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.

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).

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.

Traditional uses as per Ayurveda

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

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

Habitat, Chemical composition

Pongamia pinnata in India
Karanja trees are distributed throughout India up to 1200 feet height from sea level.

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
Gucchapushpaka – flowers appear in bundles
Ghritapoora – seeds yield thick oil which looks similar to ghee.
Snigdhapatra – leaves are shining, oily.

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.

19 thoughts on “Karanja – Pongamia pinnata: Uses, Side Effects, Research”

  1. It is an amazing plant. Thanks to Forestry Department for planting more number of Pongamia trees in the state of Karnataka. I am also told the leaves have antimicrobial properties and good for tooth related problems.

  2. From my childhood I was aware of this Karanja, which is used as toothbrush. But now I am happy to know about these type of benefits. Thanks for the knowledge you shared Dr. Hebbar

    Please do update if any other info like is it helpful for hair regrowth or not???


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