Annual, growing to about 3 ft (1 m), with a much-branched stem, smooth, pointed, lance-shaped leaves, and numerous purple-tinged, pale green flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Chiretta grows at high altitudes in northern India and Nepal. The whole herb is harvested while in flower.
Chiretta contains xanthones, bitter iridoids (including amarogentin), alkaloids, and flavones.
History & Folklore
Chiretta was a common treatment for malaria, until Peruvian bark (Cinchona spp.) became readily available in Europe and Asia.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
A strongly bitter herb, chiretta is powerful medicine for a weak stomach, especially when linked to nausea, indigestion, and bloating. It is taken in small, frequent doses to improve appetite and digestive function. For hiccups, small, frequent doses are taken with honey. Like most bitters it reduces fever, cooling the body and increasing blood flow to the liver.
In Ayurvedic medicine the herb is used for pitta (fire) conditions, and is best known as the major herb in mahasudarshana churna—a standard mixture of more than 50 herbs prescribed for fevers such as malaria, liver problems, gallstones, and indigestion. Recently it has been used with other herbs to treat allergies.
The xanthones are thought to be anti-tuberculous and antimalarial. Amarogentin has a protective action on the liver.
Avoid in digestive hyperacidity.