What Is Nirgundi?
Vitex negundo or nirgundi is an herb widely used in Ayurvedic, Chinese and western herbalism traditions. Let’s take a look at nirgundi’s Ayurvedic properties, uses, and benefits.
It is a shrub or small tree native to the tropical regions of Asia as well as Eastern and Southern Africa, commonly found growing near bodies of water.
It is also known by the names of Five-Leaved Chaste Tree, Chaste Tree, Monk’s Pepper, Sindhuvara or Samhalu.
The fruit is the most commonly used medicinal element of the plant, however, leaves, seeds, and roots may be used as well.
In Ayurvedic medicine, nirgundi is considered to have a bitter, pungent and astringent rasa (taste).
It has a heating virya or energetic effect, and the post-digestive effect (vipak) of the herb is said to be pungent. Given its elemental makeup, it is inferred that the herb works to pacify both Vata and Kapha.
Pitta, on the other hand, maybe aggravated by the herb’s heating and pungent properties.
Nirgundi Uses, Benefits, And Actions
Nirgundi’s actions are analgesic (acting to relieve pain), anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, vulnerary (wound healing), diuretic (increasing production of urine), and diaphoretic (inducing perspiration).
It mainly acts upon rakta dhatu (blood tissue), meda dhatu (adipose tissue), and asthi dhatu (bone tissue).
Ayurvedic Uses Of Nirgundi
External Uses Of Nirgundi
One of the most common uses of nirgundi in Ayurvedic medicine is an external administration in the form of svedana for panchakarma therapy.
Svedana, also known as steam therapy, is employed to encourage sweating as a form of elimination of ama (toxic metabolic waste) during the panchakarma cleansing process.
Nirgundi is often added to the steam to promote diaphoresis.
Nirgundi is also traditionally applied topically in the form of an oil or lepa (herbal paste) to reduce pain, swelling, inflammation, headaches or poor circulation.
Internal Uses of Nirgundi
Ayurvedic practitioners have traditionally administered nirgundi internally for pain, Vata type digestion (gas, bloating, cramping), Vata type menstrual disorders (dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea), and inflammation.
It is also administered for Kapha type skin conditions, Kapha-type respiratory conditions (mucus, congestion), dysuria, ama, or as an aphrodisiac.
Recent studies into nirgundi’s bioactive compounds have revealed it’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antidiabetic, anticancer, and antimicrobial activity.1
Studies have also given insight into Ayurveda’s emphasis on the uses and benefits of nirgundi for reproductive health as it has been shown to support PCOS and regulation of the menstrual cycle in women.
Nirgundi is known for its role in modulating cell cycles and other cellular events such as apoptosis.
With regards to skin conditions, preliminary studies have indicated that nirgundi can be an ally in the treatment of melanoma.
In one study, vitex negundo essential oil was shown to boost antioxidant potential “while simultaneously inhibiting melanin synthesis in B16F10 melanoma cells.”4
This research indicates that nirgundi may play a role in reducing cellular oxidative stress.
In a study of 16 species of Vitex, Vitex negundo, was shown to have the most potent “antibacterial activity, antifeedant activity, potent inhibitory activity against lipoxygenase enzyme and potent antioxidative activity.”5
Another study has affirmed Vitex negundo’s antibacterial action on both gram positive and gram-negative bacteria.6
Please consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before using nirgundi.
- Gill, Balraj Singh, et al. “Vitex Negundo and Its Medicinal Value.” Molecular Biology Reports, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30311123.
- ^ same as #1
- ^ same as #2
- Huang, Huey-Chun, et al. “Inhibition of Melanogenesis versus Antioxidant Properties of Essential Oil Extracted from Leaves of Vitex Negundo Linn and Chemical Composition Analysis by GC-MS.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), MDPI, 30 Mar. 2012.
- Rani, Anita, and Anupam Sharma. “The Genus Vitex: A Review.” Pharmacognosy Reviews, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, July 2013.
- Zargar, Mohsen, et al. “Green Synthesis and Antibacterial Effect of Silver Nanoparticles Using Vitex Negundo L.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), MDPI, 8 Aug. 2011.