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Swertia chirata is an erect annual or perennial herb belongs to the genus Swertia and family Gentianaceae. It is found in Himalaya and Meghalaya at an altitude of 1200–1300 meters. The stems are robust, branching and cylindrical. The leaves are broadly lanceolate, five nerned and sub sessile. The flowers occur in large panicals and greenish yellow in color. The root is small, 5–10 cm long light brown, tapering, bearing a few rootlets. It is also known by other synonyms as Swertia chirayita.

Listing Details

Botanical Names
Swertia chirata
Indian Names
Sanskrit : Kirata Hindi : Chirayita Gujarati : Kariyatu Marathi : Kirayat, Bhu nimb Kannada : Nelaberu Bengali : Kalmegh Tamil : Nilavembu Telugu : Nilavembu Malayalam : Nelavepu, Kiriyattu
Chemical Constituents
The preliminary phytochemical analysis of Swertia chirata reveals that the major chemical constituents are terpenoids. The major chemical components of Swertia chirata are known to be xanthone and triterpenoids. Swertiamarin found in Swertia chirata might be responsible for the antipyretic activity. (1) The plant mainly contains a triterpene swertanone, a dimeric xanthone chiratanin. Seco-hopene lactones, swertiamarin swertia lactone – C and swertain – D are also present. The plant contains the two bitter principles, ophelic acid and chiratin. The latter occurs in the larger proportion, and yields, by boiling with hydrochloric acid, chiratogenin and ophelic acid, but no sugar. Neither ophelic acid nor chiratin has been obtained in crystals. The ash of chirata yields carbonates and phosphates of calcium, potassium, and magnesium. A crystalline, yellow, waxy body in small amount, as well as the ordinary plant constituents, abound. These bodies are ophelic acid, and chiratin, the former being in largest amount. Ophelic acid is a hygroscopic, non-crystalline, yellow, viscid body, having an odor faintly suggestive of gentian, and an acidulous, bitter taste which is persistent. Chiratin forms an insoluble compound with tannic acid. It is a pale-yellow, indistinctly crystalline powder. Its taste is extremely bitter, and its behavior to litmus neutral.
Pesticide Limits
A limit for pesticide is one of the major issues in standardization of medicinal plants and products in view of the worldwide widespread use of pesticides in cultivated plants. The presence of pesticides in extracts increase the health risk by many folds. The pesticides can be extremely irritant on skin as well as in the internal organs hence it is essential to monitor its concentration as a part of GMP. Various analytical methods for the quantitative determination of pesticides by gas chromatography coupled with mass-spectrophotometer are in use. Konark Research Foundation (KRF), a NABL certified lab is well equipped with the latest technology and instruments and monitors the pesticide limit as part of its GMP.
Chromatographic Profile
From the pharmacopoeial perspective, a better quality control of raw material can be achieved by specifying quantitative test procedure for the determination of the range or a minimum content of the active ingredient or marker substances. A chromatographic finger profile represents qualitative/ quantitative determination of various components present in a complex plant extract, irrespective whether or not their exact identity is known. Thin layer chromatographic technique is the simplest and least expensive method that provides plenty of information on the composition of raw herbs and its preparation. For quantitative analysis of active ingredients or marker substances with simultaneous separation and detection High Pressure liquid chromatography is the best technique. We use the latest model of HPLC for all its analysis.
Limits of Impurities
A test requirement for foreign organic matter would ensure the extent of contamination of extraneous matters such as filth and other parts of botanicals not covered by the definition of the herbal drug. Since sand and soil are predictable contaminants of botanicals, test requirements for ‘total ash’, water soluble ash’, ‘acid soluble ash’, residue on ignition and sulphated ash would be expected to limit such contaminants. Test requirement for heavy metals in botanical raw material are probably more relevant for parts of plants growing under ground than for the aerial parts of the plant. The presence of high levels of minerals interacts with the final product there by affecting its keeping quality.
Microbial Limits
If the raw herbs are to be used directly without boiling in water prior to consumption, restrictive limits on microbial contaminants are required for pathogens such as Salmonella sp. Enterobacter and E. coli which are causative agent for various gastrointestinal diseases. A lower level of yeasts and molds and a limit on total aerobes are considered appropriate in plant material for topical use. The presence of aflatoxins detected by chemical means is generally independent of the number of viable molds that are detected using microbiological methods. Aflatoxins in microgram quantity are capable of giving serious hypersensitivity reactions which can be extremely harmful to human health.
