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ISSN: 2573-4555
Journal of Traditional Medicine & Clinical Naturopathy
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A Study on the Plants Used as Chopachini

Perera BPR*
Gampaha Wickramarachchi Ayurveda Institute, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
Corresponding Author : Perera BPR
Gampaha Wickramarachchi Ayurveda Institute
University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
Tel: +94 72 5322031
E-mail: [email protected]
Received October 18, 2014; Accepted November 28, 2014; Published December 01, 2014
Citation: Perera BPR (2014) A Study on the Plants Used as Chopachini. J Homeop Ayurv Med 3:170. doi: 10.4172/2167-1206.1000170
Copyright: © 2014 Perera BPR. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Abstract

Chopachini/Dvipantaravacha or China root is used in many alternative systems of medicine. The plant, first mentioned in Bhavaprakasha in 16th century has been attributed to variety of scientific names in literature. A study was conducted to find out the plants that have been used as Chopachini. The study resulted in several varieties of genus Smilax as well as Gynura paseudo-china of family Asteraceae. Smilax china is native to China and Japan and could be the reason the plant is called “Cheenaala” in Sinhala. Gynura pseudo-china is native to Indonesia, Thailand, and China. Both the plants are used in venereal diseases in the traditional systems of medicine in their native countries but have not been scientifically proven to be effective for treating syphilis. Therefore, it is unclear whether the plant mentioned in Bhavaprakasha is Smilax china or Gynura psuedo-china. However, considering the medicinal properties, Smilax china qualifies to be used as Chopachini/Dwipantaravacha.

Keywords
Chopachini; Dwipantaravacha; Smilax china; Gynura pseudochina; China root
Introduction
Chopachini or Dvipantaravacha is an herbal ingredient used in Ayurveda and Indigenous medicine in Sri Lanka. In Ayurveda, the first reference to Chopachini is in Bhavaprakasha in 16th century. Chopachini is mentioned in the texts of Indigenous medicine in Sri Lanka such as Vaidyaka Hasthasaraya, but whether it has been used prior to 16th century is unclear. Chopachini is referred to as “Cheena ala”, “Seena ala” or “Ala beth” within the indigenous system of medicine. In Ayurveda texts, it is sometimes referred to as Madhusnuhi. Evidently 4 species from the genus Smilax and Gynura pseudochina of family Asteraceae are used as Chopachini (Table 1). Among these, Smilax china is officially considered as the authentic identification as per The Wealth of India series [1]. This raises the question why a Gynura species has been used instead in some instances. In India, always a Smilax species has been used as Chopachini but in Sri Lanka use of Gynura pseudochina can be seen. According to “A checklist of flowering plants in Sri Lanka” only 3 Smilax species found in Sri Lanka and those are S. perfoliata (Maha Kabarossa), S. zeylanica (Heen Kabarossa) and S.aspera. Two Gynura species are found in Sri Lanka; G. pseudochina which is identified as Chopachini (alabeth in Sinhala) and G. hispida (Hulantala). All of these plant species have been called China root masking exactly what species was in use in the past.
Phiranga roga- syphilis
Chopachini or china root was renowned to be effective in the treatment of Syphilis and used extensively in various indigenous medical systems. The plant is indicated especially for Phiranga roga, a new disease that makes its first appearance in Bhavaprakasha. Phiranga roga was not found or has not reached to epidemic levels in India by the time the great Ayurveda treatises were written. Hence the authors were unaware of the disease. Syphilis began to raise its dreadful head in Europe in 1493 A.D [2] and was a new disease in Asia around 1500. Phiranga roga is Syphilis or Yaws that found its way to India with the with the first Portuguese fleet, in 1498, and by 1504/5 who had established themselves at Goa and some parts of India by early sixteenth century A.D [3]. Since then it has become a widely known was also used by the Maldivians. Portuguese were also held responsible for syphilis in Sri Lanka. The disease arrived in Canton between 1504 and 1506, about 15 years before the Portuguese established there. In 1505, or, according to another source, 1512, syphilis landed in Japan, where the disease was called Chinese ulcers, or Portuguese disease [3].
