Shikakai (Acacia concinna) – Uses, Remedies, Side Effects, Research

By Dr Renita D’Souza
Shikakai (Acacia concinna) is the best traditional herb used to promote hair growth, control dandruff, relieve skin problems etc.

Basic uses, home remedies

It works as the hair conditioner, strengthens the hair roots, cleanses the hair by removing dirt, relief scaling, itching, dryness and greasiness of scalp.

It is also used as a remedy in constipation, jaundice, fever, wounds, poisoning etc. It is used as an ingredient in many herbal shampoos. The saponin content in its fruits and bark act as foaming agent and forms the foam.

Botanical Name – Acacia concinna Family – Fabaceae

Traditional Remedies of Shikakai

  • In India shikakai fruits are used to cleanse the hair and clothes. It forms the lather and acts as an excellent cleanser.
  • Traditionally sikakai is used as remedy to treat jaundice, constipation and skin problems.
  • The leaves and pods are used treat cuts, wounds and oral diseases due to its astringent property.
  • Leaves of shikakai act as purgative, liver stimulant and improves taste.
  • The decoction of shikakai pods acts as purgative and used to treat constipation, abdominal pain, indigestion and flatulence.
  • Infusion of pods is used to treat chronic respiratory diseases. It reduces muscles constrictions in the airways of the lungs
  • The saponin content of the bark have spermicidal effect that destroys sperms.
  • Powder of bark, leaves or pods is used as hair conditioner. It cleanses the hair, removes excess oil and dirt, makes hair soft and detangle it. It strengthens the hair roots and promotes hair growth. It also works against dandruff.
  • In Jaundice, leaves of shikakai is used with black pepper. It can cause purgation or sometime it leads to vomiting. It normalises the bile secretion.
  • In head lice, pod decoction is used to wash hair. It also promotes hair growth and controls dandruff.
  • The wick dipped in pod decoction is kept as suppository in children, relieves indigestion and constipation.
  • Shikai leaves are used to treat malarial fever.
  • Leaves infusion is used to clear dandruff.
  • In skin diseases, the extract of grounded shikakai pod is used.
  • Shikakai bark is macerated in water and the solution obtained is used to wash the hair during bath. This promotes the hair growth, relieves dandruff, scalp itching and dryness. It is also used to get rid of hair lice.
  • Shikakai bark powder can be used as the bath powder along with other ingredients such as neem, turmeric, green gram powder etc. It removes the dirt, bad odour, relieves itching, dryness, scaling of skin etc.
  • Shikakai infusion used to wash wounds can help to reduce swelling, exudation, inflammation, itching, burning sensation and helps in healing the wound.
  • If shikakai powder used alone causes dryness then it can be used with amla powder and yogurt. This combination can avoid dryness of hair, controls dandruff, nourish the hair follicles and stimulate hair growth.

Qualities, Vernacular names

Medicinal Properties of Shikakayi
Rasa (taste) – Tiktha (bitter)
Virya (potency) – Shita (cold)
Vipaka (taste after digestion) – Katu (pungent)
Guna (quality) – Laghu (light to digest)
Effect on Dosha – Vatala (increases Vata dosha)

Names in different languages
Hindi Name – Shikakai, Sikakai
Kannada Name – Shige kayi
Malyalam Name – Cheeyakayi, shikai
Marathi Name – Shikekai
Gujarati Name – Chikakhai
Tamil Name – Sheekay
English Name – Soap pod

Traditional Ayurvedic uses

Uses of Shikakay
Shotha – swelling
Kapha disorders like itching of the scalp, dandruff, low appetite, tastelessness etc
Anaha – Abdominal distension Pitta disorders like jaundice, fever etc
Udavartha – reverse movement of Vata dosha
Blood related diseases
Kusta – skin diseases
Gulma – Abdominal distention or abdominal tumor
Arsha – piles
Udara – ascites
Gara visha – these are artificial poisons prepared by mixing various substances. It takes long time to produce its toxic effect and does not kill the patient instantly.
Krimi – intestinal worm infestation
Aruchi – tastelessness
Ubhaya shodhani – it is used to cleanse the body (shodhana) by both Vamana (emesis) and virechana (purgation)
Visarpa – herpes
Visphota – blisters

Part used, morphology, dose

Morphological description
Shikakai is a climbing shrub. Pods are oblong in shape, nearly 8 – 12 cm long, dark brown in colour. Branches possess numerous short thorns. Leaves are bi pinnate. Flowers are pink in colour.