The whole plant of Swertia chirata used as medicine but root is said to be a therapeutically potential part. Among the different species of Swertia reported in India, Swertia chirayita is considered the most important for its medicinal properties. The bitterness, antihelmintic, hypoglycemic and antipyretic properties are attributed to amarogentin, swerchirin, swertiamarin and other active principles of the herb (3). Chirayta possesses various beneficial therapeutic properties. The plant has been reported to possess hypoglycemic activity, anti-inflammatory activity, hepato-protective activity, wound healing activity as well as antibacterial activity on selected microbial strain. Thus an effort has been made to establish the antipyretic effect of aqueous extract of Swertia chirata roots. Swertia chirata plant also possesses anti plasmodium activity and it is used to treat malaria (1, 4). Chirata has shown promising antiinflammatory and antidiabetic activity in biological studies. Swerchirin, a xanthone from Swertia chirata is a potent hypoglycaemic and a xanthone rich extract of this plant has shown significant anti inflammatory activity in acute, subacute, chronic and immunological models (5). Anti-diabetic activity of Swertia chirata has been observed in rats. The use of this plant for the treatment of liver and gallbladder ailments and for healing wounds has recently been proved by scientists. Antimalarial properties of this plant have also been noted. As an enema and powder, this'plant is used for the treatment of abdominal tumours and cutaneous cancer respectively. In traditional Arabian medicine, the decoction of S. chirata is used for the treatment of dyspepsia, gastrointestinal disorders and as febrifuge in various feverish conditions. The ethanolic extract of chirayeta plant can be used to treat the experimentally induced gastric ulcers. It was observed that benzene extract of Swertia chirata exert anti-inflammatory action in acute model.
Health Benefits
Swertia chirayita is a medicinal plant indigenous to temperate Himalaya. Its medicinal usage is reported in Indian pharmaceutical codex, the British and the American pharmacopoeias and in different traditional systems of medicines such as the Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha. The plant is used as a bitter tonic in treatment of fever and for curing various skin diseases (3). The root extract of Swertia chirata causes a significant antipyretic effect in yeast-provoked elevation of body temperature as well as Typhoid- Paratyphoid A, B Vaccine induced hyperexia. In both the cases, the extract caused a significant lowering of body temperature, with the effect being comparable to that of paracetamol (1). Various parts of this plant, including the root, stem, flower and leaves are recommended for the treatment of fever in combination and separately. The root juice is given for the relief of fever in whole part of India.
Research References
1. Sushil B., Prakash S. R., Paridhi B. and Shivshankar S. Antipyretic Potential of Swertia chirata Buch Ham. Root Extract Sci Pharm. 2009; 77: 617–623 2. K. P. Sampath ., Debjit B., Chiranjib., Biswajit. and Margret C. Swertia chirata: A traditional herb and its medicinal uses J. Chem. Pharm. Res., 2010, 2(1): 262-266 3. P. Joshi1 and V. Dhawan Swertia chirayita – an overview CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 89, NO. 4, 25 AUGUST 2005: 635-640 4. PRAVEEN B. AND NAMITA S. IN VITRO ANTIMALARIAL ACTIVITY OF EXTRACTS OF THREE PLANTS USED IN THE TRADITIONAL MEDICINE OF INDIA Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 65(4), 2001, pp. 304–308 5. Karan M., Vasisht K. and Handa S. S. Antihepatotoxic Activity of Swertia chirata on Carbon Tetrachloride Induced Hepatotoxicity in Rats PHYTOTHERAPY RESEARCH Phytother. Res. 13, 24–30 (1999) 6. RAFATULLAH S., TARIQ M., MOSSA J.S., AL-YAHYA M.A., AL-SAID M.S. and AGEEL A.M. PROTECTIVE EFFECT OF SWERTIA CHIRATA AGAINST INDOMETHACIN AND OTHER ULCEROGENIC AGENT-INDUCED GASTRIC ULCERS DRUGS EXPTL. CLIN. RES. XIX(2) 6 9 - 7 3 (1993) 7. SHIVAJI B., TAPAS KUMAR S., SUVRA M., PRABHASH C. D. and SRIDHAR S. ASSESSMENT OF THE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY EFFECTS OF SWERTIA CHIRATA INACUTE AND CHRONIC EXPERIMENTAL MODELS IN MALE ALBINO RATS Indian Journal of Pharmacology 2000; 32: 21-24 RESEARCH PAPER