According to Van Linschoten, in India it was an everyday disease. It was cured with Radix china or chinae which, according to Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, who came to India in the 1580s, had not been introduced in India from China until 1535 [3]. He said that „the pox‟ was so common in China, that God had sent them Radix china. It is evident that a plant which the westerners called China root was used to treat the disease. Apart from the vague descriptions, no authentic information could be found about the plant used as China root. China root had sudorific (sweat inducing) properties [4]. It had been used in Asia as a panacea for many illnesses, including jaundice, leprosy and many other skin diseases. It was reportedly used as a cure for beriberi. Sudorifics were also used in Europe against syphilis from a syphilis, which according to contemporary medical opinion came from the West Indies, should be cured. In 1516, Portuguese arrived in China and many valuable Chinese products of vegetable origin were carried to Europe in the 16th Century, especially medicines. Among the latter China root was found in Europe, since about the year 1535. The emperor Charles V is reported to have been cured of gout by this drug [5].
The drug imported by westerners from China known as “China root”, “China wood” or simple “China” is controversial. Many Smilax species are called China root and in European countries and in South America it is called Sarsaparilla. The original species, Smilax aspera, is found in above areas whereas other species are found in other parts of the world. Another celebrated species is Smilax china which is inhabited in China. Two species, Smilax glabra and lancefolia can be found in India and their roots are so similar to that of Smilax china that it is difficult to differentiate the species. A similar species is common in the southern part of North America and has been called Smilax pseudo-china, a name which is probably used to name more than one species. However, CRC world dictionary of medicinal plants and poisonous plants mentions that Gynura pseudochina as a source of china root [6]. Gynura pseudochina extends from Sierra Leone eastwards through the Central African Republic and Ethiopia to Somalia and south to Malawi, Zambia and Angola. It also occurs in Sri Lanka, India, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Australia. It is cultivated in Java (Indonesia) and Peninsular Malaysia [7].
Chopachini or china root is also called Dwipantaravacha in Sanskrit and the name bears some significance. The word Dvipantara can be separated in to “Dvipa” and “Antara” with Dvipa meaning island and antara meaning in between or across. “Dvipantara” is historically used to denote Indonesia [7]. Indonesia has adopted the name during the time of King Hayam Wuruk the Majapahit Empire who ruled from 1331-1364, that is at the end of the 13th century. Therefore it is possible that material imported from the area has adopted the name Dvipantara and Bhavaprakasha which was written in 16th century mentioned it as Dvipantaravacha. According to India Major: Congratulatory volume Presented to J.Gonda [11], Dwipantara in old Javanese being either “Indonesia, the islands” as in Sanskrit or “the islands other than Java” [7]. Gynura pseudochina being extensively cultivated in Java and Indonesia might have been called Dwipantaravacha to denote its origin.
Garcia d‟Orta, the First physician to the Portuguese Viceroy of India at Goa and a resident in India for 30 years gives an account of Indian spices and medicines in his book. The author mentions several Chinese drugs including Radix chinae and its medicinal virtues, stating that in China it is used for venereal and cutaneous diseases. China root become first known in India in A.D. 1535 through Chinese traders. The Chinese call the plant Lampatam. The latter name given by Garcia seems to be a corruption of long Jan tu’an, which according to the Chinese Herbal is t’u fuling or China root [5]. Miller-Martyn‟s Dictionary mentions Smilax pseudochina stating that it occurs in China. It is frequently used instead of true China root. A small quantity of it, even in cold water tinges of a deep red, whereas the true root yields a light yellow brown [5].
This poses a question as to what plant is meant as Dwipantaravacha by Bhavamishra. However, according to many texts, China root is not a native of India and imported to India around A.D. 1535, is provided as a cure for Syphilis.
Indian Sanskrit texts mention characteristics of Dwipantaravacha or Chopachini as follows.
-Dvipantaravacha is a bit bitter and of hot potency. It kindles digestive fire, alleviates adhmana, shula, and purifies malas. Dvipantaravacha is to be used in vatavyadhi, apasmara, unmada, shula, and especially in Phiranga roga.
Bhavaprakasha lacks description of the plant. The name Dvipantaravacha is mentioned in Haritakyadi varga in Bhavaprakasha whereas the name Chopachini is mentioned in the Phirangadikara. However there is no reference whether the two terms are synonymous other than the fact that they are indicated for Phiranga roga.
