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 Table of Contents  
REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 87-96

Ascertaining Ahimara (a medicinal plant) of Ashtanga Nighantu: An exploratory study


Dravyaguņa Department, Parul College of Ayurveda, Parul University, Vadodara, Gujarat, India

Date of Submission04-Aug-2021
Date of Acceptance26-Feb-2022
Date of Web Publication14-Sep-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sonia Dhiman
Dravyaguņa Department, Parul College of Ayurveda, Parul University, Vadodara, Gujarat
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jdras.jdras_43_21

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  Abstract 

Ashtanga Nighantu contains synonymous explanations of 257 drugs that are cited in Vagbhata Samhita. It also contains Viprakirnagana that incorporates 133 plants. The botanical identification of many of them seems to be doubtful and unconfirmed due to misconceptions, mixing and exchange of synonyms with other species, and changes in nomenclature in subsequent lexicons like Dhanvantari Nighantu and others, which further put down a plethora of controversies. As a result, botanical sources of these plants are to be identified. The Ahimara is one of these lesser-known plants. This review aims to botanically identify the plant Ahimara. The lexicon of Ashtanga Nighantu edited by Acharya Priyavrata Sharma was taken as the main source of analysis. Other texts considered were Ashtanga Nighantu by K.S. Viswanathana, Sanskrit to Hindi translation dictionaries, Vedon mai Ayurveda, Brihatrayi, Laghutrayi; 27 lexicons, medicinal databases, and indexed journals accessed through Google Scholar, PubMed, and Scopus. The evidences obtained in these are support as evidence for determining Ahimara (Haldina cordifolia (Roxb.) Ridsale). This plant is as mentioned an antidote to snake poison and having yellow wood, as mentioned in Ashtanga Nighantu. Identity of this plant became a subject of controversy since the name Aribheda is also the synonym of Arimeda. Another synonym suggested by the author was Haridruma, which may later become Haridru/Haldina cordifolia (Roxb.) Ridsale. However, it may be deemed as Ahimara rather than Irimeda, based on supporting literature. Although the plant Haridru possesses yellow wood, as indicated in the synonyms mentioned in the lexicon, but no supporting evidence is found for its therapeutic use in snake bite. The present review suggests that there is further need of comprehensive phytochemical and clinical studies to affirm this botanical identity.

Keywords: Ahimara, Ashtanga Nighantu, controversies, Haldina cordifolia (Roxb.) Ridsale, Haridru, Irimeda


How to cite this article:
Dhiman S, Meshram SA. Ascertaining Ahimara (a medicinal plant) of Ashtanga Nighantu: An exploratory study. J Drug Res Ayurvedic Sci 2022;7:87-96

How to cite this URL:
Dhiman S, Meshram SA. Ascertaining Ahimara (a medicinal plant) of Ashtanga Nighantu: An exploratory study. J Drug Res Ayurvedic Sci [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 25];7:87-96. Available from: http://www.jdrasccras.com/text.asp?2022/7/2/87/356056




  Introduction Top


Astanga Nighantu is one of the most important Ayurvedic lexicon. This lexicon is an extension of the knowledge of Ashtanga Hrudaya and Ashtanga Samgraha.[1]

This vocabulary is divided into 27 chapters, each of which has a synonym explanation for each medicine stated as a part of Ganas in Ashtanga Samgraha’s chapter Vividhagana Samgraha. Similar to the basic classics, the chapters are called after the first substance in the group.[2] The author’s own work is shown in the last chapter, Viprakirnagana, which contains synonyms for 381 items, including 133 medicinal plants, 10 flowers, 11 fruits, 22 Shakas (vegetables), 9 import–export drugs, 6 salts, 7 animal products, 25 minerals, 12 poisons, 5 water drugs, 4 liquids, 7 milk products, 4 sugar products, 2 types of honey, 5 types of alcohol, 19 crops, 5 groups of drugs, 48 animals, 8 Dhatus, 3 Doshas, 4 Bhoovarga (soils), 2 domestic items, 12 natural items, 10 plant parts, and 4 Gods and Goddesses, 4 miscellaneous things, viz., Aushadha (medicines), Vaidya (doctors), Dhanvantari (God of Ayurveda), and Ashwinadwaya (doctors of Gods) of that era are all explained.[3] As a basis for identification, these synonyms refer to the distinctive characteristics, applications, and properties of these items.

