Home Herbal Monograph Prickly-Chaff Flower

The plant has been mentioned in manuscripts of Ayurveda and Chinese medicines. In Ayurveda, two varieties, red and white are mentioned. In Sanskrit, synonyms describe this as a rough flowered stalk. It is described in 'Nighantas' as purgative, pungent, digestive, a remedy for inflammation of the internal organs, piles, itch, abdominal enlargements and enlarged cervical glands. Hindus used ashes for preparing caustic alkaline preparations. The diuretic properties of the plant are well known to the natives of India and European physicians. Different parts of the plant form ingredients in many native prescriptions in combination with more active remedies.


Found throughout tropical Asia, Africa, Australia and America. An abundant weed in dry places and wastelands, from the seashore to 2,100 m high.

Morphology Description (Habit)

It is an annual or perennial herb. Stem erect, 0.5-2.0m in high, base woody, angular or ribbed, simple or branched, often tinged with pink colour; nodes bulged. Leaves opposite, petiolate, ovate-elliptic-obovate-rounded, in various sizes, apex usually rounded, finely or softly pubescent on both sides. Flowers are in an auxiliary or terminal spikes, which is more than 50 cm in long, greenish white, bracteate and bracteolate. Perianth lobes 4-6, glabrous, shining, ovate-oblong and pointed. Stamens 5 in number, staminodes are truncate, fimbriate, ovary oblong, sub-compressed and ovule solitary. Fruit easily disarticulate, oblong or ovoid and utricle. Seeds inverse, testa coriaceous, embryo annular and surrounded by floury albumin.

Principal Constituents

Betaine1 and Achyranthine2 are the principal alkaloids, identified from the whole plant. Seeds contain Achyranthes saponin A and its ester, named as Aschyranthes saponin B3. The presence of ecdysterone is also reported. Shoots contain an essential oil, tannins and glycosides.


Alcoholic and aqueous extracts of the roots cause fall in blood pressure4 but the chloroform extract raised the blood pressure5 in dogs. Achyranthine produced hypertension and depression of the heart, dilation of blood vessels in dogs, spasmogenic effect in frog rectus muscle and diuretic and purgative effect in albino rats6. Alcoholic extract has hypoglycemic activity7. Seed saponins increased contraction of the isolated heart of frog, guinea pig & rabbit. The effect was quicker in onset and shorter in duration than that exerted by digoxin8. Saponins have phosphorylate activity in heart9. Saponins have diuretic activity in albino rats and in dogs10.

Clinical Studies

In leprosy patients, the deception of the whole plant along with DDS (Diamino diphenyl sulphone) showed definite improvement in the general health and bacterial index. It is useful in sub acute and mild type of leprosy11.


It has pungent, astringent, diuretic, alterative, antiperiodic and purgative properties. Plant is used in piles, skin eruptions, opthalmia, dysentery, eye and liver complaints, rheumatism, scabies, bronchial affections and in leprosy. Leaves useful in gonorrhoea. Roots in cancer, stomach troubles and bladder stones. Seeds are useful in renal dropsy, bronchial affections and in leprosy. Branches and roots are useful as tooth brushes.

  1. Kapoor & Singh, Indian J. Chem. 4, 461, 1966.
  2. Basu et. al., Indian J. Pharm. 32, 43.
  3. Hariharan and Rangaswamy, Phytochem. 9, 404, 1970.
  4. Gambir et. al., Indian J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 9, 185, 1965.
  5. Kopoor and Singh, Indian J. Pharm. 29, 285, 1967.
  6. Neogi et. al., Indian J. Pharm. 32, 43, 1970.
  7. Dhar, Indian J. Exptl. Biol. 6, 232, 1968.
  8. Gupta et. al., Indian J. Med. Res. 60, 462, 1972.
  9. Ram et. al., Indian J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 14, 47, 1970; 15, 6, 1971; 15, 107, 1971.
  10. Ram and Gupta Indian J. Physiol. Pharmacol.
  11. Ojha, Lep. Rev. 39, 23, 1968; 37,115, 1966.