Medical Plants and Their Uses

The Bhesajja-kkhandaka of the Vinaya Piṭaka includes a materia medica of which 27 are plants. In several other places in the Tipiṭaka other medical plants or their by-products are also mentioned, together with their application. Given here are the Pali names for all these plants, the parts recommended for use, when mentioned, and each plant’s medicinal uses based on Medical Plants of India by Jain and DeFilipps.



Astringent, tonic, for fevers, cough, diarrhoea and dysentery.



Bark: applied to sores, pimples, with the bark of Dillenia pentagyna for tubercular fistula; for cholera, dysentery, diarrhoea. Leaf: For gravel, diarrhoea and sores. Fruit: Refrigerant, diuretic, laxative, for indigestion, with Swertia and fenugreek for gonorrhoea. Raw fruit aperient, dried and used in haemorrhagic, diarrhoea, as a liver tonic for scurvy, the juice as an eye drop. Seeds: For asthma and stomach disorders.


Inhaling the perfume

Rhizome: Powdered and given for dyspepsia, diarrhoea, piles, infusion in emollient, diuretic. Leaf: For erysipelas. Flowers Decoction in narcotic.



Rhizome: Chewed for cough, cold, as a bitter tonic, emetic, antispasmodic, carminative, promotes flow of bronchial secretion, useful in asthma, diarrhoea and dysentery, oil used as nerve stimulant, seda-tive and analgesic. Stem: For cough and cold. Whole plant: Sedative, analge-sic, depressant for blood pressure, respiration, rubbed on body to relieve aches.



Root: For fever. Seed For constipation, gonorrhoea, catarrh, gleets and chronic cystitis.



Root: Spleen complaints, diarrhoea, discharge in urine and excreta, haematuria, blood dysentery, the bites of dogs or poisonous animals. Bark: For bronchitis, cold, menorrhagia, dysentery and other stom-ach disorders. Flowers: For worms leucoderma and as an appetite stimulant. Seeds: For epilepsy, post-natal complaints, leprosy and other skin diseases, constipation and indigestion, colic and dysentery.




Not mentioned

Bark: With root bark of Solanum torvum and Achyranthes aspera for malaria. Oil: For enlarged spleen, with Lepidium, Nerium oleander, Nymphaea, root of Michelia and almonds for dysentery; in a paste and applied for headaches, skin complaints, burns and fever inflammation. Oil from heart wood as diuretic, diaphoretic, refrigerant, expectorant and for dysuria. Oil from seeds: For skin diseases.


Not mentioned

Root: Bitter-tasting and applied locally as an ano-dyne, chewed to relieve toothaches. Stem: The bark as a refrigerant. Leaf: Latex used for eye diseases.


Not mentioned

Bark: Given together (with the roots of other plants) to women as prenatal and post-natal treatment to purify the blood; for biliousness. Fruit: For biliousness and liver complaints.


A paste of the seed

Seeds: in a poultice externally applied for ulcers, for piles, as an emmenagogue in a decoction, for a lactagogue, emollient, diuret-ic and tonic Seeds and oil are mixed with other medicines for use as demul-cent for urinary problems and dysentery.

Tila, taṇḍula, mugga

The grains boiled together

(1) Sesame seeds and oil are mixed with other medicines for use as demulcent for urinary problems and dysentery. (2) Rice gruel is taken to relieve poor digestion, diarrhoea, dysentery and similar bowel complaints. (3) External and internal uses include remedying of nervous system disorders, rheumatism, paralysis, piles, fever, coughing, and liver diseases.



Bark and leaves: as febrifuge, emmenagogue, anthe-mintic. Seeds: as tonic, laxative, antipyretic, antiperiodic, for malaria and colic. Seed oil: as emollient, for rheumatism, skin diseases, in ears to stop discharge.


Not mentioned

Root: as an aromatic, bitter tonic, stimulant, antiseptic, for convulsions, inhaled (with other plants) for ulcers of nose and palate, dysentery, constipation, bronchitis (with other plants), as a laxative and to improve urination.



Root: as tonic, antiperiodic, strangulation of intestine. Stems: Bitter astringent, antiperiodic, cholera, vermifuge, demulcent, stimu-lant, cholera. As a contraceptive, 100 grams of bark from the stem is soaked in 1 litre of water and this infusion is taken by men daily for a month. Leaves: For boils, anthelmintic, on skin diseases, young leaves eaten for heart disease and tuberculosis, diarrhoea, dysentery, promotes lactation. Flowers: Tonic, stomachic, stimulant. Fruit and seeds: Purgative, emollient, anthelmintic, local stimulant, insecticide, antiseptic, astringent, for leprosy, piles, heart and urinary diseases and tuberculosis.