Acharya Priyavrata Sharma edited Ashtanga Nighantu from three manuscripts, referencing Dhanvantari Nighantu and Amarkosha and removing, adding, and interpreting terms from manuscripts.[2] This book is available in Sanskrit. It has an English and Tamil translation in a subsequent version; however, the last chapter is still untranslated.[1] Further misconceptions, mixing and exchanging of synonyms with other species, and changes in nomenclature in subsequent lexicons put down a plethora of controversies. These might be the reasons behind the botanical misidentification or unidentification of several plants such as Ajakshi,[4]Godhapadi,[5]Indravalli,[6]Navneeta,[7]Badriparni,[7]Ahimara, etc. Therefore, these plants are yet to be identified botanically.

The morphological information in classical literatures is sketchy and wholly inadequate for establishing botanical identity, and the gap in morphological detailing is due to the “experiential” pedagogy of India’s health tradition. While theoretical notions and advanced reasoning connected to pharmacology were included in plant knowledge transmission, it also assumed an oral, practical, and experienced way of learning about plant identity through field labor.[8] In order to generate identifying criteria among many plant sources, apart from collecting relevant data from field studies, pharmaceuticals must be addressed from a variety of perspectives including literary, pharmacognostical, pharmacological as well as clinical.[9] For the safe and efficacious usage and standardization of Ayurvedic medicines, before the laboratory standardization of crude drugs as well as formulations, the correct identity of the plants should be established.[10]

One of these contentious identities is the plant Ahimara, which appears in Viprakirnagana, verse 230 of Ashtanga Nighantu.[11] Later lexicons used Ahimara’s synonyms for other plants, causing confusion. As a result, the plant’s botanical identity remained unrevealed. There have also been no researches done on this plant. This review aimed to find out the probable botanical identity of the plant Ahimara mentioned in Ashtanga Nighantu and fill in the gaps between botanical identification and Ayurvedic nomenclature.


  Materials and Methods Top


The main source for critical review was Ashtanga Nighantu, edited by Acharya Priyavrata Sharma. Three manuscripts were used as the editing source material; manuscripts 1 and 2 are from the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library’s descriptive list of manuscripts, Vol XXIII Medicine. The first has a Telugu meaning, whereas the second has a Tamil meaning. The Description Catalog of Sanskrit Manuscripts, Tanjore-vol XVI2, lists Manuscript 3 as No. 11297.[12] The Kuppuswamy Sastri Research Institute of Madras (Chennai) published this edited version in 1973 as a form of book. It is a rough collection of all shlokas (verses) in Sanskrit language.[13] Later, in 2004, with the help of Dr. K.S. Viswanathana Sarama, an English and Tamil translation of the first 26 chapters was published as a book by the same publisher, although the last chapter (Viprakirnagana) was left untranslated.[1] The verses were translated from Sanskrit to Hindi and English using a variety of existing published dictionaries.[14],[15] On the basis of etymology and word development, names were interpreted. The words were matched and compared with other relevant publications such as Vedon mai Ayurveda (the book has mentioned the presence of Ayurveda in Vedas), Brihatrayi, Laghutrayi, and 15 e-Nighantus by the National Institute of Indian Medical Heritage, CCRAS, New Delhi, India, viz., Saushruta Nighantu, Paryayaratnamala, Abhidhanaratnamala, Hridyadipaka Nighantu, Shabdacandrika, Abhidhanaratnamanjari, Camatkara Nighantu, Nighantushesha, Saraswati Nighantu, Rajavallabha Nighantu, Laghu Nighantu, Shivakosha, Sidhamantra, Sidhasara Nighantu, Madanadi Nighantu and 12 published Nighantus as a book, viz., Dhanvantari Nighantu, Sodhala Nighantu, Kaiyadeva Nighantu, Dravyagunasangraha, Raja Nighantu, Madanapala Nighantu, Bhavaprakasha Nighantu, Nighantu Adarsha, Shaligrama Nighantu, Madhava Dravyaguna, Priya Nighantu, Mahaushadha Nighantu. Authentic medicinal plant databases such as Database on Medicinal Plants Used in Ayurveda, Indian Medicinal Plant Database, some lesser known herbal drugs of Ayurveda, The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India, Pharmacognosy of Indigenous Drugs, indexed journals accessed through Google Scholar, PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science (search till November 2020) were used to find out up-to-date information.

