Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Swertia chirata (BUCH.-HAM.)
Family: N.O. Gentianaceae

Synonyms: Chirata. Indian Gentian. Indian Balmony.
Part Used: Herb.
Habitat: Northern India, Nepal.

Description: This plant first came into notice in Britain in 1829, and in 1839 was admitted to the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia. It is an annual, about 3 feet high; branching stem; leaves smooth entire, opposite, very acute, lanceolate; flowers numerous; peduncles yellow; one-celled capsule. The whole herb is used and collected when flower is setting for seed and dried.

Constituents: Two bitter principles, Ophelic acid and Chiratin, the latter in larger proportion.

Medicinal Action and Uses: The true Chiretta has a yellowish pith, is extremely bitter and has no smell, an overdose causes sickness and a sense of oppression in the stomach. It acts well on the liver, promoting secretion of bile, cures constipation and is useful for dyspepsia. It restores tone after illness.

Dosages and Preparations: Dried plant, 5 to 30 grains. Infusion of Chiretta, B.P., 1/2 to 1 fluid drachm. Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 draehm. Solid extract, 4 to 8 grains.

Other Species: In Indian bazaars where Chiretta is much more used than in England, the name Chirata is given to manykinds of Gentian-like plants. The one that is most in use among them is Ophelia augustifolia, the hill Chirata. It can easily be recognized by the stem being hollow, without pith and lower part of stem square. Another adulterant is Andrographis paniculata, also a native of India, one of the Acanthaceae; this in the dried state looks more like a bundle of broomtops, but is used a great deal in India as it has two valuable bitter tonic principles, Andrographolide and Halmeghin.