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Boerhaavia diffusa

Boerhaavia diffusa


Boerhaavia repens.

Vernacular Name

Punarnava, benikasumi, bish kapra, denispat, godhaparna, hand qoqa, herlee a cochons, mukkirattai, punarnwa, sarana, spreading hogweed. [1]


Boerhaavia diffusa is a prostrate herb found growing in tropical, wet areas, mostly during rainy seasons. The creeping, hairy and sometimes purplish stems yield small red or white flowers. The leaves of this plant are smooth and oblong or cordite.

Origin / Habitat

B. diffusa needs full sunlight in order to flourish. It can withstand droughts although it prefers a moist soil. It is used in traditional medicinal systems throughout tropical climates of the world, and in Nigeria is used as rabbit food. Medicinal use dates back thousands of years in India; the Sanskrit name applied to B. diffusa is “Punarnava” which translates roughly to “one which renews the body”. It should be noted that a few studies have found that the plant is most effective, medically, when harvested in the month of May. [2][3][4]  

Chemical Constituents

Beta-sitosterol, chlorides, chlorates, hentriacontane, nitrates, potassium nitrate, Punarnavine, sulfates, ursolic acid, beta-ecdysone, boeravine, boeravinones, flavons, hypoxanthine-9-L-arabinofuranoside, liridoderdin, punarnavoside, syringaresinol mono Beta-D-glucoside. [1][3]

Plant Part Used

Whole plant. [1]

Traditional Use

Boerhaavia diffusa, often called Punarnava, has been used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine for thousands of years. Extracts can be taken from the whole plant or just the root. Most commonly, Punarnava is used to treat gastrointestinal and hepatic disorders. [3][5] The leaves from Punarnava are traditionally used to treat dyspepsia, enlarged spleen, and general abdominal discomfort. [5] The whole plant is used in treatment of biliousness, jaundice, internal inflammation and constipation. [1][5] In addition to its use in the gastrointestinal system, Punarnava has been used in asthma, congestion. It also has been used as a blood purifier, cardiotonic and a treatment for anemia. Ayurvedic medicine also qualifies Punarnava as useful in treatment of leucorrhoea, anascara, and as an antidote to snake venom. Its rasa (taste) has been classified as madhura (sweet), titka (bitter), and kasaya (astringent). [6] Punarnava pacifies the kapha and vata doshas, stimulates the pitta dosha and has a generally warming effect on the body.


Herb infusion: One to three teaspoons (5 – 15 grams) whole herb up to three times per day. [1] 

Root – 250mg to 500 mg one to two times per day.



Boerhaavia diffusa is presently being studied for its potential role in diabetes and liver disorders. Numerous laboratory and animal studies have proven the efficacy of B. diffusa as a hypoglycemic. [2][7][8] This is probably due to its regenerative actions upon Beta-cells in the pancreas. [9] One study suggested that the effect of B. diffusa on blood glucose was comparable to glibenclamide. [6] 

B. diffusa has been used to treat hepatic disorders for thousands of years. Today there are many studies that verify this claim. One animal study evaluated the effect of B. diffusa on rats with ethanol-induced liver damage. The liver damage consisted of increased levels of cholesterol, free fatty acids and triglycerides in the liver and kidneys, all of which were reversed after treatment with B. diffusa. [10] Additional studies have confirmed the usage of B. diffusa as a hepatoprotective with no signs of toxicity. [3][11] 

B. diffusa also may play a role in cancer treatment. Animal studies have shown the effectiveness of using B. diffusa as both a chemopreventive in mice and radioprotective in mice. [12][13] 

Animal studies have also confirmed the effectiveness of B. diffusa as a dermatological antifungal. These studies show that treatment decreases the growth of various species of fungus from the Microsporum genus. [14][15] Additional research has indicated that B. diffusa, particularly the chemical Punarnavine, has the ability to inhibit the metastasis of certain melanomas in mice. [16][17][18] 

In other research settings animal and preclinical studies have showed that B. diffusa exhibits spasmolyticanalgesic, and immunomodulatory activity. [19][20][21][22]


No documentation.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

Not to be used by those taking medication for hepatic disorders as this herb may alter treatment outcomes. [6] 

Not to be used by those taking diabetes medication as this herb may alter the dosage required. [10]

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

No documentation.


Not to be used by pregnant and nursing women.

