Medicinal uses of Congress weed Parthenium Hysterophorus L. : A Review
P. Oudhia, Convenor, SOPAM (Society for Parthenium Management), 28-A, College Road, Geeta Nagar, Raipur-492001 (Chhattisgarh), India December, 2001).

Parthenium hysterophorus
L. (Syn. Tanacetum parthenium (L) Bernh; Chrysanthemum parthenium Pers.; Matricaria parthenium L, M. parthenoides, M. carpensis, M. eximia Hort., M. odorata Lam; Pyrethrum parthenium Smith) popularly known as Congress weed, Carrot weed, Star weed, Fever few, White top, Chatak Chandani, Bitter weed, Ramphool, Gajarghas, believed to have entered India accidentaly in mid fifties, is one of the most feared weed species (Rao, 1956). Adverse effects of Parthenium not only on human beings but also on animal health have been well documented. It is known to cause asthama, bronchitis, dermatitis and hay fever in man and livestock. The chemical analysis has indicated that all the plant parts including trichomes and pollen contain toxins called sesquiterpene lactones. The major components of toxic being ‘parthenin’ and other phenolic acids such as caffeic acid, vanillic acid, anisic acid, panisic acid, chlorogenic acid and parahydroxy benozoic acid are lethal to human beings and animals. (Mahadevappa, 1977; Oudhia, 1998). In ancient Indian literatures, it is written that every plant on this earth is useful for human beings, animals and also for other plants (Oudhia, 1999 a, b and c). although Parthenium is considered as toxic plant but many medicinal, allelopathic (Oudhia and Tripathi, 1998a; Oudhia et al., 1997a and b) and industrial (Sastri and Kavathekar, 1990) uses have been well documented in literatures.

The word Parthenium is derived from Latin word Parthenice : ancient name suggesting reputed medicinal merits (Bailey, 1960). John Lindley (1838) has written in his book titled ‘Flora medica’ that "The whole plant is bitter and strong-scented, reckoned tonic, stimulating and anti-hysteric. It was once a ppopular remedy in ague. Its odour is said to be peduliarly disagreeable to bees and that insects may be easily kept at a distance by carrying a handful of the flower heads. "Parthenium is reputed Homoeoptathic drug. Homoeopathic system of medicine is based on "Similia Similibus Curentur" means "Let likes be cured by likes" (lyer, 1990). In Homoeopathy, it is believed that symptoms produced by any plant can be cured by using Homoeopathic drug prepared from same plant (Ferrington, 1980). In this way, the allergies caused by Parthenium can be treated by Homoeopathic drug prepared from Parthenium. The possibilities of utilizing common Kharif weeds (including Parthenium) for preparing Homoeopathic drug in order to provide an additional income to the farmers have been well disussed by Oudhia and Tripathi, 1998b. hamilton (1852) has written in his book ‘The Flora Homoeopathica’ that Parthenium is not mentioned by the Arabian physicians. The Finlanders use an infusion of it in consumptive cases. It is neither good for meat and medicine, but is commended against the infirmities of the mother, seeing all stinking things are good against those diseases. It also causeth blisters on the hands of weeders and reapers. "In the same book it is also mentioned that" Culpeper, in his Complete English Physician, Gives the following curious account" ‘Venus commands this herb, and has commended it to succour her sister, and to be a general strengthener of wombs, and remedy such infirmities as a careless midwife has there caused.’ It is also, according to the same author, a special remedy against Opium when taken too liberally. In Homoeopathy, whole plant, gathered when it flower, is used for preparing drug. The mother tincture is obtained by expressing the juices of the whole plant, gathered fresh and mixing it with twenty parts of alchohal (Hamilton, 1852).

In book ‘Dictionary of Economic Plants in India’ Parthenium hysterophorusv. is described as weed found in Poona and is reported to be used as tonic, febrifuge and emmenagogue. The decoction of root is useful in dysentry (Singh et al., 1996). Mew et al. (1982) demonstrated that sublethal doses of parthenin exhibited antitumour activity in mice and that the drug could either cure mice completely or increase their survival time after they had been injected with cancer cells.

Parthenium is also reported as promising remedy against hepatic amoebiasis (Sharma and Bhutani, 1988). South American Indians uses the decoction of roots to cure ambiotic dysentry (Uphof, 1959), whereas parthenin, a toxin of Parthenium, is found pharmacologically active against neuralgia and certain types of rheumatism (Dominguez and Sierra, 1970). In book titled ‘Compendium of Indian Medicinal Plants’ by Rastogi and Mehrotra, 1991 Parthenium hysterophorus is described as medicinal plant and reported that parthenin induced dosedependent damage to human leucocyte chromosomes in vitro. It also induced micronuclei formation in polychromatic erythrocytes of mice.

In the Caribbean and Central America Parthenium is used as folk remedy (Navie et al., 1996). It is applied externally on skin disorders and decoction of the plant is often taken internally as a remedy for a wide variety of ailments (Dominguez and Sierra, 1970, Morton, 1981). In Jamaica, the decoction is used as a Flea-repellent both for dogs and other animals (Morton, 1981).

Another species of Parthenium i.e., P. argentatum A. Gray (common name Guayule) is known as very useful possible petroplants. Stem of this plant yields a rubber, which can be substituted for that of Hevea for articles, such as tyres, foot wear, belting and hose, A two-years old plants produced alteast 10% rubber by dry weight and can be increased with chemical stimulants at the early stages upto 300%. Leaf yields an essential oil (Sastry and Kavathekar, 1990).

The above mentioned uses of Parthenium clearly indicate that in present, although Parthenium is considered as unwanted plant, but as its new uses are coming at very rapidly, it will become a boon for the human beings, animals and crops, in future.


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