Observations

Analysis of Ahimara: The literary definition of Ahi is “which can kill,” and a drug called Ahighanaya (which is Ahi’s antidote) is mentioned in Atharva veda; it also goes by the name Paidava. Its root is used as a snake venom antidote. Its habitat is described as being near mountains, and it belongs to the Kairata family. It was dug out with powerful and stout instruments, indicating a plant with a deep root system in the soil.[16] However this plant is not mentioned in Caraka Samhita,[17]Suhsruta Samhita,[18]Ashtanga Hrudaya,[19]Ashtanga Samgraha,[20]Bhavaprakasha Samhita,[21] and Sharangadhara Samhita.[22]

Controversies regarding Ankola (Alangium salvifolium L.f. Wangerin)

Controversies regarding Daruharidra (Berberis aristata DC.)

Other plants mentioned in Ayurveda with yellow wood are as follows.


  Results Top


Ahimaro, Aribhedastu, Peetadarur, and Haridruma[11]

Ahimara, Aribheda, Peetadaru, and Haridruma are basonyms and synonyms mentioned. These were used as research keywords.

Etymological derivation of synonyms

  • Ahimara: The word Ahi means serpent,[72] or which kills us and Mara means to kill,[73] so the word Ahimara can be interpreted as which kills serpent or detoxifies serpent poison.


  • Aribheda: The word Ari means enemy,[74] this can be considered as a serpent or its poison as it is enemy of humans, Bheda means to break or pierce,[75] so Aribheda can be interpreted as one that kills serpent or can interrupt the flow of poison.


  • Peetadaru: The word Peeta denotes yellow color[14] and Daru means a piece of wood.[76] Its wood is yellow-colored.


  • Haridruma: The word Hari means yellow or green[77] and Druma means a tree or plant.[78] It is yellow-colored plant.


  • Interpretation of synonyms

    Decoding the synonyms described in Ashtanga Nighantu indicates that Ahimara is a yellow-colored tree, bush, or liana; the plant is said to be an antidote to snake poison or perhaps to kill serpents.

    This plant is listed as a synonym of Irimeda/Acacia farnesiana (L.) Wight and Arn in many lexicons [Table 1]. In contrast to the yellow wood indicated in Ashtanga Nighantu, Irimeda has a dark colored wood character [Figure 1]. Haridru is another plant that resembles the synonym Haridruma. This plant has a yellow woody stem [Table 5] and [Figure 4]. Sadhana et al.[79] have mentioned the use of its buds as an antidote to snake poison. Haridru/Haldina cordifolia (Roxb.) Ridsale/Syn. Adina cordifolia (Roxb.) Ridsale can therefore be identified as Ahimara based on the deciphering of synonyms and chronology.
    Table 1: Synonyms of Ahimara mentioned in various texts

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    Figure 1: Black-colored stem of Irimeda/Acacia farnesiana (L.) Wight and Arn

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      Discussion Top


    Irimeda and Ahimara

    The word Ahimara is synonymous to the plant Ahighanya (antidote to snake poison), whose roots are mentioned in Atharva Veda as a snake venom antidote [Table 1].

    Later, lexicons to Ashtanga Nighantu such as DhanvantariNighantu, Sodhala Nighantu, Hridyadipaka Nighantu, and Raja Nighantu have cited Ahimara or Ahimaraka as a synonym for Irimeda. Again in these lexicons, Putimeda (bad smell from wood) and Godhaskandha (black stem like Iguana) are synonyms of Irimeda [Figure 1], whereas Ashtanga Nighantuhas mentioned Peetadaru and Haridruma as synonyms of Ahimara, which indicates yellow wood feature [Figure 4] and [Table 1].