The name Chopachini is used Shiva Nigantu and some information on identification has given saying it is like Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). However, it is not clear as to what aspect of Ahwagandha the text is referring to. Whether it looks like Withania somnifera plant or whether it has an odor similar to the characteristic odor of the plant.
In Bhaishajya Rathnavali Chopachini is indicated for Phiranga roga.
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Yogarathnakara indicates Chopachini for rejuvenation in Chopachini paka. Sahasrayoga also indicates it for rejuvenation but it uses the name Mahusnuhi.
In Siddha Bhaishajya Manimala Chopachini is indicated for Sandhivata.
Smilax china
It is a common mountain plant, which sometimes climbs, but its stem is strong, hard and covered with spines. The leaves are large, round like hoof of a horse and shining. In the autumn it bears yellow flowers followed by red fruits. The root is very hard and is covered with bristle like hairs. A decoction which is sour and harsh is made of the root. It is a kind of shrub indigenous to China and Japan where it is called Toojuh. It is not grown in India although the china root is common in all the bazaars. It is believed that the root of Smilax glabra probably constitute part of the dried tuberous roots. It has long held the reputation of possessing properties allied to those of Sarsaparilla, which is the root of several species of Smilax indigenous to tropical America. The drug is imported from China to a considerable extent by coating steamers trading with Calcutta and Bombay” [8].
The same book gives the following description on Dvipantaravacha.
It is a kind of twining plant found in many parts of India. It is slightly bitter, stimulant, conductive of digestive fire and beneficial in Pains, Hysteria, Rheumatism, Insanity and pains in the body. It is especially alleviative of syphilis and mercurial poison”. This description is similar to what is mentioned in Bhavaprakash, and could be a mere translation.
Smilax pseudochina
Smilax pseudochina is a climbing plant, having a spotted stem and the leaves which are not opposite, somewhat resemble large bamboo leaves, but are thicker, more glabourous and five or six inches long. The root somewhat resembles that of Smilax china, but is round and consist of a conglomeration of tubers, being found at varying depths in the ground. The flesh is very tender and can be eaten raw. Flesh could be either red or white. The latter is used in medicine. This is the principle substance known as China root, although Pachyma, cocos is also included under this name, and it is sometimes difficult to separate the two products or distinguish them on the market [8]. It is found on the market in the form of brown, irregular, nodulated, branching, tuberous roots, with wiry radicals of some length attached to them. The interior is white and starchy, and sweet to the taste, with patches of yellow near the surface. It can be used as food strengthening the body and assisting in keeping one awake on journeys prolonged into the night. It is regarded as tonic, astringent or corrective in diarrheas, and curative in ulcers and mercurial sores. But it is mainly used in Syphilitic difficulties, especially the secondary and tertiary manifestations. Dr Waring found the large tuberous roots of the Burmese variety, the Smilax prolifera of Roxburgh, very useful in the form of a decoction of the fresh root, in secondary Syphilis, cachexia and chronic skin diseases [8].
Smilax species also demonstrate pharmacological actions similar to those mentioned for Chopachini. It is anticonvulsant, testicular antioxidant (Saraswati, 2012) and useful in treating syphilis.
Gynura pseudochina
Gynura pseudochina is a perennial, erect, semi-succulent herb up to 130cm tall. Roots are tuberous, round or lobed, 2-6cm in diameter. Leaves are arranged in a rosette, simple, often shallowly lobed, petiole 0.3-3 cm long. Blade obovate, spatulate, and elliptical or ovate. Upper leaves are more dissected and smaller.
