Sunday, 8 July 2012

Agnishikha or Fire Lily or Gloriosa Superba

Agnishikha or Fire Lily or Gloriosa Superba - Tubers

Agnishikha or Fire Lily or Gloriosa Superba - Dried Pods & Seeds

Agnishikha or Fire Lily or Gloriosa Superba - Flower (Close-up)

Agnishikha or Fire Lily or Gloriosa Superba - Flower (Close-up)

Agnishikha or Fire Lily or Gloriosa Superba - Plant with Flower

Introduction: You have heard of people setting the "roads on fire". How about a plant setting the whole garden, the whole jungle on fire? Well, I mean it! When the Agnishikha or Fire Lily blooms, it looks as if someone set fire to the whole greenery around. The Agnishikha or Fire Lily or Glory Lily is better known as an ornamental plant around the world and it's name is really worth it's looks. It really looks like flames of fire! But that's not it's true identity. Apart from having fatal looks and carrying a lethal poison, this plant works wonders as a herbal medicine. When I tell you about them, your jaws will drop in wonder. What modern science knows about this plant is just the tip of the iceberg. It has some strange, magical effects that even the most hardcore of the atheists will find hard to believe. Cannot wait? Read below....

Common Names:
  • Hindi: Agnishikha, Kalihari, Languli, Kathari
  • Sanskrit: Vishalyakarani, Garbhaghatini, Agnishikha, Agnimukhi, Langli
  • English: Fire Lily, Glory Lily, Tiger Claw, Flame Lily, Climbing Lily

Botanical Information:
  • Scientific Name:
    • Gloriosa Superba
  • Family: Colchicaceae (Some studies say it belongs to Liliaceae family)
  • Genus: Gloriosa
  • Origin: India, Indian Subcontinent
  • Distribution: Indian Subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Africa

Detailed Description: The Agnishikha or Fire Lily or Gloriosa Superba is a perennial, scandent & tuberous climber herb that grabs supports with the help of hooked tendrils at the tip of it's leaves. The leaves are lush green in colour, strong, hard, lance-shaped (lanceolate), ovate, glabrous, acuminate, entire and spirally arranged opposite to each other along the stem. The roots are tuberous and horizontal rhizome. The stem is weak & lean, like any other creeper. The most distinctive & beautiful feature of this plant is it's flower. The flowers can be identified by their unique shape, bright colour and strange resemblance with flames. There are six petals with wavy sides, arranged erect, with their lower halves coloured in bright yellow to greenish yellow and the upper half in red or orange or reddish orange or even reddish pink. The flowers have 6 long stamens. The Glory Lily or Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba can grow anywhere between 3 meters to 6 meters in height, of course, with support. The whole plant is very poisonous. Ingestion in small quantity can lead to nausea, vomiting and dizziness while that in excess quantity can even cause death.

Parts Used: Leaves, Tuber (Rhizome)

Form of Application: Leaf Tendril Sap, Leaf Juice, Tuber Paste, Tuber Powder, Leaf Extract, Tuber Extract, Extract of other parts of this plant.

Mode of Application: Primarily External, Oral in some cases.

Extraction of Juice: By compression

Physical Properties: The flowers of Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba have following physical properties;
  • Colour: Bright red & yellow (upper half red, lower half yellow).
  • Shape: Six petals, erect, wavy along sides, lanceolate.
  • Texture: Smooth to touch
  • Taste: Bitter
  • Aroma: NA

Chemical Composition: The compounds found in the extract and essential oil derived from Agnishikha or Fire Lily or Gloriosa Superba are;
    • Phenol: Silosterol, Glucoside of Silosterol & Beta Silosterol
    • AlkaloidsColchicine, Gloriosine, Lumicolchicine, Beta Lumicolchicine, Gamma Lumicolchicine, 3-De-Methyl-N-Deformyl-N-De-Acetyl-Colchicine, 2&3-De-Methyl-Colchicine, N-Formyl-De-Acetyl-Colchicine, N-Formyl-De-Methyl-Colchicine, Luteolin, Luteolin Glucoside, Cornigerine
    • Acids: Benzoic Acid, Chelidonic Acid, Salicylic Acid

