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Latin NameAbrus precatorius Linn. (Papilionaceae)
English NamesJequirity, Indian Liquorice, Wild Liquorice
Sanskrit NameGunja
Local NamesRati, Ghunchi
History:  The root of an Indian leguminous plant, Abrus precatorius (Linn.), under the native names of Gunga or Goonteh, has been used as a demulcent. It contains Glycyrrhizin, and has been termed Indian Liquorice and used as a substitute for true Liquorice. Acrid resins, however, render the root irritant and poisonous. An infusion and a paste of the seeds are included in the British Pharmacopoeia. It has a strongly irritating effect upon the eyes and has been used both to produce and to allay certain ophthalmic diseases.The hard, red, glossy seeds, nearly globular, with a large, black spot at one end, are known as Prayer Beads, or Jequirity seeds. The seeds, weighing about 1 carat each, have been used in India from very ancient times for the purpose of weighing gold, under the name of Rati. They are largely employed also for the making of rosaries and for ornamental purposes.The weight of the famous Koh-i-noor diamond was ascertained by means of these seeds.There is also a variety with perfectly white seeds.Their medical importance is not great, but they have a notorious history in India as an agent in criminal poisoning. This practice has been directed chiefly against cattle and other live stock, but the poisoning of human beings has been not infrequent. That the attractive seeds form dangerous playthings for children has been proved by the records of a number of cases of poisoning which have occurred in this way.The name Wild Liquorice has also been given to Aralia nudicaulis (Linn.), indigenous to Canada and the United States, and to the root of Cephalanthus occidentalis, a member of the Madder family, a large shrub, with rich, glossy foliage, growing in swamps almost throughout the United States and extending into Southern Canada, the bark and stem of which is used commercially.Rest-Harrow has also been called Wild Liquorice.
Originally a tropical plant now introduced in to the southern US. It is now banned in many places but may still be encountered. The seeds are said to be poisonous and are used internally in affections of the nervous system and externally in skin diseases, ulcers and as an application to fistulas to excite inflammatory action. The root is described as emetic. 40 seeds of abrus administered internally, caused purging and vomiting, with symptoms of collapse and suppression of urine. Concar singers chew the leaves of white variety as a remedy for hoarseness to cure aphthae of the mouth. Popular remedy for granular lids and pannus in Brazil. It is used by goldsmiths as a weighing stone.Distribution:
It is cosmopolitan in distribution in tropical countries, found throughout from Himalayas to seashore. Ascending to an altitude of 3,500 ft. Though it is found wild it is also grown in gardens as ornament.Habit:
It is a perennial twining climber with slender stems and branches. Leaves are imparipinnate, leaflets glabrous or thinly silky beneath, 10-20 pairs, deciduous and ovate to obovate to oblong. Flowers are in axillary racemes. Calyx green, corolla pink or white and typical papilinaceous. Stamens 9, united to a single tube, tenth stamen is absent, ovary subsessile and many ovuled. Pods oblong or linear-oblong, seeds bright scarlet with a black spot at hilum or white with brown to yellow spot or pure or sometimes mixed black and white.Pharmacology:
The steroidal fractions (oil) from seeds produced sterility in albino rats and mice when fed for 20 consecutive days before mating (Desai & Rupawala, Indian J. Pharm. 29, 235, 1967). Antiosteriogonic activity of the alcoholic extract of the roots has proved by Agarwal et al. (Indian J. Pharm. 31, 175, 1969). Petroleum ether and alcoholic extracts of the roots prevent nidation in albino rats (Agarwal et al. Pharmacol. Res. Commun. 2,159, 1970). Aqueous extract of seed has abortifacient activity in mice (Desai & Sisri, Curr. Sci. 33, 585, 1964). Alcoholic extract of root caused translent fall in blood pressure in rats. Also the extract antagonised the stimulant action of histamine on isolated guineapig’s ileum (Agarwal & Arora, Indian J. Pharmacol. 4, 150, 1972). Proteins from seeds exhibited antitumor activity against Yoshida sarcoma in rats and fibrosarcoma in mice (Subba raddy & Sirsi, Indian J. Pharm. 30, 288, 1968 and Cancer res., 29, 1447, 1969). 

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