Flower is an inflorescence a camoanulate head, loosely racemosely or paniculately grouped, peduncle up to 4 cm long, inner involucral bracts13, 7-12 cm long. Corolla 10-13mm long. Yellow to red Fruit an achene, 3-4mm long [9]. Gynura pseudochina is extensively cultivated in Indonesia and is used in the indigenous medical system of the country. It is mentioned that the plant is used to treat various kinds of skin irritation, herpes infections, breast tumors and sore throat [10]. In Thailand, Gynura pseudochina var hispida (Thai name- Wan Mahakaan) is externally used as anti-itching, anti-inflammatory, and anti-herpes virus. In Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia the plant has been traditionally used as remedies for eruptive fever, rash, kidney diseases, migraine, constipation, hypertension, DM and Cancer [11]. Gynura pseudochina is used as a medicine in African continent as well. In northern Nigeria it is cultivated as a medicinal plant to treat fever. The fresh leaves are used for their demulcent property and leaf sap is applied to sore eyes. In Asia, leaves are used to reduce skin irritation caused by insect stings, pimples and bruises and to cure scabies and erysipelas. Leaves, stems and roots are variably accredited with haemostatic, antipyretic and vulnerary activity. Plant parts are used to regulate menstruation, to treat breast tumors, herpes infections and sore throats [2].
Modern findings
No study has been done to demonstrate the effectiveness of Smilax species or Gynura pseudochina against Syphilis. But Gynura pseudochina has an effect against herpes virus. But Smilax species have been proven to possess other properties of Chopachini. Traditionally Smilax species are being used for the treatment of epilepsy and scientifically the anti-epileptic property has been proven in two Smilax species, Smilax china and Smilax zeylanica which is the substitute of Smilax china used in Sri Lanka [12,13]. The study substantiates the use of Smilax zeylanica as an additional botanical source for the Ayurvedic drug Chopachini in the treatment of epilepsy. Another study has been carried out to demonstrate the anti-stress activity of Smilax china on male infertility in rats [14]. According to the study the aqueous extract of the tuber Smilax china has been reported to possess and anti-nociceptive activities in rats. However, other Smilax species also said to possess anti-inflammatory beneficial effects such as immuno-modulatory activity in the aqueous extract from the rhizome of Smilax glabra and anti-oxidant activity in the leaf extract of Smilax excels. Smilax china has also proven to have an anti-diabetic effect [12]. The available scientific data on Smilax china confirms the usage of Chopachini for Apasmara (epilepsy).
Gynura pseudochina has been proven to possess anti-cancer effect. In Thailand, Gynura pseudochina var hispida is externally used as anti-itching, anti-inflammatory and anti-herpes virus. In Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the plant has been traditionally used as remedies for eruptive fever, rash, kidney diseases, migraine, constipation, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and cancer [14]. The results of the researches done on Gynura pseudochina do not confirm properties of Dwipantaravacha mentioned in Bhavaprakasha, but its practical usage in indigenous medicine justifies the properties; shulaprashamana (Pain relieving property), mala shodhaka (purifying excrement), and use in Vata vyadhi [15-25].
Discussion
When compared with the description in Bhavaprakasha, one cannot conclude what plant species is referred by Chopachini. In Bhavaprakasha, usually, for a single plant many synonyms which are suggestive of the appearance or other characteristics of the plant are given. The reason for lack of description of characteristic for Dwipantaravacha or synonyms could be due to this plant being foreign to the country. It is also possible that only the dried parts were exported to the country at that time. A vague description of the appearance of the plant is given on Shivadatta which was written much later than Bhavapakasha [26]. According to Shivadatta, Dwipantaravacha is similar to Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). The Smilax species bears some resemblance to outward appearance of Withania somnefera in the fact that both plants bear bright red berry like fruits. The dried root, which is the parts used of both the species do not have any outward similarities. However, Withania somnifera is a shrub and Smilax is a perennial vine. Considering the resemblance with Gynura pseudochina, the only similarity that can be pointed out is that the leaves look somewhat similar and the musky odor of the root.
Available data suggests that few number of Smilax species including Smilax china and Smilax glabra are used as China root or Dwipantaravacha. Certain other species like Smilax pseudochina and Smilax zeylanica are also used as China root but they are more often used as substitutes. Apart of the Smilax species [27], Gynura pseudochina is also called as China root. Based on the available data conclusion cannot be drawn as to what species is meant by Bhavamistra as Chopachini nor does it reveal why Gynura pseudochina is called China root. However, according to the available data, Smilax china is more eligible to be used as Chopachini [28,29].
Recommendations
The effectiveness of Smialx china and Gynura pseudochina plants against Treponema pallidum is worth investigating.
Acknowledgements
The immense support from Dr. Danister L. Perera and Dr. Udaya Samarathunga is acknowledged.
References

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Table 1
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