Ushava – Smilax zeylanica Uses, Research, Side effects

Usava- Smilax zeylanica is a plant mentioned for the treatment of syphilis, gonorrhea, skin disease and acts like a blood purifier. Its roots are used as substitute for sarsaparilla. 

Latin name- Smilax zeylanica Linn.
Synonyms: Smilax ceylanica Oken, Smilax elliptica  Smilax zollingeri Kunth
Family- Liliaceae

Vernacular names

Names in different languages:        
Bengali name – Kumarika
Hindi name – Usabamgribi, jangaliaushbah
Kannada name – Kaduhambu thavare
Malayalam name – Kaltamara, karivilanti
Marathi name – Ghotvel, guti, gutwel
Oriya name – Mitri
Telugu name – Konathamarai, Kodadantaena
Nepali name – Chobchini
Sinhalese – hinkabarasa, kbarasa

Sanskrit synonyms

Sanskrit Synonyms of  Ushaba:
Ushava, Usava, Kalashak, Kalika, Krishnavarna, Shraddhashake, Ushaba,Vana madhusnuhi


Morphology of Smilax zeylanica
Smilax zeylanica is a climbing shrub with prickly stem. The leaves are about 8-12 cm long and 4-6 cm wide, ovate- oblong with the base being rounded, glossy, 3-5 ribbed from base. The flowers are unisexual, greenish in color. The berries are small, round and have 2-4 small seeds.

Properties, part used, dosage

Rasa (Taste) – Tikta (Bitter), Madhura (Sweet)
Guna (Qualities) – Laghu (Light for digestion), Ruksha (Dry in nature)
Vipaka – Katu (Undergoes Pungent taste after digestion)
Veerya (Potency) – Ushna (Hot)
Karma (Actions) – Tridosha shamaka (reduces all the vitiated dosha)

Part used- Leaf, Root, Rhizome

Powder- 2 to 3 g
Fresh juice- 10-15 ml
Decoction- 50 to 100 ml

Chemical composition

Chemical composition of Smilax zeylanica:
Acetyl-parigenin, astilbin, beta –sitosterol, caffeoyl-shikimic acids ,dihydroquercetic, diosgenin, engelein ,essential oils, epigilo-sitosterol, eccryphin, eurryphin, ferulic acid, glycopyranosides, isoastilbin, isoengetitn, kaempferol, parigenin, parillin, pollinstanol, reseratrol, rhamnose, saponin shikimic acid, sitosterol-d-glucoside, smilagenin, smilasaponin, smilax saponins, fats, glucose, dying agent, gum and starch are the contents of Smilax zeylanica.

Uses of Usava

  • The powder of the root of Usava is mixed with honey and consumed to treat joint pain and swelling of the joints. The powder can be made into paste by adding water and applied externally to treat joint pain.
  • The decoction of the root of Smilax zeylanica is consumed in a dose of 40-50 ml to treat skin disease, gout and arthritis.
  • In condition of syphilis and gonorrhea, the cold infusion or decoction of the root of Usava is consumed.
  • The decoction prepared from the leaves of Smialx zeylanica acts as blood purifier and improves the sexual vigor.
  • Paste prepared from the root of Usava is applied over abscess and skin affected with eczema as part of treatment.
  • Small pieces of the root of Smilax zeylanica is boiled in milk and consumed to treat veneral diseases and improves sexual

Adverse effect

No adverse effect is seen or reported after the normal use of Usava.

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.


Research articles related to Smilax zeylanica:
Anti- oxidative action: The present study was carried out to evaluate the antioxidant activities of different solvent extracts of aerial parts of Smilax zeylanica using different models viz: DPPH, hydroxyl, superoxide and ABTs radical cation scavenging activities. Methanol extract at 800µg/ml showed maximum superoxide radical scavenging (138.24%) of followed by hydroxyl radical scavenging activity (134.22%), ABTs scavenging activity (134.16%) and DPPH radical scavenging activity (106.36%) at the same concentration.

Cyto protective action: The cyto protective effect of methanol extract of Smilax zeylanica leaves on benzo(a)pyrene induced experimental lung cancer was investigated in swiss albino mice. Benzo(a)pyrene induced mice were treated with methanol extract of Smilax zeylanica leaves once daily orally started 1 week before benzo(a)pyrene induction and continued for 16 weeks. At the end of the experiment various parameters were analyzed. It was observed that, the treatment with 200 mg/kg and 400 mg/kg methanol extract of Smilax zeylanica leaves effectively suppressed the lung cancer as revealed by significant decrease in number of nodules in lung with a significant weight gain during experimental period.

Anti- diabetic effect: The objective of the study was to evaluate anti-diabetic activity of methanolic extract of Smilax zeylanica leaves in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats. The alcoholic extract of Smilax zeylanica was studied for anti-diabetic activity in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats by oral administration of extract 400mg/kg body weight for 15 days. The effect was compared with oral dose of 0.5mg/kg Glibenclamide.  The alcoholic extract of smilax zeylanica leaves significantly lowered the blood glucose of hyper-glycemic rats.

Anti- depressant activity: The present study was undertaken to evaluate the anti-depressive activity of Smilax zeylanica Linn after two weeks administration by using a mouse forced swimming test (FST) and tail suspension test (TST). Smilax zeylanica significantly reduced the immobility time of mice in both the FST and TST; it increased the levels of 5-HT in cortex, striatum, hippocampus, and hypothalamus, the level of NE in striatum and hippocampus, the level of DOPAC in hypothalamus, the level of 5-HIAA in striatum, and the level of DA in striatum, hippocampus, and hypothalamus. After two weeks administration, Smilax zeylanica produced antidepressant-like effect. The mechanism of action of anti- depressive effect of Smilax zeylanica seemed to involve an increase of the monoamines levels.

Classical categorization

Nighantu Adarsh- Lashunadi varga

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Liliales
Family: Smilacaceae
Genus: Smilax
Species: S. zeylanica

Ayurvedic references

Traditional Ayurvedic references:
There is no reference of this drug Ushaba in vedas upanishath and puranas. There is no named drug ushaba in samhitha and Nighantus, except for Nighantu Adarsha.

In the Nigandu Adarsha the drug has been explained under the heading lashunadivarga .In Niganduadarsha wonderful efficacy of this drug is mentioned like phyrangaroga is mentioned the main action described about the drug in this book is its brihmana property.


Himalaya, thenmalai and higher elevation in south India, China, Burma, Assam, Kerala, Karanataka
Commonly seen in :_ Banglore, Chikmangalore, Koorg, Hasan, Mysore, North Kanre, Shimogae, Southanarae.

Common remedies

Santhigathavada :- Ushabamolachoorna with Madu(honey)
Amavata – Ushaba moolachoorna + cardamom + cow milk
Vatarakta – gout – Decoction of Ushaba
Headache – decoction + Sariva decoction
Sexual disorders – Leaf juice extract along with honey
Skin disorders – Ushaba is applied externally
Abscess – Kashaya of the ushaba root
Premature ejaculation – Kashaya of ushaba
Seminal and sexual diseases :-Root boiled in cow milk taken internally. 

Author: Dr.B.K.Prashanth M.D (Ayu), Ph.D
E mail: [email protected]
Click to consult Dr Prashanth BK

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