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Examination of Chemical Constituents & Therapeutic Components of KatukaHerbal

Chemical Composition& Constituents

HerbalKatuka powder is made from dried rhizomes and roots of the plant for oral use.

  • English name : Picrorhiza, Hellebore
  • Latin name : PicrorhizakurroaRoyle ex Benth.
  • Family : Scrophulariaceae
  • Part used : Rhizome with roots.

Main chemical constituents

  • Glucosides: picrorhizin and kutkins (mixture of kutkoside and picroside).
  • Dosage form :Dusty grey fine powder.

Therapeutic properties

Katuka is a bitter tonic with cooling, laxative, carminative, digestive, stomachic, cholagogue, hepato-protective, anti-viral, anti-pyretic, immunomodulating, free-radical scavenging, anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties. In large doses, it acts like a purgative.

Dose and mode of administration : The dose of Katuka powder for adults is one to three grams and for children 500 mg to 1 gram, to be taken twice daily with water, preferably after meals. Consuming the medicine on an empty stomach should be avoided as it may cause nausea and vomiting due to its highly bitter taste. Indications and uses Katuka is useful in jaundice, liver and spleen dysfunctions, decreased appetite, flatulence, constipation and piles. It is also used in intermittent febrile conditions and skin diseases.


Plant based molecules are continuously gaining wide spread acceptance due to their effective therapeutic properties (Dubey et al. 2004). A large number of plant derived molecules of pharmaceutical interest accumlates in plants as secondary metabolites. Realizing the threat of extinction of plants like P. kurroaand importance of phytoceuticals produced by such plants, attention has been focused towards cultivation of such endangered plant species involving conventional and biotechnological interventions. Picrorhizakurroa Royle ex. Benth (Scrophulariaceae) is a fast depleting high value medicinal plant, endemic to alpine Himalayan mountains (2700 and 5000 masl) distributed from Kashmir to Sikkim. In view of these facts, it was felt immensely to focus on marker guided phytochemical investigation of this high value medicinal plant, which yield clinically proven hepatoprotective and immune modulating glycosides in its underground parts (Anonymous 1996; Gupta et al. 2006). Picrorhizakurroa an endemic plant of the alpine Himalayan range of India also known as kutki, is mainly found in the north western Himalayan region from Kashmir to Kumaun and Garhwal regions in India and Nepal. Picrorhizakurroa yield a crystalline product called ‘kutkin’ which is a mixture of two major C9 iridoid glycosides such as picroside I and II and kutkoside (Kumar et al. 2004). Hepatoprotective, anticholestatic, antiulcerogenic, antiasthematic, antidiabetic, anti-inflamatory and immune regulatory activities have already been ascribed to these glycosides for which P. kurroa plant as whole and underground parts in particular finds applications as major component in several Indian herbal préparations (Ram 2001; Thyagarajan et al. 2002). Herbal preparations of P. kurroa are used for the treatment of traditional as well as in modern system of medicine as purgative, brain tonic, stomachic, dyspepsia and antiallergic (Hussain 1984). It is also reported to have anticancer activity (Joy et al. 2000) and extracts can be used as selective enhancers of neuron growth (Li et al. 2000, 2002). Picrorhizakurroa extracts can be of high therapeutic value in treating viral hepatitis (Mehrotra et al. 1990).

Chemical structure of pk-I and pk-II

Survey, collection and authentication of plant material

Picrorhiza plants growing wild in their natural habitat were collected from high altitude regions of North Western Himalayas. The plant material was authenticated at the Centre of Plant Taxonomy, University of Kashmir, Srinagar. A voucher specimen has been deposited in the repository of the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, Srinagar against voucher specimen (voucher no. IIIM/PK/Srinagar).

Chemicals and reagents used

The standard picroside I and II compounds used in the present investigation were isolated in the Natural Product Chemistry division by routine chromatography techniques. Identity and purity was confirmed by chromatographic methods like (TLC, HPLC) and spectral (IR, 1D- and 2D-NMR). Solvents were of HPLC grade and purchased from Ranbaxy Fine Chemicals Limited (Okhla, New Delhi, India). The structures were confirmed by their UV, MS, 1H NMR and C13 NMR data compared with the authentic data from literature. Acetonitrile of HPLC grade (Aldrich, USA) and Millex syringe filter unit were purchased from Reagent, New Delhi, India. Water for preparation of samples and HPLC–DAD analysis was deionized by a Milli-Q purification system with a 0.2 mm fiber filter (Barnstead, CA, USA).

