nervous disorders. The mucilage prepared from the leaves and roots is used in venereal diseases. The stem bark yields quality fibre (cellulose 78 per cent) that may be substituted for jute, but is stated to be of no advantage over jute. The root contains mucilage, which is used in China for sizing paper.
The flowers are used for making zarda, an indigenous flavoured tobacco. The yellow portion of the petals found in plants growing in Muvattupuzha (Kerala) have flavonoids, myricetin and cannabiscitrin. The seeds are used as sachet powders as an insect-repellent.
The plant grows best in June-July and October-November. Three kilogrammes of seeds are sufficient for the cultivation of one hectare. The minimum yield is 1,500 kg per hectare.
D. MURALIDHARA RAO
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