Abrus Precatorius Linn

Botanical Name: Abrus Precatorius Linn

Sanskrit Name: Gunja

Family Name: Fabaceaea


Vernacular names :

  1. Hindi – gamanchi
  2. Telugu –Guruvinda
  3. Malayalam –Kunni
  4. Tamil –
  5. English – Abrus or Indian liquorice root
  6. Marathi name – Gunj, Gunja

7.Bengali name – Kunch, Koonch, Chunhali

  1. Gujarathi name – Chanoti, Gumchi, Chanothi
  2. Punjabi name – Mulati
  3. Urdu name – Ghunchi
  4. Kasmiri name – Shangir
  5. Persian name – Gunchi, Chashami, Khurosa


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

ShwetaGunja – white variety synonyms:

Shwetapaki, Chudala, Kakapeelika, Durmaayaa, Chakripa, Chuda, Chakrashalya, Chirantika, ShwetaKambhoji, Bhiratika, Kakadani, Kakapeelu

In classical texts:

Sushruta – MoolaVisha

KaiyadevaNighantu – OshadhiVarga

DhanvantariNighantu – KaraveeradiVarga

Bhavaprakasha – GuduchyadiVarga, Upavisha

Rajanighantu – GuduchyadiVarga


It is a perennial climber bearing   pink to   purplist white flowers. It is found throughout India.

Susruta mentioned it under Mula Visa (root poisons). Thakur BalvantSingh quotes that either Abruspulchellurn Wall. (having black or light brown seeds) and Cardiospermumhalicabacum Linn. as the two   possible sources in the   context of Gunja as Mulavisa. KrisnaGunja is   the synonym   of   the   later plant.

Bhavurnisradescribed Sweta and   Rakta   varieties of Gunja and included it under Upavisas.

Varieties :

SwetaGunjia – White variety

RajtaGunja – Red variety

Chemical constituents

Root- Precol, abrol   and   two   alkaloids   (abrasine&precasine)

Seeds-   abrine,   hypaphorine, trigonellinc,   precaiorine,  abriclin

Leaves – abrine, trigonelline, abruslactoneA, hemiphloin, abrusoside A, B, C and D, xylose, choline, hypaphorine, precatorine, glycyrrhizin


Rasa –tikta, kashaya

Guna –laghu, ruksha

Virya – usna

Vipaka –katu

Karma –kapha- vatahara, kesya


Indralupta, Timira, Kustha, Kandu,   Krimi; leaf – Mukhapaka, Urusthambha, Amavata, Kasa, Indralupta, Graharoga, Kandu , Kushta, Vrana, Krumi, Shosha, , Shwasa,Trushna, Mada , Gunjamoola , Shoolaghna, Vishahara

Part used

Root , leaf


Root and leaf powder 1-3 g, seed powder 60-170mg

Therapeutic uses

  1. Darunaka- Oil prepared with Gunja seeds and Bhringaraja juice is applied over the scalp
  2. Krimidanta- Root of Gunja may be chewed to releive pain
  3. Visarpa-   Leaf paste is applied externally
  4. Kamoddeepana – Aprhodisiac, increases sexual strength
  5. Shukrajanana – promotes sperm production
  6. Ruchya – improves taste, useful in anorexia
  7. Vishahara – anti toxic
  8. Vrushya – aphrodisiac
  9. Vranahara – speeds up wound healing
  10. Chakshushya – useful in improving eye sight
  11. Keshya – improves quality of hair
  12. Tvachya – improves skin quality, useful in skin diseases
  13. Ruchya – improves taste, useful in anorexia
  14. Balaprada – improves strength and immunity


GunjadiTailam, Gunjabhadra rasa

Other uses

  1. External application

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

  1. Abrus Precatorius seed used as simile:

The color of red gunja is used as standard to explain normal color of blood and also normal menstrual flow. – CharakaSutrasthana 24/22

The color of skin lesions in KakanaKushta – one among seven major types of skin disorders turns to red like abrus seeds. Reference: CharakaChikitsa 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.