Part used Bark, Pod, Leaves

Dose Infusion – 20 – 50 ml in divided dose Powder – 2 – 4 grams

Distribution Sikakai is grown in Southern Asia including India, Myanmar and Thailand.

Side Effects of Soap pod
There are no recorded side effects. In high internal dosage and prolong usage can cause stomach irritation, nausea, loose stools. Due to its spermicidal effect of saponin content it is best to avoid its oral usage in patient taking treatment for infertility.

Chemical constituents
Lupeol, spinasterol, acacic acid, lactone, and the natural sugars glucose, arabinose and rhamnose.
It also contains hexacosanol, spinasterone, oxalic acid, tartaric acid, citric acid, succinic acid, ascorbic acid, and the alkaloids calyctomine and nicotine.
Bark and pods have saponins which form the foam.

Research points about Shikakai Properties
1. Anti fungal activity – A study conducted to evaluate the activity of different plant extract against the dandruff causing organism Malassezia furfur have proved promising anti-fungal activity of Lemon, Amla, Shikakai and Hennna against Malassezia furfur when compared with the marketed anti-dandruff shampoos.
2. Anti microbial activity – A study done to prove anti microbial activity of shikakai have concluded its promising activity against the bacterial and fungul caused disease.
3. Antibacterial and Anthelimentic Activities – A study proved the significant antibacterial effect of aqueous extract of the leaves of Acacia concinna against gram positive and gram negative bacteria. The aqueous extract of Acacia concinna also showed significant anthelimentic activity.

Ayurvedic medicines with sikakai as Ingredient

  • Sri Sri Tattva Shikakai Henna Shampoo – Herbal shampoo used in hair fall, split hair, dandruff. It promotes long and shiny hair.
  • Trichup Herbal Hair Powder – This hair pack powder is used for dull, lustreless and falling hairs. It nourishes the hair follicles and stimulates natural hair growth.
  • Herbal Hair Oil – It is the herbal hair oil used in dandruff, hair fall, premature greying of hair, headache, insomnia etc. It cools the scalp, improve sleep, memory and promotes healthy growth of hair
  • G3 Triple Action Ayurvedi Hair Wash  – It is a chemical free herbal hair wash used to control hair fall, dandruff, nourishes hair follicles and promotes long, thick, silky hair. It cleanses the hair, removes greasiness and relieves scalp itching.
  • Herbal Shikakai Henna Shampoo – Its a herbal shampoo with shikakai as the main ingredient used to treat hair fall.
  • Rovaan Herbal Shampoo – It is manufactured by Multani Pharmaceuticals Limited. It nourishes the hair roots and controls hair fall and dandruff.
  • Hairvit Oil – This herbal oil promotes healthy growth of hair by strengthening hair roots and enhancing the blood circulation to the scalp. It prevents premature greying of hairs, controls dandruff, relieves scalp itching and dryness. Soothes the scalp and promotes good sound sleep.

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.

Classical categorisation
Dhanvantari Nighantu – Guduchyadi Varga
Bhavaprakasha Nighantu – Guduchyadi Varga
Kaiyadeva Nighantu – Aushadi Varga
Raja Nighantu – Shatahavaadi Varga
Shodala Nighantu – Guduchyadi Varga

Controversies In Ayurveda saptala herb is considered as shikakai as the synonyms such as bhuriphena, vimala etc resembles shikakai qualities of forming froth, cleansing property etc.
Other herbs which are considered as saptala – Origanum vulgare – Euphorbia tirucalli – Euphorbia dracunculoides

Sanskrit Synonyms
Bhuriphena – forms the froth
Bhahuphena Charmakasa, Phena – foamy
Saptala, Saari Vimala – clear
Shaatala, Saatala, Vidula Amala, Deeptha

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