  • Moisture analysis

    For uniform and standard quantification of biomarkers in plant samples, it is necessary to remove the moisture content in the test sample. To remove the moisture content, the material was dried in hot air oven for 3 h at 50 °C and the process was repeated several times until a uniform dried weight of the sample was obtained. Moisture content was further analyzed in 1.0 g of the dried powdered plant material by the help of Moisture analyzer (Sailorius MA 100).

  • Preparation of herbal extracts

    The rhizomes and leaf samples were taken from all the seven accessions grown at three different locations viz. gene bank, IIIM, Srinagar, field Station Bonera (Pulwama) and Yarikha (Gulmarg), J&K, India. The air dried plant material was finely powdered and stored at 4 °C. A known quantity of finely powdered sample was weighed into a 250 ml conical flask and subjected to sequential cold extraction using methanol and water in the ratio of 1:1 as extraction solvents while stirring at room temperature. Contents of the flask were squeezed through muslin cloth and the filtrate from aqueous extract was filtered using whatman filter paper. The extraction process was repeated thrice (2–3 h stirring each time). The extracts from each of the sample were evaporated under reduced pressure to give residues in different amounts.The yield of the extract was approximately 10 %. Extract was suspended in HPLC grade methanol in preparatory tubes (5 ml) and used for all experiments.

Katuka powder for jaundice

Jaundice is yellowish discolouration of the sclera (white part of the eyes) and skin caused by high levels of bilirubin in the blood. It is a major symptom and sign of serious disease of many organ systems; most important among them being the liver. Jaundice is often associated with yellow urination which reflects excessive excretion of bilirubin in the urine as well. There is a direct correlation between the blood levels of bilirubin and the extent of tissue discoloration.

Jaundice reflects a deranged state of bilirubin metabolism. Bilirubin is a waste product produced in the body from the globin part of haemoglobin, which is released from the destruction of old red blood cells and remains in the blood after iron is removed. It is the liver that is responsible to remove bilirubin from the blood by conjugating it and then secreting bilirubin containing bile into the intestine via bile ducts. Jaundice may result from the following three main conditions:

  1. The formulation is made from the dried mature fruits of Amalaki, which is a small or medium-sized tree found abundantly in mixed deciduous forests and cultivated in gardens and home yards. Ripe fruits are collected in late winter or early summer and are dried in shade. Dried fruits are then separated from the seeds and are kept in airtight plastic bags or boxes under dry storage conditions.Due to over-production of bilirubin exceeding the capacity of the liver to remove it from the blood. This kind of jaundice is found in excessive breakdown of red blood cells due to their defective formation, or due to the effect of toxins or certain drugs when a large amount of bilirubin is released into blood.
  2. Due to functional disturbance of the liver that prevents removal, conversion and secretion of bilirubin. It is characteristic of hepatitis.
  3. Due to blockage of the bile ducts causing reduced flow of bile and bilirubin from the liver into the intestines. It is seen in conditions in which bile ducts get obstructed due to gall stones, cancer or inflammation.


If the jaundice is due to liver disease – hepatitis, the patient apart from yellowish colouration of eyes and skin may have symptoms like loss of appetite, mild fever, fatigue, weakness and exhaustion. The liver may be slightly enlarged and tender. The stool may be light in colour but the urine is yellow. In haemolytic jaundice, the patient suffers from anaemia and both the urine and stool are of orange colour. In jaundice caused by blockage of the bile ducts, bile does not enter the intestines so there is impairment of fat digestion and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. This condition leads to fatty stools and deficiency symptoms of fat-soluble vitamins. The stool is claycoloured in obstructive jaundice because of the absence of bilirubin that normally gives stool its brown colour. A troublesome symptom found in patients with this type of jaundice is itching, which may be as severe as to cause scratching and disturbed sleep.

The patient’s history can suggest the possible cause for jaundice. For example, excessive use of alcohol is suggestive of alcoholic liver disease, whereas use of hepatotoxic drugs suggests drug-toxicityinduced jaundice and sharing of syringes for injection of drugs points towards viral hepatitis. Attacks of abdominal pain in a patient with jaundice suggests blockage of the bile ducts usually by gallstones. Bulky and clay coloured stools and dark urine suggests obstruction in the passage of bile.

Judicious use of Katuka powder along with necessary dietary precautions can successfully treat uncomplicated jaundice.

References :

  1. Anonymous (1996). The Wealth of India. Raw Material, CSIR, New Delhi
  2. Dubey N, Kumar R, Tipathi P. Global promotion of herbal medicine: India’s opportunity. Curr Sci. 2004;86:37–41.