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Read More

  1) Botanical Info

  2) Western Herb

  3) South Central America Herbs

  4) South Africa Herbs


  1. Kapoor, LD. CRC Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2001.79.
  2. Chude MA, Orisakwe OE, Afonne OJ, Gamaniel KS, Vongtau OH, Obi E. Hypoglycaemic effect of the aqueous extract of Boerhavia diffuse leaves. Ind J Pharmacol. 2001; 33: 215-216.
  3. Premila, M.S. Ayurvedic Herbs: A Clinical Guide to the Healing Plants of Traditional Indian Medicine. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press; 2006.
  4. Rawat AK, Mehrotra S, Tripathi SC, Shome U. Hepatoprotective activity of Boerhaavia diffusa L. roots--a popular Indian ethnomedicine. J Ethnopharmacol. Mar1997;56(1):61-66.
  5. Borrelli F, Ascione V, Capasso R, Izzo AA, Fattorusso E, Taglialatela-Scafati O. Spasmolytic effects of nonprenylated rotenoid constituents of Boerhaavia diffusa roots. J Nat Prod. Jun 2006;69(6):903-906.
  6. Pankaj O. Bacopa monieri. Society for Parthenium Management (SOPAM). 2004. Available from [Accessed on 25 March 2009].
  7. Pari L, Amarnath Satheesh M. Antidiabetic activity of Boerhaavia diffusa L.: effect on hepatic key enzymes in experimental diabetes. J Ethnopharmacol. Mar2004;91(1):109-113.
  8. Satheesh MA, Pari L. Antioxidant effect of Boerhavia diffusa L. in tissues of alloxan induced diabetic rats. Indian J Exp Biol. Oct2004;42(10):989-992.
  9. N. Koteswara Rao, MM. Annapurna, Boini KM, S. Nammi. Antidiabetic Activity of Boerhaavia diffusa L. Leaf Extract in Streptozotocin-Induced IDDM Model Rats. Asia Pacific Journal of Pharmacology 2004; 16: 67–70.
  10. Devaki, T., Shivashangari, K. S., Ravikumar, V., Govindaraju, P.Hepatoprotective activity of Boerhavia diffusa on ethanol-induced liver damage in rats. J Nat Rem. 4, 2; 2004.
  11. Chandan BK, Sharma AK, Anand KK. Boerhaavia diffusa: a study of its hepatoprotective activity. J Ethnopharmacol. Mar1991;31(3):299-307.
  12. Manu KA, Leyon PV, Kuttan G. Studies on the protective effects of Boerhaavia diffusa L. against gamma radiation induced damage in mice. Integr Cancer Ther. Dec2007;6(4):381-388.
  13. Bharali R, Azad MR, Tabassum J. Chemopreventive action of Boerhaavia diffusa on DMBA-induced skin carcinogenesis in mice. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. Oct2003;47(4):459-464.
  14. Agrawal A, Srivastava S, Srivastava MM. Antifungal activity of Boerhavia diffusa against some dermatophytic species of Microsporum.Hindustan Antibiot Bull. Feb2003-Nov2004;45-46(1-4):1-4.
  15. Agrawal A, Srivastava S, Srivastava JN, Srivastava MM. Inhibitory effect of the plant Boerhavia diffusa l. against the dermatophytic fungus Microsporum fulvum. J Environ Biol. Jul2004;25(3):307-311.
  16. Manu KA, Kuttan G. Anti-metastatic potential of Punarnavine, an alkaloid from Boerhaavia diffusa Linn. Immunobiology. 5Dec2008.
  17. Manu KA, Kuttan G. Boerhaavia diffusa stimulates cell-mediated immune response by upregulating IL-2 and downregulating the pro-inflammatory cytokines and GM-CSF in B16F-10 metastatic melanoma bearing mice. J Exp Ther Oncol. 2008;7(1):17-29.
  18. Manu KA, Kuttan G. Effect of Punarnavine, an alkaloid from Boerhaavia diffusa, on cell-mediated immune responses and TIMP-1 in B16F-10 metastatic melanoma-bearing mice. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2007;29(3-4):569-586.
  19. Borrelli F, Ascione V, Capasso R, Izzo AA, Fattorusso E, Taglialatela-Scafati O. Spasmolytic effects of nonprenylated rotenoid constituents of Boerhaavia diffusa roots. J Nat Prod. Jun2006;69(6):903-906.
  20. Borrelli F, Milic N, Ascione V, Capasso R, Izzo AA, Capasso F, Petrucci F, Valente R, Fattorusso E, Taglialatela-Scafati O. Isolation of new rotenoids from Boerhaavia diffusa and evaluation of their effect on intestinal motility. Planta Med. Oct2005;71(10):928-932.
  21. Hiruma-Lima CA, Gracioso JS, Bighetti EJ, Germonsén Robineou L, Souza Brito AR. The juice of fresh leaves of Boerhaavia diffusa L. (Nyctaginaceae) markedly reduces pain in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. Jul2000;71(1-2):267-274.
  22. Mehrotra S, Mishra KP, Maurya R, Srimal RC, Singh VK. Immunomodulation by ethanolic extract of Boerhaavia diffusa roots. Int Immunopharmacol. Jun2002;2(7):987-996.

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