Latin: Desmodium gangeticum
WHAT IT DOES: Shalaparni is sweet in taste and mildy warming in action. It is calming, strengthening and anti-inflammatory. It restores balance to the system when other herbs fail.
SAFETY ISSUES: None known
Shalaparni is a sub-tropical perennial spreading herb that grows in dry hilly areas. It is a general tonic and aphrodisiac, has a calming, sedative effect and is also used control inflammation, fever and neurological imbalances. Dr. Mana says,”this plant has unique medicinal value to regulate the function of the nervous system (Vata), venous system (Pitta) and arterial system (Kapha). These three regulatory systems balance each other to restore health. However there are several very serious diseases where herbal medicines fail to work, such as typhoid fever and tuberculosis. Shalaparni is often effective in restoring balance to the system when the other herbs fail.”
• The leaves and stem of shalaparni are used in African countries for fevers, skin diseases and anxiety states (Iwu, 1993).
• Shalaparni was one of five Nigerian herbs tested by a Walter Reed Army Institute research team for alkaloids active against serious parasitic protozoal diseases (Iwu et al., 1994). Although Dr. Iwu’s group found promising results, the diseases treated by these herbs (malaria, leishmaniasis and trypanosomiasis) are found primarily in poor countries, so drug companies have shown no interest in developing them. Therefore, Dr Iwu plans to encourage local companies and herbal practitioners to develop these plant extracts as phytomedicines.
• Other species of Desmodium have shown very interesting effects. TCM doctors use guang jin qian (Desmodium styraciflium) to remove heat and dampness from the liver and gall-blader, to treat stones (Hirayama et al., 1993), and for jaundice. They use pai chien cao (D. pulchellum) for fevers and malaria (reported in Huang, 1999). African D. adscendens is analgesic and supresses convulsions, seizures and mortality in mice when induced by chemical poisons (N’gouemo et al., 1996).
• Traditionally used for asthma, crude extracts of D. adscendens have also been shown to be “the most potent potassium channel openers known.” This means the plant extracts are able to both regulate the tone of the airway smooth muscle and inhibit the release of allergic and inflammatory bronchoconstrictive chemicals from nerves in the lung (McManus et al., 1993, Addy and Burka, 1988).
• In light of the potent regulatory effects reported for various Desmodium species plants, I found it fascinating that chronobiologists are studying the movements of D. gyrans leaflets. It seems the leaflets show strong up and down rhythmical movements due to swelling and shrinking of motor cells in special organs caused by ion pumping followed by depolarization (Engelmann and Antkowiak, 1998). The movements are circadian, meaning that they follow 24-hour cycles, and can be altered by electromagnetic radiation (Ellingsrud and Johnsson, 1993)