Gunja – Abrus precatorius uses, purification, side effects

Gunja – Abrus precatorius is a poisonous herb used in Ayurvedic medicines after detoxifying process. Its seeds and roots are used in treating hair fall, arthritis pain, as an aphrodisiac and more. 


Division – Magnoliophyta
Order – Fabales
Family – Fabaceae
Subfamily – Faboideae
Tribe – Abreae
Genus – Abrus
Species – Botanical name – Abrus precatorius

Vernacular names

Names in different languages:
English name- Abrus or Indian Licorice root, Crabs eye, John Crow Bead, Abrus seed
Hindi name- Gamanchi,  Gunchi, Gunja, Gaunchi, Rati
Kannada name – Gulaganji, Gulgunji
Telugu name- Guruvinda, Guruginia
Marathi name – Gunj, Gunja
Bengali name – Kunch, Koonch, Chunhali
Gujarati name – Chanoti, Gumchi, Chanothi
Tamil name- Gundumani
Malayalam name- Kunni, Gundumani
Farsi name – Chasmekharosh
Punjabi name – Mulati
Urdu name – Ghunchi
Kashmiri name – Shangir
Persian name – Gunchi, Chashami, Khurosa

Abrus precatorius

Sanskrit Synonyms

Chudamani,  Kakanantika, Kakasahvaya, Bhillibhushani
Shikhandika, Sheetapaki, Ghughanta, Rati,
Krushnala – Seeds have black spot
Raktika, Tamra, Tamrika – coppery red coloured seeds

Shweta Gunja – white variety synonyms:
Shweta paki, Chudala, Kakapeelika, Durmaayaa, Chakripa, Chuda, Chakrashalya, Chirantika, Shweta Kambhoji, Bhiratika, Kakadani, Kakapeelu

Crabs eye

Classical categorisation

Sushruta – Moola Visha 
Kaiyadeva Nighantu – Oshadhi Varga
Dhanvantari Nighantu – Karaveeradi Varga
Bhavaprakasha – Guduchyadi Varga, Upavisha
Rajanighantu – Guduchyadi Varga

rosary pea


There are two types mentioned –
Sweta Gunjia – White variety
Rajta Gunja – Red variety

Chemical constituents

Abrus precatorius chemical constituents:
Root- Precol, Abrol and two alkaloids(abrasine&precasine), abrasine, precasine and precol, protein, abraline, abricin, abrusgenic-acid, abrusgenic-acid-methyl-ester, abruslactone, abrussic-acid, anthocyanins, calcium.
Seeds- Abrine, Hypaphorine, Trigonelline, Precatorine, Abridin, amino acids like serine, Abrusin, Abrusin-2?-0-apioside, hederagenin, kaikasaponin III, sophoradiol, sophoradiol-22-0-acetate, tryptophan,
poisonous protein, a fat-splitting enzyme, aglucoside abrussic acid, haemagglutinin, albuminous substance named abrin.
Leaves – abrine, trigonelline, abruslactone A, hemiphloin, abrusoside A, B, C and D, xylose, choline, hypaphorine, precatorine, glycyrrhizin

Medicinal qualities

Indian Licorice medicinal qualities:
Rasa (taste) – Tikta – bitter, Kashaya- astringent
Guna- Laghu, Ruksa
Vipaka- Katu – Undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion
Veerya – Ushna – Hot potency
Effect on Tridosha – Balances Kapha and Vata Dosha.

Part used, dosage

Part used- Root, leaf, seed
Dosage- Root& leaf powder 1-3 g , seed powder  – half to one and half Gunja – 60-180 mg in divided doses per day.

