Treasures of Nature (Prakriti Ka Khazana) – Lonika

The Lonika herb is widely used as folk medicine since ancient times, and WHO (World Health Organisation) has recognized it as it one of the most commonly used medicinal plants. Lonika is commonly known as Purslane in English, Brihat Lonika in Ayurveda, Kulfa in Hindi, Khurfa in Urdu and Pasalai in Tamil. It commonly grows as a weed in the wasteland. Lonika is one of the oldest leafy vegetables eaten in India, Japan, Africa, Australia, and America. It is used as salad.

The scientific name of Lonika is Portulaca oleracea. The name is derived from two Latin words, ‘porto’ which means ‘to carry’ and ‘lac’ which means ‘milk’. Lonika grows as a succulent spongy plant and contains a gum-like substance. The leaves are simple, sessile and greenish-brown in colour. The flowers are few and bright yellow in colour.

Lonika contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant. It is also rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, carotenoids, and minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. This plant is also notable for containing two types of betalain alkaloid pigments; the reddish betacyanin visible on the leaf and the yellowish betaxanthins seen in the flowers. They are potent antioxidants and have antimutagenic properties.

Medicinal properties of Lonika

  • Antipyretic (Reduces fever)
  • Antiscorbutic (Effective against Scurvy)
  • Diuretic (Increases the volume of urine)
  • Antioxidant (Fights against damaging oxidizing agents in a cell)
  • Antidiabetic (Keeps the sugar level in control)
  • Hepatoprotective (Protects the liver)

Ayurvedic properties of Lonika

  • The powder of the dried whole plant is useful in increasing the pitta or bile and thus controlling flatulence.
  • The juice of the leaves is used to treat Scurvy and insect stings.
  • Since the whole plant is rich in iron, it is used to treat iron deficiency and skin allergy.
  • Lonika has a significant liver protective function. It is used to treat liver diseases like viral hepatitis and alcoholic liver disorders.
  • The paste of the leaves can be used during burn and swellings.
  • Tea prepared from the leaves is effective against headaches and stomach aches.
  • The powder of the seeds is used to expel intestinal worms.
  • The plant is also a rich source of vitamin A and vitamin C and is used to treat deficiency of vitamins.

Lonika is a very useful plant in Ayurveda. It was used by Acharya Sushrut to treat constipation and Acharya Chakra used it in the treatment of piles. Though the plant is rich in medicinal value, excessive intake of this plant is harmful.