    Raja Nighantu mentioned Irimeda as a separate plant from Vitakhadira, whereas Madanapala Nighantu, Bhavaprakasha Nighantu, Shabdacandrika, Shaligrama Nighantu, and Prayayaratnamala have mentioned both as same plant and have given synonyms like Kalaskandha and Godhaskandha denoting black-colored stem which is not resembling yellow wood character of Ahimara [Table 1].

    Although Ashtanga Nighantu has assigned the synonym Aribheda for Ahimara, subsequent lexicons such as Dhanvantari Nighantu, Sodhala Nighantu, Kaiyadeva Nighantu, Hridyadipaka Nighantu, and Raja Nighantu changed the nomenclature from Aribheda to Arimeda [Table 1].

    Ahimara is not mentioned in Samhitas, not even in these lexicons, viz., Abhidhanaratnamanjari, Camatkara Nighantu, Dravyagunasangraha, Nighantushesha, Saraswati Nighantu, Madhava Dravyaguna, Rajavallabha Nighantu, Laghu Nighantu, Shivakosha Sidhamantra, Sidhasara Nighantu, Madanadi Nighantu, Priya Nighantu, Mahaushadha Nighantu and even not mentioned in these databases, viz., some lesser known herbal drugs of Ayurveda, Indian Medicinal Plant Database, and Pharmacognosy of Indigenous Drugs [Table 1]. This predicament could be owing to the plant’s unknown identity. The database on medicinal plants used in Ayurveda [Table 1] recognized Acacia leucophloea Willd. as Arimeda. Ahimara, Ahimeda, Kalaskandha, Arimedaka are mentioned as its synonyms; however, macroscopic studies of its bark and stem, which are gray to white on the outside and brown to reddish brown on the inside when dried, do not match the synonym Kalaskandha (black stem) [Table 1].

    Arimeda is included in the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India as a synonym for Irimeda and Vitakhadira. It has a nearly black outer bark and a reddish brown inner bark [Table 1] and [Figure 1]. This review supports the Irimeda’s Kalaskandha (black stem) synonym, demonstrating that Irimeda is a distinct plant from Ahimara.

    The use of synonyms has sparked controversy in this area. Arimeda or Irimeda is not the same as Ahimara. Controversy arose as a result of the synonym Aribheda; however, the two words are not synonymous in the literal sense. Furthermore, there is no proof that Irimeda is utilized as a snake poison antidote, rather it is used as a poison pacifier. The characters of Arimeda and Ahimara mentioned in Ashtanga Nighantu bear no relation.

    Ankola-Peetasara is a synonym for Ankola, signifying the plant’s yellow wood feature [Figure 2]; it is also listed as an antidote for snake poison, thus displaying resemblance to Ahimara’s characteristics. However, Ankola is mentioned independently in the same chapter of this lexicon, and it is also distinguished by yellow wood [Table 2].
    Figure 2: Grayish yellow stem of Ankola (A. salvifolium L. f. Wangerin)

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    Table 2: Controversies regarding Ankola (A. salvifolium L.f. Wangerin)

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    Daruharidra: This plant has a similarity in names, a yellow wood character [Figure 3], and the ability to operate as a poison antidote. However, it is also referenced in Ashtanga Nighantu (Haridradigana) with different synonyms that do not suggest similar features [Table 3].
    Figure 3: Yellow stem of Daruharidra (B. aristata DC.)

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    Table 3: Controversies regarding Daruharidra (B. aristata DC.)

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    Other plants with yellow wood include Vijayasara, Peetacandana, Kinkirata, Sarala, Nimba, and Tuni [Table 4], but none of these isindicated as antidotes for snake poison.
    Table 4: Other plants mentioned in Ayurveda with yellow wood

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    Haridru as Ahimara

    Evidences for yellow wood feature of Haridru that matches Ahimara’s synonyms Haridruma (yellow tree) and Peetadaru (yellow wood)

    In Vedas, Haridru is indicated to remove away from cemetery. Its yellow wood feature is not mentioned here [Table 5].
    Table 5: Haridru as per different Ayurvedic texts

