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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Glycosides

It consists of dried rhizome of Picrorhiza kurroa Royle ex Benth., cut into small pieces and freed from attached root-lets, belonging to family Scrophulariaceae.





Kami; Kuru (Hindi); Katvee.


Biological Source


It consists of dried rhizome of Picrorhiza kurroa Royle ex Benth., cut into small pieces and freed from attached root-lets, belonging to family Scrophulariaceae.


Geographical Source


The plant is common on the alpine Himalayas from Kashmir to Sikkim between 3,000 and 5,000 m.




It is a low, hairy herb with a perennial woody bitter rhizome, 15–25 cm long, covered with dry leaf-bases It occurs as pieces, 2–4 cm long and 0.3–1.0 cm in diameter. Scales at distant intervals are present; frequently small protuberances, which probably represent accessary buds, are observed both at the rhizomes and the stolones.


The drug consists of small pieces. Colour is greyish-brown, light, cylindrical, straight or slightly curved, often with remains of aerial stem which is very dark brown and wrinkled longitudinally, upper and lower surfaces bear a few small root scars, numerous scale leaves and thin scars; odour slightly unpleasant; taste very bitter.


                                                   Picrorhiza kurroa




Transverse section of the rhizome shows cork composed of several layers of uniformly arranged, tightly packed, thin-walled cells. Cork surrounds a broad cortex, composed of thin-walled; mostly irregularly rounded-oval parenchymatous cells and some of them merge into the secondary phloem tissue, which consists of sieve tubes, companion cells and parenchyma. Cambium is narrow and wavy consisting of several layers of compressed cells. The secondary xylem is composed of thick-walled vessels with annular, spiral or reticulate thickening, tracheids and fibres. Pith is composed of thin-walled parenchymatous cells.


        Transverse section of Picrorhiza rhizome

Chemical Constituents


The active constituent of picrorhiza is picrorhizin, a glucoside which yields picrorhizetin and dextrose on hydrolysis. It also contains kutkin, a glucosidal bitter principle, picroside-I, picroside-II, picroside-III, D-mannitol, vanilic acid, kurrin, kutkiol, kutkisterol, apocynin, 6-feruioylcatalpol, vernico-side, apocynin, kutkoside, 6-feruloyl catapol, veronicoside, minecoside, picein, androsin, β-D-6-cinnamoylglucose, arvenin III, phenolic glycosides picein and androsin and seven cucurbitacin glycoside.




Picrorhiza is bitter, cathartic, stomachic, used in fever and dyspepsia and in purgative preparations. It is reputed as an antiperiodic and cholagogue, febrifuge and antimalarial. Different types of jaundice are cured with Picrorhiza. It removes kidney stone, used as emmenagogue, emetic, abortifacient, antidote for dog bite; externally it is used in skin diseases and improves eyesight. It is a valuable bitter tonic almost as efficacious as Gentian. It is laxative in small doses and cathartic in large doses.


Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparations known as Purim (Himalaya Drug Company), Piles care, Aptizooom (Charak), Herbohep, Aptikid (Lupin Herbal Laboratory) and Madhumehari (Baidyanath).


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