Common Name   :Shikakai

Plant Parts Used  :Bark, Leaves, Pods

Description         :

A common, prickly, scandent shrub, occuring in tropical jungles throughout India, especially in the Deccan. Leaves bipinnate; flowers in yellow, globose, anxillary heads; pods brown, wrinkled and notched when dry; seeds 6-10 in a pod.
Characteristics and Constituents

The bark contains saponin, which on hydrolysis yields lupeol, (-spinasterol and acacic acid lactone. The sugars identified are glucose, arabinose and rhamnose. It also contains hexacosanol and (- spinasterone. The saponin of bark shows spermicidal activity against human semen (Banerji and Nigam, J Indian chem Soc., 1980, 57, 1043; Banerji et al, Indian Drugs, 1979 - 80, 17,6). The tender leaves, which are acidic, are used in chutneys. The leaves contain oxalic, tartaric, citric, succinic and ascorbic acids. They also contain two alkaloids calyctomine (C12H17O3N, m.p. 138-140oC) and nicotine, besides rutin and an enzyme tartaric racimase.A new triterpenoid saponin (C36H48O5, m.p. 295oC) having the basic skeleton of oleanolic acid. Other constituents present in the leaves are tannins, amino acids and proteins (Gupta & Nigam, Planta med, 1970-71,19,55).

Actions and Uses :

An infusion of the leaves is used in malarial fever. A decoction of the pods relieves biliousness and acts as a purgative. It is used to remove dandruff. An ointment, prepared from the ground pods, is good for skin diseases. The pods, known as Shikai or Shikakai, are extensively used as an detergent, and the dry ones are powdered and perfumed, and sold in the market as soapnut powder. The pods are reported to be used in north Bengal for poisoning fish. [Nathawat and Deshpande, loc. Cit.; Nadkarni, I, 16; Bhatnagar et al, J Res Indian Med, 1973, 8(2), 67].

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