Have you heard of ARKA (Calotropis porcera)?

This shrub is widely found throughout Western Australia. It is declared as a pest in Western Australia see www.acric.wa.gov.

Calotropis grows in warm areas, desert, wasteland and sandy soil.

Charaka opined that a deadly poison can become a very good medicine if it is administered properly on the other hand even the most useful/ safe medicine can act like a poison if handled incorrectly.

In Ayurveda the Sanskrit word “visha” means poison. Ayurveda classify many herbal drugs as visha (poison) or upa-visha (moderately poisonous) and uses them after shodhana (purification).
Arka is in the group of upavisha , the group of drugs which are less toxic in nature and not so lethal but produces toxic symptoms on contact or consumption.

Arka means Sun rays as it is hot and pungent as the sun.

Arka is a pale, greyish tall shrub that grows about 2-3 metres in high. The leaves are thick and oblong.

The flowers have a beautiful pale rose purple colour and have a faint odour. There are different varieties of Arka for example sweta Arka (white Arka), black and red (purple).

When the stem branches are cut, crushed or incised, it is amazing to see the white milky latex oozing out (madar juice). This milk is used in Rasashastra to purify minerals (the reference is found in Bhaisajia Ratnavali). The leaves and flowers can be burned and the ash is consumed as a medicine. This is a highly alkaline Bhasma.

There is a huge scope to study the effectiveness in treating cancer with this plant. This is a highly alkaline and has anti cancer properties.

Do NOT ingest the oozing milk as it is poisonous but it can be applied externally especially if there is a growth such as a wart or external piles.

In Arsha (piles) – Arka ksheera (madar milk), haridra churna (turmeric) and Sureesha bija choorna is applied over the pile mass.

The milk is also used (together with other herbs) to prepare the thread used for ksharasutra. The oozing milk is highly alkaline and can burn. So best not handle the madar milk without protective gloves.

Parts used: bark, latex, leaves and flowers.

The Ayurvedic properties are:

Rasa/taste- tikta and katu (bitter and heating)
Vipaka/post digestive taste – katu (heating)
Veerya/potency – ushna (hot)
Guna/qualities – laghu, ruksha, tikshna (light, dry and sharp)
Dosha – Vata and Kapha Shamaka (reduces Vata and Kapha)

Yogas (classical Ayurvedic medicine preparation) with Arka are:
Arka lavana, Arkeshwar, Arkataila Mahavishgarbha thailam, Dhanwantharam ghrita (contain the root), Prabhanjana vimardhana thailam

It truly is amazing the healing powers of plants!

For Ayurvedic Practitioners:

THERAPEUTIC USES – Shvasa, Gulma, Krimiroga, Kandu¸ Kushtha, Vrana, shotha, shleshmodara Roga, Pleeha roga, Arsha

A sloka from Bhava Prakash
Arkadwayam Saram Vatakushtakandoovishavran |
Nihanti Pleehagulmarsh shleshmodar shakkrutkrimeen | Bh. Pr

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