Medicinal Properties: Before listing the medicinal properties of
Agnishikha or Fire Lily or Gloriosa Superba, I must tell you that most of these medicinal properties are not recognized by modern medicine. They are as seen practiced among tribes;
  • Abortifacient or Ecbolic: The extract of tubers of Gloriosa Superba or Agnishikha or Fire Lily has been traditionally in use among certain tribes of India for easing labour pain and for inducing abortion, due to its abortifacient effects. The extract is applied externally around navel, lower abdomen and vagina.
  • Alexiteric or Anti-Venom or Anti-Poison: This is perhaps the most reputed property of Agnishikha. There are instances, depicted in The Ramayana, of it's application for countering effects of snake-venom and ultimately curing Shri Laxman when he was hit by an arrow dipped in snake-venom. This plant is equally effective in treating scorpion-stings, bee-stings and bites or stings of other venomous insects and animals.
  • Anaesthetic: The Colchicine and Gloriosine, present in extract of tuber and other parts of Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba plant, are very potent neuro-toxins and cause numbness of nerves & muscles. Therefore, it is used for anaesthetic purposes.
  • Anti-Arthritic & Anti-Rheumatic: This plant is found effective in treating certain cases of rheumatism, mainly due to it's anaesthetic effects.
  • Anti-Bacterial: Gloriosa Superba or Agnishikha is highly accredited due to it's anti-bacterial properties, which comes from the presence of different derivatives of alkaloids like Colchicine, Luteolin etc. in addition to Benzoic and Salicylic acids.
  • Anti-Catarrhal: Application of Glory Lily or Agnishikha is found effective in vitiated conditions of catarrh or phlegm or Kapha (term used for catarrh or phlegm in Ayurveda).
  • Anti-Fungal: The alkaloids & acids present in this plant also exhibit anti-fungal properties and can be externally applied for treating fungal infections.
  • Anti-Flatulent: It helps clear flatulence by easing outward passage of gases. It also prevents gases from building up. 
  • Anti-Helmintic & Anti-Parasitic: Due to presence of toxic alkaloids like Colchicine, Gloriosine, Lumicolchicine etc. in Agnishikha along with Benzoic & Salicylic acids, it kills intestinal worms, lice, bugs and other parasitic worms & insects that are found on and inside human body. 
  • Anti-Microbial: The same components present in Gloriosa or Agnishikha inhibit microbial growth too and cures microbial infections.
  • Anti-Septic: The microbes that make the wounds go septic are destroyed by the toxic alkaloids present in Agnishikha or Fire Lily.
  • Anti-Spasmodic: The sedative or numbing effect of Gloriosa Superba or Agnishikha helps relieve spasm.
  • Aphrodisiac: It triggers libido on.
  • Carminative: Used in very small quantities, Agnishikha or Fire Lily serves as a carminative too, aiding digestion and relieving flatulence.
  • Digestive: Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba or Fire Lily aids digestion by increasing secretion of digestive juices.
  • Emetic: Internal application (ingestion in small doses) of Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba can induce vomiting. This property can be helpful in expelling unwanted substances that were ingested. 
  • Febrifuge: The alkaloids found in Agnishikha are found very effective in lowering body temperature in case of high fevers. They also fight the infections that cause fever, thereby helping cure it.
  • Laxative & Purgative: If ingested in right doses, our digestive system immediately tries to expel the toxic Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba through our excretory system. This makes it an effective laxative or purgative. However, it should not be used repeatedly due to its toxicity. 
  • Muscle Relaxant: The sedative or numbing property of Fire Lily or Agnishikha relaxes muscles. 
  • Sterile: If used in right doses, the extract of Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba can cause sterility in females. 
  • Stomachic: Agnishikha is found helpful in case of various types of stomach upsets. 
  • Tonic: Due to its all-round health benefits, Gloriosa Superba or Agnishikha acts as an overall health tonic. 
  • Vermifuge: Vermifuge is an agent that kills worms in our body. Agnishikha, due to presence of some highly toxic components like Colchicine, has excellent vermifugal properties.  

