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Karanja – Pongamia pinnata: Uses, Side Effects, Research

Karanja is an important Ayurvedic medicine, used predominantly in skin diseases. Karanja twigs were used as tooth brush in ancient times.
Its botanical name is Pongamia pinnata.
Synonym: Millettia pinnata, Pongamia glabra.
It belongs to Fabaceae family. (Shimbi Kula)

Medicinal qualities

Rasa (taste) – Tikta – Bitter, Katu (pungent), Kashaya (astringent)
Vipaka – taste conversion after digestion – Katu (pungent)
Veerya – Hot potency
Guna (qualities) – Laghu (light to digest), Teekshna (piercing)
Effect on Tridosha – Balances kapha and Vata
Pharmacological action – Anti bacterial, hypoglycaemic, anti pyretic, Wound healing


Bh. Pr. Ni 3 types

Ghrita kaanja
Kantakari karanja

Ra. Ni – 6 types
Ghrita karanja
uccha karanja
Rita karanja

Traditional uses of Karanj

In ayurvedic classical literature also the seed and seed oil is appreciated in different contexts in the treatment of varieties of neuro- muscular disorders and in skin diseases. The barks as well as leaves are also quoted for the treatment of blood borne diseases as well as to take out the excess morbidity from the body. It is the reason why it is used in several chronic disorders, especially in vatic disorders and in hemorrhoids, fistula and sinus conditions. The wound healing ability of the bark is appreciated hundreds together years back itself.

In recent days bitter principles of this plant have created a lot of hope in giving significant benefit in Type II Diabetes Mellitus cases too.

Yonidoshahrut – detoxifies vaginal diseases, useful in uterine disorders.
Kushtaghna – useful in skin diseases
Udavartahara – relieves bloating
Gulmahara – relieves abdominal tumour, bloating
Arshahara – Useful in piles / haemorrhoids
Vranahara – helps in quick wound healing
Krumihara – relieves worm infestation

Pongamia pinnata leaves are –
Kaphavatahara – balances Kapha and Vata
Arshahara – Useful in piles / haemorrhoids
Krumihara – relieves worm infestation
Shothahara – relieves inflammation
Bhedana – induces diarrhoea, relieves constipation
Pittala – increases Pitta

Pongamia pinnata fruits –
Kaphavataghna – balances Kapha and Vata
Mehahara – useful in urinary tract disorders and diabetes
Arshahara – Useful in piles / haemorrhoids
Krumihara – relieves worm infestation
Kushtajit – useful in skin diseases, psoriasis.

Miscellaneous uses of Karanja:
In case of skin diseases where the skin lesions are numb and absolutely anesthetic, if there is absence of sweating and itching, then they are rubbed with the brush made of stem of Karanj so as to initiate bleeding. This is described as a method of blood letting therapy to treat skin diseases. Reference: Charaka Chikitsasthana 7/56

Home Remedies of Pongamia Pinnata

Home Remedies

By Dr MS Krishnamurthy MD(Ayu), PhD
In traditional practice as well as in folklore practice Karanja is used in different cases and conditions and few important ones are explained here below-

Wound Care

1. Karanja bark decoction to wash the wounds:
20-30 gram of stem bark of Karanja is taken and crushed well. This is boiled with water and reduced to ¼. This decoction is used to wash the chronic ulcers and wounds. For sitz bath also this is used, especially after the anorectal surgeries and kshara therapies.
Read related: 

Wasp Bite

2. Fresh juice of the leaf in insect and wasp bite :
The fresh leaf juice of the plant is applied over the lesions of wasp bite or insect bite. This reduces the swelling and pain instantly.


3. Turmeric and pongamia seed paste in eczema:
Equal amount of fresh rhizomes of turmeric and pongamia seeds are taken and fine paste is made.
This is applied over the skin lesions like eczema, scabies etc and good results are observed.


4. Pongamia young leaf shoots decoction in conjunctivitis:
The young shoots of the leaves are taken and decoction is made or else soaked in water and macerated to obtain cold infusion. This is used to instill to the eyes or to wash the eyes. This relieves pain, discoloration and gritty feeling caused during the conjunctivitis.


5. Pongamia bark and Triphala powder in hemorrhoids (internal and external usage):
Pongamia dry bark powder and Triphala coarse powder are taken in 1:1 ratio and decoction is made. This decoction is used to administer internally (in the dose of 20-30 ml) and externally, for sitz bath in case of post operative care of ano-rectal alkaline therapies (Kshara therapy).

Karanja plant is an ever green plant that adds beauty to the nature. It is the reason why it is planted in both the sides of the roads. Also due to its dense leaflets and wide spread branches it is giving considerable shade to the walking tracks. The flowering of the plant is also makes the nature beautiful and the huge medicinal values made it so appreciable among the people.
Click to consult Dr MS Krishnamurthy MD (Ayu), PhD

Parts used

KaranjaParts used – fruit, leaves, root bark, stem bark, seeds, twigs, seed oil.
Karanja oil is widely used in the treatment of skin diseases.
Its oil is also tested for use as bio-diesel.

Which part of this plant is antiviral for oral uses?
Seed extract, leaves, root bark and stem bark have anti viral properties and are edible.

