Herbal cures to fight kala azar

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Saturday 15 February 2003

herbs prove to be cheap and effective remedies for kala azar (visceral leishmaniasis). This has been found out during studies conducted by researchers from Patna-based Balaji Utthan Sansthan. The find is important, as most people affected by the disease cannot afford to buy drugs. Ninety per cent of the worldwide cases of the disease occur in India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Nepal and Sudan.

The disease has now assumed lethal proportions because it co-occurs with aids. It is characterised by fever, weight loss and swelling of the spleen and liver. The pathogen of the disease is a protozoa, which is transmitted to humans by the sand fly.

During the study, 16 herbs were tested. These included ghrita kumari (Aloe barbadensis), arandi (Ricinus communis), kutki (Picrorhiza kurroa), daru haldi (Berberis aristata), gate herb (Agave americana), gatta (Agave angustifolia), giloy (Tinospora cordifolia), Chinese herb (Yucca gloriosa), yuka (Yucca aloifolia) and ramban (a species of Agave).

The effectiveness of the plant extracts was first tested on the pathogen. The extracts were macerated in a mixture of ethanol and water, and then dried. The resultant residue was mixed in a liquid in different concentrations and the pathogen was grown on it. Extracts of daru haldi, gatta, giloy, Chinese herb, yuka, ramban and gate herb were found to be effective.

The extracts were then tested on mice. Their efficacy was assessed on the basis of the number of pathogens found in the spleen of the mice. While ramban was found to be 100 per cent effective, extracts of yuka were found to be toxic.

The next stage of the research is to find the active ingredients of the herbs. "These would be patented before the products are commercialised," says C P Thakur, the lead researcher, who is a former Union minister of health and family welfare.

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