Whole plant: Juice taken to kill worms, with turmeric, pepper and ghee to relieve asthma. Bark: For snakebite.



Root: applied to leprous ulcers fresh or mixed with oil. Dry or powdered root taken for spleen and liver enlargement. Flowers: dried and taken as a stimulant.


Root and stalks

Tuber: To relieve strangulation of the intestine. Rhi-zome: Yields nutritious arrowroot useful for diarrhoea and dysentery in chil-dren. Carpel: Demulcent. Flower: as astringent and cooling agent for cholera.



Root: For cough, cold fever with thirst, to improve digestion, with root of Magnolia doltsopa, ginger, long pepper and Swertia for puerperal fever; Fruit: as a tonic, aromatic, stomachic, carminative; in liniments for pains and paralysis, a decoction of unripe fruit for chronic bronchitis. Root and fruit: as analgesic for muscular pain, in-flammation, as snuff in coma, drowsiness, as sedative for epilepsy, as cho-lagogue in obstructions of bile duct and gall bladder.



Leaves boiled and steam inhaled and/or rubbed on the skin. Whole plant: Stomachic, antispasmodic, analgesic and sedative, for epilepsy, with root of Cayaponia laciniosa, Solena amplexicaulis and opium for convulsions; on sores, for cough and cold. Leaf: for dyspepsia, gonorrhoea, bowel complaints, narcotic nerve stimulant and for skin diseases.



Whole plant: For heat stroke. Root: For stomach disorders.



Stem and leaves: For post-natal complaints. Fruit: as antiperodic in malaria fever, for protracted labour, convulsions, constipation, indigestion, post-natal complaints, bites and stings, stomachic, diaphoretic, diuretic, locally applied for sore throat, piles and skin diseases, with root of Globba marantina or Polygala arvensis for cough and asthma.


Not mentioned

Bulb: For fever, pulmonary phthisis, gangrene of lung, whooping cough, rheumatism, duodenal ulcer, hyperlipidemia, certain ty-phoides, flatulence, atonic dyspepsia, juice on skin diseases and as an ear drop.



Root: Chewed for coughs and colds, promotes bron-chial secretion, asthma, diarrhoea and dysentery, the oil is used as a nerve stimulant, sedative, analgesic, epilepsy, constipation. Stem: Cough and colds. Root: Vermifuge, in intermittent fever. Whole plant: Sedative, analgesic, de-pressant for blood pressure, rubbed on aching body parts.





Bark: As diuretic, cardiotonic, for eczema and sores in the mouth. Fruit: For dysentery, enlarged spleen, externally for measles, applied for inflammation of eyes, constipation (with ginger and other plants), coughs, bronchitis, as a gargle for inflammation of the mouth, laxative, cardiac tonic.



Bark: used for treating cholera.



Root: For bronchitis, phthisis, with Ocimum tenuiflorum for body pain; lumbago, with Curcuma domestica and Leea hirta for rheumatism; scabies, with black pepper for constipation; with black pepper and Acorus for indigestion; with Nigella and Carum for prolapsis and fistula ani; with Aristolochia indica for cholera; with onion, garlic and red sandalwood for amenorrhoea; with unripe fruit of Aegle marmelos, black pepper and leaves of Ocimum tenuiflorum for post-natal complaints; puerperal fever, snake, dog bites, insect stings, throat pain and to facilitate delivery.

Sulasī, i.e. Tulasi


Root: For sudden collapse, decoction for malaria as diaphoretic. Leaf: as stimulant, antiperiodic, diaphoretic, expectorant, fever, constipation, liver disorders, with black pepper, Polygala crotalarioides and rice for coughs. Seeds: as a demulcent, laxative, cooling drink and for urinary complaints.



Bark: As diuretic, cardiotonic, for eczema, mouth sores. Fruit: For dysentery, enlarged spleen, externally for measles, applied to inflammation of the eyes, constipation, coughs, bronchitis, as a gargle for inflammation of the mouth, laxative, cardiac tonic. Powder of the fruit dentrifive for gums.



Root: For hazy vision, inflammation of eyes, with tobacco for night blindness; subnormal temperature, body pains, rheumatism, with Green Gram for scabies, sores, with Dolichos biflorus for infantile fistula; with mustard and Solanum surattense for coughs; with leaves of sweet potato, Nigella indica and Buettneria herbacea root to stimulate lactation. Flowers: For sores in the throat, with Shorea robusta and bark of Ventilago calyculata for syphilis.



For colds and cough. Fruit: For pneumonia and skin diseases.