Nature has provided humankind with all sorts of medicinal and culinary delights. You might be amazed to know that a lot of weeds found in our backyard are actually medicinal marvels. Punarnava is one such herb. It spreads like a spider web in most tropical backyards during the rainy months of the year. Punarnava has been in use as a culinary herb in some parts of India including West Bengal and Assam.

This herb is not just restricted to a regional kitchen. Ayurvedic medicine recognizes punarnava as an excellent adaptogen (anti-stress agent), a Rasayana (rejuvenator) and a hepatoprotective (protects the liver). In fact, the meaning of punarnava is “to rise again”. The translation is believed to come from the many healing benefits of punarnava.

Numerous research studies have been going on to confirm the therapeutic potential of punarnava in alleviating various human conditions including kidney stones, jaundice, diabetes, and cancer.

Punarnava stems usually grow in shades of purple. It can be woody or succulent and has hairy growth over its surface. The hairy leaves of punarnava have a bright green shade on one side and they are whitish on the other side. They are arranged opposite each other on the stem. Punarnava flowers may be white or pink/red in colour and are one of the major differentiating features of this plant. According to a review article published in the Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological, and Chemical Sciences, the white variety is known to be good for all three ayurvedic doshas while the red/pink punarnava is known to pacify pitta.

Some basic facts about Punarnava:

  • Botanical name: Boerhaavia diffusa L.
  • Family: Nyctaginaceae
  • Common name: Punarnava, pigweed, spreading hogweed, hogweed, Tar vine
  • Sanskrit name: Raktakanda, Shothaghni, Varshabhu
  • Parts used: Leaves, roots, and seeds
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Punarnava grows wild in India, America, and parts of Africa.
  • Energetics: Cooling
  1. Punarnava health benefits
  2. Punarnava use
  3. Punarnava dosage
  4. Punarnava side effects

Punarnava is one of nature’s wonder herbs, which is beneficial for almost every essential body function. It is an antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herb but most importantly it is a Rasayana (rejuvenator). Consumption of punarnava may not just alleviate the risk of some common infections but as a revitalizing agent, it will make sure that you live a happy and healthy life.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the health benefits of punarnava.

  • Improves liver function: Punarnava is one of the best traditional remedies for treating liver ailments. When harvested in the month of may, this herb is suggested to prevent and revert liver damage.
  • Promotes kidney health: Punarnava possesses diuretic action, which helps in prevention of kidney stones. Clinical studies have found that regular use of punarnava improves kidney function in case of chronic kidney failure.
  • Improves anaemia symptoms: Punarnava, when given with buttermilk, increases iron levels and reduces anaemia symptoms within 90 days.
  • Boosts immunity: Punarnava contains some biologically active components, which have been found to exhibit immunostimulatory effects similar to that of ashwagandha.
  • Reduces menstrual problems: Punarnava is useful for reducing menstrual cramps. It also helps decrease swelling and prevents blood clot formation in uterus.
  • Reduces blood sugar: Punarnava is scientifically proven to be a hypoglycemic agent (reduces blood sugar). It reduces blood sugar levels by increasing insulin levels and renewing beta-cells.
  • Helps lose weight: Punarnava is known to be a good weight loss agent. However, it only reduces water weight and has not found to possess any fat reducing effects so far.
  • Delays ageing: Punarnava is a natural antioxidant herb, it fights free radical damage and prevents the early onset of ageing symptoms such as wrinkles and fine lines.

Punarnava antimicrobial benefits

Numerous lab-studies suggest the antimicrobial potential of punarnava plant.

In one such study, various extracts of punarnava leaves (aqueous, ethanol, methanol, chloroform etc.) were found to be effective against a wide range of bacteria including Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi etc.

Another study suggests that the water and ethanolic extracts of punarnava plant exhibit strong antimicrobial action against bacterial pathogens like Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Salmonella typhimurium, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, Shigella dysentery, Clostridium tetani etc. However, there is no confirmatory evidence of the antimicrobial activities of punarnava in humans.

Punarnava anticancer properties

The anticancer properties of punarnava have been studies widely in suppression of leukemia (a type of blood cancer), breast cancer, skin cancer, and colon cancer. Various in vitro and in vivo studies suggest that punarnava has a potent antiproliferative (stops the spread of) action against cancer cells.

Lab-based studies suggest that punarnava extracts inhibit the growth of cancer lymphocytes. Another study claims that punarnava has two chemical compounds named boeravinone 1 and 2. which stop the chemotherapy resistance in some breast cancer cells.

In vivo studies suggest the protective effect of punarnava against radiation-induced damage. However, a lot more research is still needed to understand the anticancer efficiency of punarnava.

Punarnava benefits for skin

Punarnava is well known for its skin healing benefits in ayurveda and in folk medicine.

Ethnopharmacological studies suggest that punarnava root and leaves have been used to treat various skin disorders by the tribals of central India.

