Botanical name: Celastrus paniculatus, Celastraceae
Other names: Malkanguni, Malkuki, Malkungi (H), Valulavai (T), Staff tree (E)
Botany: Jyotishmati is a large deciduous climbing shrub with long slender branches attaining a height of up to 18 meters, the bark reddish brown and covered in elongated white lenticels. The leaves are simple, ovate to obovate, leathery and smooth, alternately arranged on short petioles. The greenish-white flowers are borne in terminal drooping panicles giving rise to depressed-globose capsules, bright yellow and three-lobed, each containing three to six seeds enclosed in an orange-red aril. Jyotishmati is found throughout India, from the sub-Himalayan tract in India eastwards into southern China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. It is now cultivated in these areas, and more recently in Africa, but wild populations in India are reported to be at risk (Warrier et al 1994, 47; Kirtikar and Basu 1935, 574-5; Nayar and Sastry 1987).
Part used: Seeds, bark, leaves.
Rasa: katu, tikta *
Vipaka: katu *
Virya: ushna, snigdha, tikshna *
Karma: dipanapachana, anuloma, jvaraghna, chedana, kasahara, hrdaya, mutravirechana, artavajanana, medhya, vajikarana, Vatakaphahara (Srikanthamurthy 2001, 186; Warrier et al 1994, 47)
Constituents: Jyotishmati contains the sesquiterpene esters malkanguniol, malkangunin, celapanine, and celapanigine, dihydroagarofuran sesquiterpenoids, the alkaloids celastrine and paniculatine, and a sesquiterpene polyol ester. Quinone-methide and phenolic triterpenoids isolated from the root bark have been identified as celastrol, pristimerin, zeylasterone and zeylasteral. The seeds contain a brownish yellow oil, with a higher proportion of acetic and benzoic acids in addition to other fatty acids, as well as a crystalline substance thought to be a tetracasanol and sterol (Yoganarasimhan 2000, 120; Kapoor 1990, 111; Gamlath et al 1990).
Learning and memory: The aqueous extract of seeds of Celastrus paniculatus was investigated for its effect on cognitive functions in rats, at doses of 100, 200 and 300 mg/kg. Results indicated that the aqueous extract improved the performance of rats in a variety of learning and memory tests. Based on the association between behavioral impairments and oxidative stress, researchers investigated the effect of the aqueous extract on oxidative stress parameters, and among the three doses tested, only 200 and 300 mg/kg stimulated a significant decrease in the brain levels of malondialdehyde, with simultaneous significant increases in levels of glutathione and catalase (Kumar and Gupta 2002). Researchers investigated the effects of the seed oil of Celastrus paniculatus as a pharmaceutical aid for learning and memory, over a six day period in rats assessed by a navigational memory task. The daily adminstration of the oil by gavage equivalent to 50, 200, or 400 mg/kg for 14 days prior was found to completely reverse scopolamine-induced task performance deficit, whereas an acute treatment of a single injection prior to scopolamine treatment with a dose of the extract equal to 200 mg/kg had little effect. The researchers of this study suggest that when administered chronically, Celastrus paniculatus selectively reverses the impairment in spatial memory produced by acute central muscarinic receptor blockade, but is not related to an anticholinesterase-like action (Gattu et al 1997). The oil extracted from the seeds of Celastrus paniculatus was studied for its effect on learning and memory in a passive avoidance task studied in albino rats. The effects on the contents of norepinephrine (NE), dopamine (DA) and serotonin (5-HT) in the brain and on the levels of their metabolites both in the brain and urine were also assessed. A significant improvement was observed in the retention ability of the Celastrus-treated rats compared with the saline administered controls. The contents of NE, DA and 5-HT and their metabolites in the brain were significantly decreased in the Celastrus-treated group, indicating that the oil causes an overall decrease in the turnover of these monoamines (Nalini et al 1995).
Sedation and convulsion: Kapoor reports two older studies that mention a sedative property for the oil in cats, monkeys, mice and rats, and an anticonvulsant effect in rats (1990, 111).
Antioxidant: A methanolic extract of Celastrus paniculatus demonstrated a dose-dependent free radical scavenging capacity and a protective effect on DNA cleavage, confirmed by a significant protective effect on H2O2-induced cytoxicity and DNA damage in human non-immortalized fibroblasts (Russo et al 2001).
Antiinflammatory: A methanolic extract of the flowers of Celastrus paniculatus demonstrated analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities in the hot water tail immersion test in mice and carrageenan induced pedal edema in rats (Ahmad et al 1994).
Toxicity: The oil of Jyotishmati administered to rats at the highest dose of 5 g/kg did not produce any toxic effect nor impair motor coordination (Nalini et al 1995).
Indications: Dyspepsia, arthritis, rheumatism, paralysis, spains, sores, ulcers, asthma, mental impairment, mental exhaustion, poor memory and concentration, senile dementia, epilepsy, psychosis.
Contraindications: The Bhavaprakasha states that Jyotishmati is an emetic, and is contraindicated in nausea and vomiting, and in conditions where emesis is contraindicated (Srikanthamurthy 2001, 186). Given its ushna and tikshna virya, Jyotishmati is contraindicated in Pittakopa conditions. Applied topically in large amounts the expressed oil may cause skin irritation.
Medicinal uses: Jyotishmati means ‘luminous,’ perhaps in reference to the brightly coloured fruit, or more likely to its effect of enhancing cognitive function and the natural luminosity of the the mind (buddhi). Jyotishmati is a warming herb, used internally as a decoction with botanicals such as Jatiphala and Tvak (Cinnamomum verum) in the treatment of Vattic and Kaphaja afflictions of the muscles and joints, including rheumatism, gout and paralysis (Nadkarni 1954, 296). As the expressed or medicated oil Jyotishmati is used for topical application as a rubifacient and stimulant. As a poultice the seeds are also used to heal indolent ulcers and sores, as well as infectious skin conditions such as scabies (Kirtikar and Basu 1935, 575). The medicated oil is also used when applied to the head to enhance the mind and memory (Nadkarni 1954, 296). Internally, the decoction can be used in the treatment of intellectual impairment and cognitive dysfunction, in combination with botanicals such as Vacha, Brahmi, Jatamamsi and Mandukaparni. Several texts report the benefit of the expressed oil in beriberi, a disease of the peripheral nervous system associated with a thiamine deficiency, in doses of 10-15 drops (Kirtikar and Basu, 1935, 576 et al). Similarly, a smaller dose of 4-10 drops of the expressed oil can be used in mental exhaustion, taken earlier in the day to accommodate any possible stimulant activity. In combination with botanicals such as Kapikachu and Ashvagandha, Jyotishmati may be helpful as a vajikarana rasayana in the treatment of male sexual debility. The Ashtanga Hrdaya recommends Jyotishmati to be smoked (dhuma) as a tikshna dravya in the treatment of Kaphaja conditions of the head and neck, and can also be used as an adjunct therapy in psychosis (unmada) (Srikanthamurthy 1994, 267). In the treatment of amenorrhea and delayed menses the Chakradatta recommends a combination of Jyotishmati leaves and Japa flower (Hibiscus rosa sinensis) (Sharma 2002, 579).
• Churna: freshly powdered seed, 1-3 g b.i.d.-t.i.d. • Tincture : freshly crushed seed, 1:5, 50%, 1-3 ml b.i.d.-t.i.d. • Taila: in abhyanga, shirodhara, shirovasti, ad lib.