Research and studies

  1. Alcoholic extract of seeds   showed   pararasympathominetic effect on smooth muscle   of guinea   pig and rabbit, skeletal muscle of frog   (J.Res.Indi.   Med.   1971,6,139).
  2. Aqueous extract of seeds   showed   anthelmintic activity which   was   absent in extract prepared by boiling seeds   in water (J.Res.Ind.Med.1975, 10, 138)
  3. LDof abrin A and B in mice is found to be 10 and 15 µg/50kg respectively. Both fractions showedanti tumor activity against Ehrlich ascites tumor cells (Int. J. Pept. Protein Res. 1978, 12, 311).
  1. Seed extract (l.Omg/ml/day)   showed antispermatogenic activity in rat (Ind.Med.J.1987,81,157).
  2. Powdered seeds are said to disturb the uterine functions and   prevent conception in women.   Petroleum ether extract of the seeds showed anti-fertility activity in rats. The aqueous extract adversely influenced pregnancy and development of the foetus in mice. The oily steroidal fraction (separated from the seeds), when fed orally for twenty consecutive days before mating,   showed antifertility activity on albino rats and Swiss mice. Injection of a single dose of this fraction in the post-coital period produced 80 per cent sterility in rats (Kirtikar&Basu, I,765; Prakash&Mathur, Indian J expBiol, 1976, 14, 623; Desai &Sirsi, CurrSci, 1964, 33, 585; Desai &Rupawala, loc. cit.).
  3. The colouring matter of the seed coat contains a monoglucosideanthocyanin, abranin. Other anthocyanin:s identified are delphinidin-3,5-diglucoside; pelargonidin- 3,5-diglucoside;   pelargonidin- 3-glucoside; and cyanidin-3-glucoside. The presence of gallic acid is also reported (Krishnamoorthy&Seshadri, J sciindustr Res, 1962, 21B, 591; ChemAbstr, 1961, 55, 17770; BiolAbstr, 1972,53,4766).
  4. The amino acids present in the seedsare (g/16g N): aspartic, 10.60; threonine, 3.87; glycine, 1.28; valine, 5.95; methionine, 1.11; leucine, 7.20; tyrosine, 5.15; arginine,15.77; phenylalanine, 6.80; lysine, 3.13; and histidine, 2.77 (ChemAbstr, 1969, 70, 26371; Riaz& Khan, Pakist J sciRes, 1964, 16, 99).
  5. The small shining seeds (rail) have been used as weights by Indian goldsmiths since ancient times. These are alsoused in necklaces   and other ornamental articles. The plant is said to yield a usefulfibre (Mehra et al, Econ Bot, 1975, 29, 39; Gunn, Gdn J, NY, 1969, 19, Rama Rao, 117).
  6. Aifruticulosus Wall. ex Wight &Am. syn. A. pulchellusWall.; A./aevigatus E. Mey. is a climber or a diffuse creeping, fastigiate or straggling shrub, found throughout India. It is used for the same medicinal purposes as A. precatorius (Burkill,   I, 9; Uphof, 2; Irvine;   1961, 360; Breteler, B/umea, 1960, IO, 607).
  1. The leaves have a sweetish taste. They are often eaten raw, used as vegetable, or eaten with betel leaf. The leaves contain glycyrrhizin (9.6%;), a saturated alcohol (C30H620, mp 88°), a crystalline compound [C1sH260s,mp 280° (decomp.)J,   and   pinitol.   A decoction   of the leaves is widely used for cough, cold and colic. When liquorice is not available, the leaves constitute a ready substitute. The leaf juice   is employed   as a cure for hoarseness, and mixed with oil it is applied to painful swellings. The leaves are also considered useful in biliousness and in leucoderma, itching and other skin diseases (Dastur, Medicinal   Plants, 2;   Fl Delhi,   126; Chopra et al, 1958, 261; ChemAbstr, 1967, 66, 83099; Philipp PharmacolAbstr, 1961, No. 2, 16; Chakravarthy, Science, 1969, 166, 44).
  2. The seeds are poisonous. The bruised seeds have been used for poisoning cattle, for homicidal purposes, and as abortifacient, In the indigenous system of medicine, the seed extract is used externally in the treatment of ulcers and skin affections. The seeds are administered internally in the affections of the nervous system, and their paste is applied locally in sciatica, ‘stiffness of shoulder joint and paralysis. They are said to be useful in diarrhoea and dysentery, and possess anthelmintic activity. Ethanolic extract of the seeds inhibited the growth of Micrococcus pyogenes Lehmann &Newmann var. .aureusRucker, enteric and dysenteric group of micro-organisms, several other bacteria and some pathogenic fungi [Kirtikar&Basu, I, 765; Desai &Sirsi, Indian J Pharm, 1966, 28, 164; Basu, ibid, 1973, 35, 203; Singh et al, J Res Indian Med,1974, 9(2), 65].
  3. The chief poisonous constituent of the seeds is abrin, a toxalbuminsimilar to ricin of castor seed. Abrin is a powerful irritant and produces oedema and ecchymosis at the site of inoculation. It has been resolved into a globulin and an albuminose, both of which are poisonous and are inactivated by heat. A haemagglutin and a glucosideabralin are also reported.   In addition, the seeds contain the alkaloidsjbases, abrine [C12H1402N2,   mp295° (decomp.)] hypaphorine, choline, trigonelline, precatorine(C14H 11N06,   mp 218-20 ), and methyl ester of N,N-dimethyltryptophanmethocation [mp, 272° (decornp.I]. Abrine is the major alkaloid. The leaves, stems and roots.

Side effects and antidote

  • 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 diarrhea.
  • 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.


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