Punarnava has been claimed to be an excellent antioxidant, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory herb. Additionally, punarnava is also known as an adaptogen and rasayana. Together, these three properties make punarnava an all healing and rejuvenating herb for the skin. Using punarnava may not only help reduce common skin ailments like itching, and rashes, but it will also fight off any infectious bacteria present on the skin.

Furthermore, the antioxidant properties of punarnava would fight the early signs of ageing including dark spots and blemishes while the nourishing properties of this herb will make your skin look positively healthy and glowing.

Read more: How to get glowing skin

Punarnava for weight loss

While there has been no evident research on the efficiency of punarnava as a weight loss agent, it remains one of the top ayurvedic herbs used in weight loss formulations. One theory suggests that punarnava, as a diuretic, may be helpful in reducing the excess fluid weight from the body. Additionally, punarnava is also known to be a mild laxative.

Read more: How to lose water weight

It is further suggested that punarnava inhibits the retention of fluids in the body thus helping indirectly in losing weight. However, most of this weight loss function seems to come from the fluid balance in the body and not much can be confirmed about the action of punarnava in reducing fat in tissue. But, it might be beneficial as a supplement with regular exercise. It is best that you talk to your doctor before using punarnava in any anti-obesity therapy.

Read more: Obesity treatment

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Punarnava for eyes

A study report suggests that punarnava leaf and root extracts have been used as folk remedy for the treatment of various eye disorders. An eye drop is made with punarnava leaf juice and honey to reduce inflammation in common eye problems like conjunctivitis. The juice of punarnava root is also used as a remedy for night blindness in folk medicine.

In an in vivo study, punarnava gel and eye drop were found to be useful in alleviating cataract and conjunctivitis symptoms. It was further reported that the administration of punarnava gel or eye drop did not have any significant adverse effect.

However, due to the lack of clinical trials, it is best that you talk to your ayurveda doctor before using punarnava for any kind of eye condition.

Read more: How to improve eyesight

Punarnava for stress

Punarnava is basically known as a rasayana (rejuvenator) in ayurveda. According to ayurvedic doctors, every rasayana herb has stress-relieving ability. Studies suggest that punarnava extracts and the ayurvedic formulation Punarnava mandur are efficient anti-stress agents.

According to a review article published in the International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the major adaptogenic agent present in punarnava plant is boeravinone.

Read more: Causes of stress

Punarnava for inflammation

Punarnava has been in use as an anti-inflammatory herb by a number of folk traditions and cultures. Many ayurvedic anti-inflammatory formulations have punarnava as one of its main ingredients. Pre-clinical studies hint that punarnava leaves may have some anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain reducing) properties.

Another lab-study adds that the anti-inflammatory potential of punarnava has been found to be at its peak during the rainy season. However, clinical trials are still pending to confirm a similar action in human-based inflammatory conditions.

Punarnava antioxidant properties

In vitro (lab-based) and in vivo studies suggest that punarnava is an excellent antioxidant. A laboratory-based study published in the International Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemical Research, the phenolic and flavonoid content of punarnava is responsible for most of its antioxidant properties.

Another in vitro study claims that the antioxidant effects of punarnava can be attributed in part to the high vitamin C and polyphenol content of punarnava.

Punarnava for menstrual problems

Traditionally, punarnava is used for the treatment of female menstrual disorders like irregular menstruation (amenorrhea) and menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea). Studies suggest that punarnava may have some antifibrinolytic potential (stops clot formation).

Animal-based studies indicate that consumption of punarnava may be useful in regularizing menstrual flow and decreasing common menstrual problems like cramps, inflammation, swelling etc in the uterus. However, more studies are still needed to find the exact mechanism and dosage of punarnava in the treatment of menstrual conditions.

Punarnava for immunity

According to ayurvedic doctors, punarnava is a nourishing herb. This means that consuming punarnava leads to overall development of our body functions. Immunity is one of the major body functions responsible for keeping off infections and diseases from our bodies. Punarnava as a health building herb can act as an immunomodulant (improves immunity) thus keeping us from falling sick.

In vivo studies suggest that punarnava extracts mediate a stimulatory effect on lymphocytes (white blood cells) and other immune system cells was further claimed that the adaptogenic (stress-reducing) effects of punarnava are comparable to that of ashwagandha.

According to a review article published in the Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection, the alkaloid content of punarnava is primarily responsible for its immuno-stimulatory effects. However, there have been studies that hint at selective immuno-suppressive (suppresses the immune system) activity by ethanolic root extracts of punarnava.

Hence, it is best to refer to an ayurvedic doctor to know more about the mechanism of action of punarnava on your immune system.

Read more: How to improve immunity

Punarnava for diabetes

In vivo studies indicate that leaf extract of punarnava is an efficient hypoglycemic (reduces blood sugar levels). It was further suggested that regular consumption of punarnava leaf extracts increases the level of insulin in the body thus leading to lower blood sugar levels.