Sanskrit verse

Gunja uses copy

Adverse effects

Adverse effects of abrus seeds:
Gunja seeds if used without proper purification or in higher doses may cause –
Vantikara – vomiting
Teevra Virechanakrut – severe purgation

Purification method

Gunja Shodhana – Purification method:
The Gunja seeds are tied in a two layered cloth, kept suspended in cows milk taken in a pot. The milk is then boiled with the Gunja seed pack suspended for 1 Yama – 3 hours. This procedure is called Swedana.
After this, the seeds are taken out, washed in hot water, dried and preserved.
The pot used for this purpose is called Dola Yantra.
Even Kanji – fermented liquid can also be used in place of milk.

Explanation regarding purification
The toxin abrin is in the Indian Licorice (Gunja) consists of two protein sub-units, A and B. The proteins are denatured when subjected to high temperatures which removes its toxicity.


Abrus precatorius uses:
Both red and white varieties of Gunja are attributed with below qualities: 
Kamoddeepana – Aphrodisiac, increases sexual strength
Shukrajanana – promotes sperm production
Ruchya – improves taste, useful in anorexia
Vishahara – anti toxic
Vrushya – aphrodisiac
Vranahara – speeds up wound healing
Chakshushya – useful in improving eye sight
Keshya – improves quality of hair
Tvachya – improves skin quality, useful in skin diseases
Ruchya – improves taste, useful in anorexia
Balaprada – improves strength and immunity


Indicated in:
Urusthambha – thigh stiffness
Amavata – Rheumatoid arthritis
Kasa – cold, cough
Indralupta – alopecia areata
Graharoga – psychological disorders
Kandu – itching
Kushta – skin diseases
Vrana – ulcers, wounds
Krumi – worm infestation (in wounds and in intestines)
Shosha – emaciation, loss of tissue
Bhrama – dizziness
Shwasa – asthma, respiratory disorders involving difficulty in breathing
Trushna – Excessive thirst
Mada – intoxication

Gunjamoola – root
Shoolaghna – relieves abdominal colic
Vishahara – anti toxic

External application

Purified Gunja seed powder is made paste with water, applied externally to relieve joint pains, swelling, sciatica pain, cervical spondylosis related pain.
This paste is applied over hairless patches of alopecia areata  to regrow hair.

Abrus precatorius uses

Abrus seed used as a simile: 
The colour of red gunja seed is used as a standard to explain normal colour of blood and also normal menstrual flow. – Charaka Sutrasthana 24/22

The colour of skin lesions in  Kakanaka Kushta – one among seven major types of skin disorders turns to red like abrus seeds. Reference: Charaka Chikitsa 7

Gunja – usage in weights
Gunja seeds are used as an important unit of measurement. 
1 Gunja seed is considered as 125 mg of weight.

Ayurvedic medicines

Ayurvedic medicines with Gunja as ingredient:
Neelibhrungadi tailam –
Herbal oil used for improving quality of hair, to treat split hairs, premature greying and baldness.
Sarivadi Vati – an Ayurvedic tablet used in treating  hearing problems such as tinnitus, ear infection etc.

Side effects

As per Drugs and Cosmetics Act, Gunja is a Schedule E1 classified herb. This means, the oral Ayurvedic medicines containing Gunja can only be taken under strict medical supervision.
If not purified properly or if used in excess dosage than prescribed, it can cause severe vomiting and diarrhoea.
Unpurified seed powder used over wounds or direct contact with blood can also produce toxic effects.
Roots – if used in excess dose can cause vomiting
It is best to avoid Gunja or medicines containing it during pregnancy, lactation and in children below 5 years of age.

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.


There is no specific antidote for abrin poisoning, and treatment is mainly supportive with intravenous fluids and correction of electrolyte abnormalities.


Anticataractic and anti oxidant effects  – The ethanolic seeds extract of Abrus precatorius protected the lens against calcium-induced oxidative damage which might be helpful in delaying the progression of cataract.

15 thoughts on “Gunja – Abrus precatorius uses, purification, side effects”

    • Because it has some toxic effects, its usage needs direct consultation with an Ayurveda doctor.

  1. Can gunja powder paste be used to regrow hair lost during premenopausal time. Or should nilibhringadi hair oil be used for this.


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