Gulaganji - Abrus Precatorius

Gulagani – Medicinal Uses and Benefits

Gulaganji plant is one of the most poisonous plants in India. In fact, it is considered to be more dangerous than the famous Cobra venom. This plant belongs to the family Fabaceae. Its botanical name is Abrus Precatorius. It grows up to 15 feet high. The flowers of this plant are white in colour while the fruits are dark brown. It is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine.

This plant contains some potent toxins like ricin and abrin. Ricin toxin is present in the seeds of this plant. These toxins are highly toxic to humans and animals. They cause severe damage to the digestive system. When consumed, the toxins enter into the bloodstream and affect the liver cells. As soon as it enters the body, it starts producing antibodies against itself. But, the problem arises because of the presence of abrin toxin in the seeds. If you consume just one or two seeds, you might feel nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain, headache and dizziness. There is no antidote for abrin poisoning. Therefore, it is better to avoid eating raw seeds of Abrus Precatorius.

In addition to these toxins, there are many medicinal properties associated with this plant. Some studies suggest that this plant possesses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antifungal properties. The leaves of this plant are used in treating fever, cough, cold, asthma, bronchitis, dysentery, ulcers, diabetes, piles, constipation, anaemia, etc.

Various Names of Gulaganji

Gulaganji plant is also known as jequirity, Crab's eye, rosary pea, paternoster pea, love pea, precatory pea or bean, prayer bead, John Crow bead, coral bead, red-bead vine, country licorice, Indian licorice, wild licorice, Jamaica wild licorice, Akar Saga, coondrimany, gidee gidee, Jumbie bead, ratti / rettee / retty, goonjaa / gunja / goonja / gunjaa, or weather plant.

Ecology and invasiveness

Abrus precatorius (also known as "cane brake", "bitter cane", "pitchcanes" or "yellow pitchcanes") is a highly invasive species of grass native to Asia and Australia. Its name derives from the Latin word abrospatium meaning "to spit out".

The plant was originally described by Linnaeus in 1753 in his Species Plantarum, where he called it Abrus pruni. He based his description on specimens collected near Leipzig, Germany. The specific epithet pruni refers to Prussia, where the plant was found growing wild.

In 1859, John Lindley published a monograph entitled On the genus Abrus, describing the plant as Abrus pruni var. lanceolatus. This name was later changed to Abrus lanceolatus, and finally to Abrus precatorious.

By 1900, the plant had been reported throughout most of North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Guam, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, and Micronesia.

Since the early 20th century, the plant has been widely introduced by humans into new areas around the world. It has become established in many countries, particularly those in the tropics, subtropics, and warm temperate zones.

Common Uses of Gulaganji

- In ancient times, the seeds were used to make necklaces, bracelets, earrings, hair pins, and rings.

- Some people use the seeds as beads to decorate clothing.

- They are sometimes used as decorations during weddings and funerals.

- The seeds are often sold in shops near bus stops and railway stations.

- They are also often sold in markets and street stalls in rural areas.

1 unit of Gulaganji Gold

The seeds of Abrus Precatorius are very consistent, even under different moisture levels, because it is impervious to water. This makes the seeds ideal for use as a unit of measure for weighing gold. In India, people used these seeds to weigh precious metals like gold and silver.

Gulaganji in Traditional Medicine

Abrus precatorius is known as Gulaganji in Karnataka and Kunni kuru in Kerala. It is one of the important plants of the Siddhas. The root is used to make oil, which is believed to be an aphrodesiac. Tea made from leaves is used in treating fever, cough, cold etc. Leaves mixed with honey are used for treating swellings. Seeds are poisonous and hence are used only after proper ayurvedic processing for treating inflammation of the eyes. The plant is used for hair growth.

Gulaganji mala for pooja

Red Chirmi beads represent goddess Mahalakshmi, the protector of wealth, health, prosperity, children and family. These beads are known to be very auspicious and keepers of wealth. They are believed to bring good fortune and protection against evil eye. The mala with these beads is handmade by artisans in India.

The Actions of the Seeds

It is considered a purgative, emetic, tonic, aphrodisiac, ophthalmic, and anti-stress herb. In traditional Chinese medicine it is called ganchong and is used to treat insomnia, anxiety, depression, stress, high blood pressure, diabetes, and menstrual disorders. Its use dates back to ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and China.

How do you clean Gunja seeds?

Gunja seeds can be cleaned using a toothbrush or a soft brush. You may want to soak them overnight in water before cleaning them. 

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Extra reading 

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Dr. Vandana, Co-Founder,