Branker : A Local Shrub

Dr. Vikas Sharma, Chandan Thappa
Adhatoda vasica, locally known as branker, belonging to Acanthaceae family, is a wild shrub widely found in the kandi belt of Jammu region and well known plant drug in Ayurvedic / Unani medicine. It is commonly known as Malabar nut tree and local names in some areas are Vasaka (Sanskrit), Arusha (Hindi), Bakas (Bengali), Nongmangkha-agouba (Manipuri), Alduso (Gujarati), Adasaramu (Telugu), Adadodai (Tamil), Adusoge (Kannada) and Atalotakam (Malayalam) in India. It is called Ya-Zui-Hua in China. It is an evergreen shrub, about 2.2-3.5 meters high, with long leaves and white flowers in auxiliary spike. Root is normal with secondary and tertiary rootlets. Leaves are large, lance-shaped, opposite and estipulate. Fruit is four seeded in the form of a capsule. It is one of the highly reputed plant species, utilized in indigenous systems of medicine in India for over 2000 years. Branker, famed as a natural expectorant, has a rich concentration of bioactive components like vasicine, luteolin, carotene, vasakin, other quinazoline alkaloids and essential oils. The leaves are abundant in phytochemical constituents like tannins, saponins, alkaloids, flavonoids, and phenolics.
Glycodin, a famous product used for the cure of bronchitis is extracted from the leaves of Adhatoda vasica (branker). Prepare a decoction of A. vasica leaves by boiling it in water, add a spoon of honey and drink this concoction daily to prevent respiratory infections. Consume this potent ayurvedic herb during the flu season to protect your body from various infectious diseases.
It is used as an herbal remedy for treating cold, cough, whooping cough and chronic bronchitis and asthma, as sedative expectorant, antispasmodic and anthelmintic. It is an official drug and is mentioned in the Pharmacopoeia of India. The leaves, roots, flowers and bark of Adhatoda are all used for medicinal purposes. It has been used by European herbal practitioners as an antispasmodic, expectorant and febrifuge. The plant has been included in the WHO manual – The Use of Traditional Medicine in Primary Health Care. In the manual, A. vasica is also recommended for the preparation of sputum more fluid and use to treat cough, asthma and bleeding piles and it can be used for both adults and children for a long period. Paste, powder and decoction of root is used for curing tuberculosis, diphtheria, malarial fever, leucorrhoea and eye diseases. The root decoction is also used for gonorrhea. Mainly yellow leaves of the plant are exploited for cough and smoke and ash of leaves is used for asthma.
Cold and cough remedies
Recurrent coughs and congested throat can cause a lot of discomfort and prevent a peaceful good night’s sleep while making you feel tired and exhausted. Being rich in anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and expectorant properties, A. vasica holds high significance in treating the common cold, cough and flu symptoms. It also reduces chest and nasal congestion gets rid of excess sputum and stops nasal discharge. It is also highly effective in treating asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis and other respiratory illnesses.
Improves gut health
A. vasica is a powerful digestive stimulant. The carminative and appetite-stimulant properties of the herb help in breaking down food particles in the stomach and intestine, promote the secretion of the digestive juices and thereby increase the absorption of essential nutrients through the intestines. It also helps to eliminate abdominal gas and in turn reduces abdominal distension, bloating and gaseous cramps. It cures a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders such as esophagitis, dyspepsia, heartburn, diarrhea, flatulence, peptic ulcer and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Detoxification of blood
Being a potent cardiac tonic, the herb is extremely essential in purifying the blood. It effectively improves blood count, manages blood pressure and hence prevents a host of heart rhythm disorders. The presence of anti-coagulant and anti-fibrinolytic properties also prevents blockage and formation of clots in the arteries causing heart block.
Relieves inflammation
A. vasica offers extensive relief from pain and inflammation in case of arthritis and joint pain. Joint pain usually arises due to a raised level of uric acid in the blood. Powdered branker extensively helps reduce the uric acid levels and also works well to diminish the pain and tenderness that happens due to gout. Being a natural vasodilator, it is also used to treat painful muscle spasms, sore muscles, arthritic conditions and other inflammatory situations.
Treats uremia: Uremia is a chronic condition that arises due to a raised level of urea and other nitrogenous waste compounds in the blood that are normally excreted by the kidneys. This condition chiefly occurs due to malfunctioning of the kidneys or renal failure. The horde of bioactive constituents in A. vasica helps in eliminating the toxic wastes from the body through urine and uplifts the urinary functions.
Boost immunity
The abundance of antimicrobial and antiseptic properties make branker the ultimate solution to ward off the various infections. The bio-active components in the Malabar nut tree bolster immunity and prevent bacterial infestation. It not only helps reduce the risk of various bacterial and fungal infections like fever, tuberculosis, dengue etc, but also prevents allergic conditions on the skin.
A. vasica leaves are famed for their anti-ulcer properties. It plays a pivotal role in reducing ulcers and sores in various parts of the body. It also helps in treating bleeding disorders and offers a potent remedy for peptic and duodenal ulcers.
Improves skin health: The anti-bacterial and antioxidant activities of the vital alkaloids in A. vasica play an important role in the treatment of skin illnesses such as acne, warts, boils, eczema, blisters, itching and so on. Beauty products fortified with A. vasica extract or malabar nut oil enhance complexion by evening out skin tone, cleaning blocked pores and reducing various signs of ageing. Owing to the antiseptic nature, the juice obtained from A. vasica also prevents wounds and injuries and facilitates healing.
(The authors are from Division of Biochemistry, SKUAST-Jammu)