Another study suggests that punarnava reduces blood sugar levels by renewing beta cells in the pancreas (cells responsible for insulin secretion). In the absence of clinical trials, it is best to check in with your ayurvedic doctor to know more about the anti-diabetic effects of punarnava.

Punarnava for asthma

According to an article in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, punarnava stimulates the removal of mucus from the respiratory tract. Pre-clinical studies suggest that punarnava leaf extracts exhibit significant tracheorelaxant (relaxes the airways) effects. So, it is speculated that punarnava may have some future use in anti-asthma treatments. No human studies are available so far to confirm the possible benefits of punarnava for asthma patients.

Read more: Ayurvedic treatment for asthma

Punarnava for anemia

According to ayurveda, punarnava is an excellent agent for correcting iron deficiency in the body. Punarnava Mandur, an ayurvedic formulation is being used as an anti-anaemic agent by the National Rural Health Mission in India.

Punarnava mandur is traditionally given with buttermilk. This is because iron is known to be absorbed better at lower pH levels. In a recent clinical study, 50 patients with geriatric anaemia (associated with old age) were given two tablets of Punarnava mandur twice a day with buttermilk for a period of 90 days. Marked reduction in anaemia symptoms was reported in all the patients.

It is always recommended that you talk to your ayurvedic doctor before taking any ayurvedic formulation.

Read more: Home remedies for anaemia

Punarnava benefits for kidneys

Punarnava leaves, roots and whole plant has been in use by the tribal and traditional medicine systems for the treatment of various kidney problems. Laboratory-based studies suggest that aqueous extracts of punarnava have a marked inhibitory effect on the formation of kidney stones. A number of animal-based studies suggest the diuretic and nephroprotective benefits of punarnava.

As per an in vivo study punarnavine, a water-soluble chemical compound present in punarnava roots is primarily responsible for the diuretic properties of this herb.

According to a case study mentioned in the International Journal of Advanced Ayurveda, Yogi, Yunani, Siddha and Homeopathy, an ayurvedic formulation made of punarnava was given to a patient suffering from chronic kidney failure (CHF, refers to a gradual decline in kidney function) for a period of six months. At the end of six months, significant improvement in kidney function was reported. Additionally, it was claimed that the person did not need dialysis anymore.

Another clinical study suggested that Punarnavadi, an ayurvedic formulation may be beneficial in reducing the risk of chronic kidney failure. However, more studies are needed to confirm the exact mechanism and dosage of punarnava for the treatment of various kidney disorders.

Read more: Avoid these 5 foods for healthy kidneys

Punarnava benefits for liver

Ethnopharmacological (based on common usage amongst people) studies suggest that punarnava is considered as the best remedy for most liver problems in traditional and folk medicine systems. Based on these claims, various in vivo (animal-based) studies have been done to confirm the hepatoprotective potential of punarnava.

An in vivo based study suggests that administration of the root extracts of punarnava lead to a significant decrease in serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels in the body. ALT is an enzyme that is commonly released by the liver for various body functions but an excess of ALT indicates improper liver functioning. 

A further study suggests that the best time to harvest punarnava is in the month of May when its roots reach a diameter of 1-3 cm. It was noted that the aqueous extracts of such roots have excellent hepatoprotective benefits. It was further claimed that the aqueous form of this herb is much more potent than powdered form in maintaining good liver health.

However, in a recent case study, an ayurvedic formulation known as Punarnava mandur has been reported to show some hepatotoxicity. It is strongly recommended that you refer an ayurveda doctor to know the right dosage of any herb for you.

Read more: Foods to improve liver health

Punarnava is mostly used in the form of ayurvedic formulations like Punarnava mandur and Punarnava guggulu. It is also prescribed by some ayurvedic doctors in the form of Punarnava powder, tablets, and capsules.

Punarnava paste is used in some traditional remedies for skin problems.

Punarnava tea, decoctions (kadha) and eye washes have also been in use. Apart from its medicinal benefits, punarnava leaves are also used as food in some parts of West Bengal and Assam.

Traditionally, 15-20 grams of punarnava powder (to be taken with milk) and about 15 ml of punarnava decoction has been known to be used without showing any significant side effects.

However, the exact dosage of punarnava would vary depending on your body type and physiological condition. It is always advisable that you ask your ayurveda doctor before taking punarnava in any form.

The following are some side effects of punarnava:

  • If you are currently taking any kind of medicine, it is preferable that you talk to your ayurvedic doctor before taking punarnava as it may interfere with the drug action.
  • There are no known researchers to confirm the safety of punarnava for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. It is advisable that you check in with your doctor before taking punarnava in any form.
  • Punarnava is known to be a diuretic, which means it leads to water loss from your body. It is necessary that you follow moderation before consuming punarnava and talk to your doctor to know the right dosage of this herb as per your body condition and symptoms.

Medicines / Products that contain Punarnava


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