Indications & Symptoms: The above mentioned medicinal properties & health benefits of Agnishikha or Fire Lily or Gloriosa Superba are found useful in treating following conditions;
  • Aches (Stomach-Ache & General Pain) & Sprains: Agnishikha is known to numb nearly all types of pain. 
  • Acne & Eruptions: The juice of leaves, specially from leaf tips, is applied on pimples or eruptions to cure them.
  • Alopecia: The paste of root is applied on head. Certain tribes of India, particularly those living in Patalkot of Madhya Pradesh, use this to treat baldness.
  • Arthritis & Rheumatism: The numbing effect of Agnishikha extract gives relief in pain of arthritis & rheumatism.
  • Ascites: Ascites is a condition that is indicated with the accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity, causing abdominal swelling. This is mainly caused due to increased pressure in the blood flow in liver or Portal Hypertension. Now, Agnishikha, due to its healing effects and sedative properties, can reduce this pressure and heal up damaged tissues, thereby giving relief in Ascites.
  • Asthma: Asthma is often aggravated by stimulations & hypertension. In both these conditions, the sedative effects of Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba or Fire Lily can sedate asthmatic attacks.
  • Bacterial Infections: The bactericidal effects of the alkaloids present in this plant can cure bacterial infections.
  • Bronchitis: Agnishikha is found helpful in giving relief in chronic bronchitis by expelling catarrh and relieving congestion.
  • Catarrh: It helps expel catarrh.
  • Colic: Extract of Gloriosa Superba has been found effective in reducing colic pain, probably due to its anti-flatulent, carminative and numbing properties. 
  • Congestion: Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba relieves congestion by relaxing muscles & tissues. 
  • Cholera: Cholera is caused by a bacterium called Vibrio Cholerae. As Agnishikha has excellent bactericidal properties, it is found very helpful in inhibiting growth of this bacterium, thereby curing cholera. 
  • Diabetes: Although it is not very effective in giving relief in diabetes (and there is no permanent cure to diabetes either), it can give relief in some conditions associated with diabetes and can lower blood pressure too, probably due to presence of alkaloids in it.
  • Dyspepsia: Dyspepsia or persistent stomach upsets can be cured by application of Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba or Fire Lily, due to its stomachic property. Further, since acidity is one of the root causes of dyspepsia, the alkaloids (basic in nature) can balance the acids and help cause dyspepsia. 
  • Ear-Ache: Agnishikha is found effective in curing nearly all types of aches, including ear-ache.
  • Fever: The Febrifuge property of Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba, that comes from its anti-microbial property, helps lower body temperature. 
  • Flatulence: It relaxes the abdominal muscles and makes passage for escape of gases building in intestines. Further, due to its digestive & carminative properties, it prevents building of gases too.
  • Head Lice: The anti-parasitic property of Agnishikha kills lice, bugs & other parasitic insects. The highly toxic alkaloids present in it are responsible for this property.
  • Hydrocele: Like in ascites, it helps in hydrocele too.
  • Hysteria: The strong sedative or numbing effect of Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba is found very useful in countering hysteric fits. 
  • Indigestion: Agnishikha is found to aid digestion and counter acidity.
  • Infections: Infections are caused by microbes and here the anti-microbial (anti-bacterial & anti-fungal) property of Gloriosa Superba can help fight them.
  • Inflammations: The sedative property of Agnishikha reduce inflammations.
  • Intestinal Worms: The vermifuge property of Gloriosa Superba, that comes from the toxic alkaloids like Colchicine present in it, kills intestinal worms.
  • Leprosy: A bacterium known as Mycobacterium Leprae is responsible for causing leprosy. Agnishikha, due to its strong anti-bacterial property, can inhibit its growth and help cure leprosy.
  • Leucorrhoea: Leucorrhoea is caused by many factors like fungal (yeast) infections, hormonal (Estrogen) imbalance, gonorrhoea, infection caused by Trichomonas Vaginalis (an anaerobic bacterium) or Candida Albicans (a diploid organism). In cases where Leucorrhoea is caused by fungal or bacterial or parasitic infections, application of Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba extract can help due to its strong anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties. Whereas, in case of Leucorrhoea caused by over production of estrogen, it can help by sedating the estrogen production. Although, this effect is not so prominent.
  • Migraine: Migraine or half-head is a form or headache that is mostly caused when a person is highly stimulated due to anything like caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, allergens, drugs, strong light or sound, cold etc. The numbing property of alkaloids present in Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba can be of great help in sedating migraine pain.
  • Muscular Pain & Spasm: The anti-spasmodic, sedative and relaxant properties of Agnishikha or Fire Lily gives relief from muscular pain & spasm. 
  • Neuralgia: Neuralgia is a painful condition which, in most cases, is caused by pressing or touching of a damaged nerve, either by a swollen blood vessel due to hypertension or stimulation etc. or by any other element. Neuralgia can be of three types; Trigeminal, Post-Therapeutic and Glossopharyngeal. The pain in neuralgia can be reduced or relieved by numbing the nerve and here is where the numbing effect of alkaloids present in Agnishikha can help. It can numb the nerves, thereby ending the neuralgic pain. 
  • Post-natal Healing: Among Baiga & Bharia tribes of India, Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba is used for post-natal healing (quick healing of wounds or incisions, dilation, prolapse etc.).
  • Prolapse: Agnishikha is said to be effective in treating prolapse of internal organs and maintaining the organs in their proper position.
  • Respiratory Ailments: The anti-congestive, anti-spasmodic, anti-catarrh, muscular relaxant and sedative properties of Gloriosa Superba or Fire Lily is helpful in fighting respiratory ailments like congestion, difficulty in breathing, asthma etc.
  • Scrofula: Scrofula, or swelling of glands, is caused due to infections and inflammations. In both cases, the anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory (sedative) properties of Agnishikha can be helpful in reducing the swelling and giving relief. 
  • Sexually Transmitted or Venereal Diseases: The anti-microbial & anti-fungal properties of Agnishikha fights bacterial & fungal infections that cause many types of venereal or sexually transmitted diseases like Gonorrhoea, Syphilis etc.
  • Skin Erruptions: Skin erruptions are mostly caused by infections and hormonal imbalances. In the first case, application of Agnishikha can certainly help due to its anti-microbial & anti-bacterial properties. 
  • Snake Bites, Scorpion Stings & Other poisonous insect bites: Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba or Fire Lily has been in use since ages as an antidote or anti-venom to treat snake bites, insect stings etc. There have been instances of its use in The Ramayana as an anti-venom against snake-venom. 
  • Ulcers: Chronic ulcers can be treated with Agnishikha. 
  • Viral Infections: The anti-microbial properties of Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba or Fire Lily has been found effective in countering viral infections too. 