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    It is described by Dhanvantari Nighantu and Shaligrama Nighantu as having a yellow-colored root comparable to turmeric [Table 5]. Haridraka is mentioned in Madanapala Nighantu, and its synonyms in Kaiyadeva Nighantu indicates it as a lovely golden plant. This plant has gorgeous blossoms that resemble Kadamba and has yellow wood [Figure 4], as per Raja Nighantu. Ashtanga Nighantu mentioned Haridruma as a synonym, which may be transformed to Haridru in later Nighantus, created the controversy. Because some of synonyms of Ahimara have been interchangeably used with Irimeda and others with Haridru, Ahimara has remained unnamed. Because of the synonym Haridruma and the similarity of characters, Haridraka or Haridru can be considered as Ahimara.
    Figure 4: Stem of H. cordifolia (Roxb.) Ridsale

    Click here to view


    H. cordifolia (Roxb.) Ridsale/Syn. Adina cordifolia (Roxb.) Hook. f. is called as yellow teak. A yellow coloring matter, adinin, belonging to the naphthaquinone group of pigments, is present in its heartwood.[80]

    Evidence of Haridru’s antidote or snake-killing properties, which correspond to Ahimara’s synonyms (Ahimara, Aribheda)

    In most Nighantus, Haridru is mentioned in Vishavarga (a category of toxic substances). It is described as a dangerous drug, and poisons have an antidote; Sthavaravisha (plant poison) can neutralise Jangamavisha (animal poisons).[81] Its buds are employed as an antidote to snake poison.[79] However, no studies on its ant venom or snake-killing properties have been found.

    Botanical description of Haridru

    Haridru is botanically known as H. cordifolia (Roxb.) Ridsale/Syn. Adina cordifolia (Roxb.) Hook. f., which is a large, deciduous tree, found throughout the greater part of India, up to an altitude of 900 m in the sub-Himalayan tract, in the forests of south India, especially in the Eastern Ghats and Karnataka.[80] It is 30 m in height, gray-brown, exfoliating in small patches; it has blaze yellow, yellowish brown heartwood [Figure 4].

    Its branches are horizontal; leaves are simple, opposite, decussate, stipulate, obovate, cauducous; petiolate, pubescent; orbicular or ovate lamina, cordate base, acuminate apex, margin entire, glabrous above, pubescent beneath, veins 5–7 from base, lateral veins 3–5 pairs, pinnate [Figure 5].
    Figure 5: Leaves of H. cordifolia (Roxb.) Ridsale

    Click here to view


    Flowers bisexual, in axillary globose heads hypanthium, yellow, densely hairy; copular calyx, corolla five-riged, finely hairy; stamens 5; anthers 1–2 mm long, oblong; ovary two-celled, inferior; many ovules on a pendulous placenta; style filiform; stigma globose [Figure 6].
    Figure 6: Flower of H. cordifolia (Roxb.) Ridsale)

    Click here to view


    Fruit is a brown capsule of two dehiscent cocci, turbinate; seeds many having tail at one end and a bifid wing at the other end.[80]

    Due to the coining of synonyms with other plants in later lexicons, Ahimara described in Ashtanga Nighantu remained unnamed [Table 1]. Because the synonym Aribheda was mixed up with the name Arimeda [Table 1], the plant’s identification became a point of contention.

    Because another synonym offered by the author was Haridruma, which may eventually become Haridru, it can be deemed Haridru. Haridru/H. cordifolia (Roxb.) Risdale[80] has a yellow wood character that has been proven both classically and phytochemically, but its snake venom antidote or snake killing properties have not been thoroughly investigated; however, phytochemical and clinical studies are needed to confirm this property and establishing the botanical identity of this plant.


      Conclusion Top


    The botanical identity of the plant Ahimara was attempted to be deduced from etymological derivations and interpretations of synonyms described in Ashtanga Nighantu. Based on the interpretation of synonyms and a review of later studies and lexicons, Haridru/H. cordifolia (Roxb.) Risdale may be considered Ahimara. Iremeda, in contrast, would might not be apt to consider as Ahimara. Poor morphological information, misinterpretation of synonyms, and later lexicons combining synonyms with other species have all contributed to the domain of dubious identities. As a result, flora listed in Ashtanga Nighantu during that time period is unknown in this time period. To replicate these findings, future study should incorporate more of the lexicons and other treatises, as well as use experimental and clinical evidence as a backdrop.

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