Pongamia oil

It is a source of bio-diesel and is used in Ayurveda for external application to shrink pile mass, to heal wounds and abscesses quickly. 
It is useful in acne vulgaris, pimples with secretions.
Sanskrit name – Karanja taila
Kannada name – Honge enne.
Telugu name – Kanuga oil
Hindi name – Karanj tel
Tamil name – Pungai oil, Pungai ennai

Pongamia oil is extracted from seeds by expeller pressing, cold pressing, or by means of solvent extraction.
It contains below fatty acids –
Palmitic acid – 3.7% – 7.9%
Stearic  – 2.4% – 8.9%
Oleic acid – 44.5% – 71.3%
Linoleic acid – 10.8% – 18.3%
Linolenic acid – 2.6%
Arachidic acid – 2.2% – 4.7%
Eicosenoic acid – 9.5% – 12.4%
Behenic acid – 4.2% – 5.3%
Lignoceric – 1.1% – 3.5%

Interaction with medicines, supplements

Can this be used while taking Homeopathic medicine?
Yes. This product does not react with homeopathic medicine.

Can this medicine be continued while taking supplements like multivitamin tablets, Omega 3 fatty acids etc?
Yes. Generally, this product goes well with most of the dietary supplements. However, if you are taking more than one product per day, please consult your doctor for an opinion.

With western medicines
Seek your doctor’s advice if you are taking this product along with other western (allopathic / modern) medicines. Some Ayurvedic herbs can interact with modern medicine.
If both Ayurvedic and allopathic medicines are advised together, then it is best to take Allopathic medicine first, wait for 30 minutes and then take the Ayurvedic medicine.

Ayurvedic medicines

Ayurvedic medicines with Karanja as ingredient:
Karanja Taila – used in herpes, boils, abscess, pigmentation and eczema
Murivenna – Used for quick wound healing and to relieve pain and inflammation.
Vilwadi Gulika – used in scorpion bite, fever, toxic and psychological conditions.
Maha Manjishtadi Kashayam – Used in gout, syphilis etc
Somaraji Tailam – Used in eczema, psoriasis etc.

Proprietary Ayurvedic medicines with Pongamia oil as ingredient:
De Pile Ointment – used for the treatment of external and internal hemorrhoids.
Dermasyl Skin Ointment – manufactured by Tulsi Pharmaceuticals. It is an anti-infective skin preparation used in the treatment of eczema, scabies etc.
Dermafex oil – used for the treatment of eczema and psoriasis, manufactured by BAN Labs Ltd.
Dermafex soap


Pongamia pinnata in India
Karanja trees are distributed throughout India up to 1200 feet height from sea level.
Pongamia pinnata (L. ) Pierre is popularly known as Karanja, Indian beech, Pongamia tree, Indian pongamia. The plant Karanja is wide spread in India, Japan, Australia, Malaysia etc. 

Vernacular names, Sanskrit synonyms

Hindi name – Dithouri
English name – Indian beech
Malayalam, Tamil name – Pongum
Kannada name – Honge mara

Sanskrit Synonyms:
Karanja – which colours water
Naktamala – looks good at night
Udakirya – Flowers areseen scattered on water during winter
Gucchapushpaka – flowers appear in bundles
Ghritapoora – seeds yield thick oil which looks similar to ghee.
Snigdhapatra – leaves are shining, oily.


Medium sized tree
Leaves – compound, Elliptic leaves
Inflorescence – Tree Axillary raceme
Flowers – Papillionacous, petals is sub orbicular with curved folds above the claw.
Fruits – Pods
Seeds – Reniform shaped single seed

Chemical composition

The seeds contains 27% bitter and dark colored fixed oil popularly known as Pongamia oil.
Bark contains bitter alkaloid, resin, mucilage and sugar.The important chemical constituents are karanjin, ovalitenone, kanugin, pongapin, 3-metho-oxypongapin, pongaglabrone, kanjone, pongol, gamatin, ionchocarpin, isochocarpin, glabrin, neoglabrin etc.

It is one of the widely available and cultivated trees. The seed contains 33–36% oil, 20–28% protein and it is characterized by the presence of minor constituents such as flavonoids.
Scientists have identified its anti-ulcerative property due to karanjin, isolated from karanja seeds.

The karanja seed oil contains good amount of omega 9 fatty acids that quickly absorbs through the skin, making it a noteworthy remedy for dry skin.

Classical categorization

Charaka Samhita – kandughna – group of herbs that relieve itching
Katuka Skandha – pungent tasting group of herbs.
Charaka has mentioned it as a plant source for oil – Sthavara Sneha Yoni  (Reference)

Sushruta Samhita – Aragvadhadi, Varunadi, Arkadi, Shyamadi group of herbs, Kaphasamshamana (herbs that balance Kapha).


Seed powder – 1 -3 g
Seed oil – 3 ml
Leaf juice – 10 – 20 ml

Sthanika Karma (Systemic Action)

External Application – its bark has Anti microbial, Anti Antipruritics, Help to reduce swelling. Seed oil promote wound healing, pain relieving,, indicated in various skin conditions. In vata related disorders its leaves made in to hot and can be tied. Leaf paste also indicated in wound swelling. Powder can be used as Nasya in sirorogas

Internal administration-

Digestive System – Bitter and spicy in taste, Carminative, digestive, Anti microbial, Stimulate liver, and helps to eliminate morbid doshas from the body. Its bark and leaf juice indicated in loss of appetite, constipation, Udavarta, phantom tumour, helminthiasis, hemorrhoid’s etc. Seed oil is especially have Anti microbial action.

Circulatory System – Because of its bitter taste (tikta) it helps to purify blood. Its Hot potency helps to reduce oedema. Indicated in Amavata.
Excretory System – Reduce urine quantity. Indicated in Diabetes. Its flowers are indicated in Ikshumeha.
Respiratory System – Pacify Kapha dosha, Its seed powder is indicated in Cough(Kukkura kasa).
Reproductive system – Helps to eliminate morbid doshas from uterus (Garbhayasaya sodhaka)
Tvak (Skin) – Indicated in skin diseases

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