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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Glycosides

Chirata consists of the entire herb of Swertia chirata Buch-Ham, belonging to family Gentianaceae. It contains not less than 1.3% bitter constituent.






Indian Gentian, Indian Balmony, Chirayta, Ophelia chirata, Swertia chirayita.


Biological Source


Chirata consists of the entire herb of Swertia chirata Buch-Ham, belonging to family Gentianaceae. It contains not less than 1.3% bitter constituent.


Geographical Source


It is mainly found in India, Nepal and Bhutan.




It is an annual, about 3 feet high; branching stem, Upper part of the stem is yellow to brown, thinner and 2 mm broad. The lower part is purplish or brown to dark brown; 6


broad cylindrical and exfoliated at some places showing dull wood. Leaves are smooth entire, opposite, very acute, lanceolate dark brown upto 8 cm long, 1.5–2 cm broad. Flowers numerous; peduncles yellow; one-celled capsule. Rhizome is angular to 5 cm long, pale yellow to brown in colour and covered with dense scale leaves. Root is primary, 5–10 cm long, light brown, oblique somewhat twisted, tapering, longitudinally wrinkled and with transverse ridges. Drug has no odour but taste is very bitter.


                                     Swertia chirata



Root: 2–4 layers of cork; cortex region consists of 4–12 layers of thickwalled, parenchymataous cells with sinuous walls; secondary phloem composed of thin walled sieve tubes, companion cells and phloem parenchyma; secondary xylem composed of lignified and thick walled vessels, parenchyma, tracheids and xylem fibres; minute acicular crystals present in abundance in secondary cortex and phloem region; resin are also present as dark brown mass in secondary cortex cells.


Leaf: single layered epidermis covered with a thick, stri-ated cuticle and anisocytic stomata; single layered palisade tissue below the upper epidermis, four to seven layers of loosely arranged spongy parenchyma cells in messophyll, mucilage and minute acicular crystal are present in mesophyll cells; parenchyma cells contain oil droplets also.


Stem: single layered epidermis, externally covered with a thick striated cuticle present in young stem, in older epidermis remains intact but cells flattened and tangentially elongated; endodermis distinct, showing anticlinal or periclinal walls, followed by single layered pericycle consisting of thin walled cells; cambium, between external phloem and xylem composed of a thin strip of tangentially elongated cells, internal phloem, similar in structure as that of external phloem excepting that sieve tube strand is more widely separated; xylem is continuous and composed mostly of tracheids, a few xylem vessels present; vessels and fibre tracheids have mostly simple and bordered pits and fibres with simple pits on the walls; medullary rays are absent; pith is present in the central part consisting of rounded and isodiametric cells with prominent intercellular spaces; acicular crystals, oil droplets and brown pigments are also present.


Chemical Constituents


Chirata contains chiritin, gentiopicrin and amarogentin. Amarogentin is phenol carboxylic acid ester of sweroside a substance related to gentiopicrin. Ophelic acid a non crystal-line bitter substance is present. It also contains gentianine and gentiocrucine.





It is an important ingredient in the well known ayurvedic preparations Mahasudarshan churna and Sudarshan churna used successfully in chronic fever. The whole plant is an extremely bitter tonic digestive herb that lowers fevers and is stimulant. The herb has a beneficial effect on the liver, promoting the flow of bile; it also cures constipation and is useful for treating dyspepsia.


Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparations known ad Diabecon (Himalaya), Mehmudgar bati (Baidyanath), Sabaigo (Aimil Company), J.P. Liver syrup (Jaumana Pharma), Fever end syrup (Chirayu), Sage Chirata (Sage Herbals) and Safi (Hamdard Laboratories).


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