Other Uses: These can be rather called misuses. The various parts of Agnishikha or Fire Lily or Gloriosa Superba, particularly it's tubers, were and still are, used for murders, suicides, homicides and forced abortions. 

Amazing Uses: It is also believed that Gloriosa Superba or Agnishikha can pull out foreign objects like glass pieces, thorn-heads, splinters etc. from inside the body even if they have travelled deep with the blood-stream. For this, one needs to clear the path by widening the incision or the vent through which the foreign object had entered the body and then apply the extract around the incision. After some time (the length of time depends on the distance the object has travelled in), the object will traverse back all the path and will come out of the same incision through which it entered. 

    Availability: The plant is rarely seen in it's natural habitats now due to over-exploitation, except in herb farms. The medicines based on Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba or Fire Lily, however, are more easily available than the plant, although not seen in ordinary medicine shops. In most cases, it has to be ordered first.

    Estimated Unit Price: The approx. prices are given as follows. However, the prices may vary greatly, depending upon the quality of the product, concentration, manufacturer, country of purchase, customer's location, shipping charges etc.
    • Agnishikha Flowers (Fresh): $6.00 to $12.00 per kilogram approx.
    • Agnishikha Flowers (Dried): $50 to $100 per kilogram approx.
    • Agnishikha Flower Extract: NA

    Caution: The whole plant, particularly its tuber, is very-very poisonous and ingestion in excess quantity may be fatal. I must warn you that the medicinal uses listed above are mostly as seen practiced among tribes traditionally since ages and are administered by their experts. They are neither prescribed by modern doctors nor they should be considered home-remedies. Under no circumstances, should any part of this plant be used for any kind of treatment, as it may lead to very serious consequences.

    Statutory Warning: Ingestion or external application must be avoided except administered by an expert, particularly in pregnancy, due to its abortifacient property & toxicity. Should be kept away from reach of children and those who are not aware of it's lethal effects.

    Storage: It's extract should be stored in air-tight containers and kept in cool, dry places. Although there is no data available regarding it's exposure to sunlight, it is better be kept away.

    Blending/Formulations: The extract of various parts of this plant is used in many Ayurvedic, Tribal and Greek medicinal formulations. Any specific one cannot be named here.

    Other Aspects or Information:
    • Social: This plant has been in use as a traditional medicine for easing labour pain and treating snake bites, insect bites & stings and wounds, among certain tribes of India, particularly among Gond, Bharia & Baiga tribes, dwelling in and around the Patalkot region of Madhya Pradesh. This plant is a matter of their respect.
    • Cultural: Gloriosa Superba or Agnishikha or Fire Lily is the State Flower of Tamil Nadu State of India and also the National Flower of Zimbabwe. In India, almost every Hindu who have read The Holy Ramayana, knows about "Vishalyakarani", the other name of Agnishikha. So, they are somehow religiously and culturally attached to this plant.
    • Historical/Mythological: The use of Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba has been mentioned in The Ramayana. It is depicted that this particular herb, cited as Vishalyakarani, was used to treat Shri Laxman, the brother of Lord Shri Ram, when he was hit by Meghnaad with a poisonous arrow, perhaps dipped in snake venom.
    • Economical:  Agnishikha or Fire Lily is in great demand these days, since the plant is rarely seen in its natural habitat due to over exploitation. Therefore, its cultivation can be very beneficial, as not many cultivators are raising this plant. 

    Conclusion: Agnishikha or Gloriosa Superba or Fire Lily has some magical & unmatched medicinal properties indeed, but at the same time, we should not forget that it is a potent poison too. What I mean to say is that keep yourself acquainted with it's wonderful medicinal properties, but don't dare to use it yourself. Just keep yourself happy reading this and knowing. This plant needs attention & protection too, as over exploitation may erase this plant forever from it's natural habitats.

    So, go natural, go herbal and live longer, but be cautious when you use natural powers!


    Photos: From Internet