Pongamia Pinnata Linn

Botanical Name: Pongamia Pinnata Linn

Sanskrit Name: Karanja

Family Name: Fabaceae


Vernacular names :

  1. Hindi – Dithouri
  2. English –Indian beech
  3. Malayalam –Ponnam.
  4. Tamil –Pongum


Karaja, Cirabilvaka, Naktamala, Gucchapuspaka, Ghritapara, Snigdhapatra

Ganas in classical texts:

Charaka: Kandughna, Katukaskandha

Susruta: Aragvadhadi, Varunadi, Arkadi, Syamadi, Kaphasamsamana

Vagbhata:Aragvadhadi, Varunadi, arkadi, syamadi


We come across the references about Karanja in Rigveda and Atharvaveda. Karanja sticks are forebidden for rituals but described as the best among the tooth sticks. Ayurvedic texts quoted it as the best tooth brush stick possessing Katu Rasa.

Karanja (Pongamia Pinnata Linn) is mentioned among the Kandughna (antipruritic) varga by Charaka. Susruta highlighted the utility of Karanjataila in Krimi, Kustha, Prameha and Siroroga (S.S.Su.45). Susruta and Vagbhata have described a plant with the name Karanjika which needs correct identity. However Dalhana identified it as VriksaKaranja or Naktamala.

Controversial Studies

The whole controversy about Kararija is basically due to two names Piitikarilja and Ciribilva. Accordingto the author both the names are the synonyms of Patika or Chiribilvai.e; Holopteleaintegrifolia Planch. Therefore the name Kantakikararija is more suited for Caesalpinia crista Linn. whileKaranja is P. Pinnata (Linn.) Merr. It is important to note that Karanja is mentioned in the Katuskandha and Naktamala in the Tiktaskandha. On review several drugs are found described in two groups in Charakasamhita. Therefore no significance shall be attributed to the synonyms used in seperate groups in the above context.

Bhavamisra quoted Chiribilva as the synonym of Karanja but he did not use the same synonym for Karanja. Similarly GhritaKaranja is described with the synonym Patika but not with KantakaKaranja.


We come across the reference about two varieties of Karana (KaranjaDvaya) in CharakaSamhita (C.S.Ci.15/ 179) viz., Karanja&PutiKaranja. Bhavamisra quoted three varieties of Karanja viz.,

  1. KantakaKaranj- Karanja, Naktamala, Karaja, Chiribilvaka
  2. GhritaKaranja- Prakirya, Piitika, Pritikararija, Somavalka
  3. Karanji – Udakirya, Sadgrandha, Hastivaruni, Markati, Vayasi, Karabhanjika

In Dhanvantarinighantu

  1. Karanja
  2. Udakirya (Karanjavisesa)
  3. Angaravallika are described seperately.

In SodhalaNighantu

  1. Karanja
  2. Chirabilva
  3. ValliKaranjaare mentioned as three varieties.

In Raja nighantu

  1. Karanja
  2. GhritaKaranja
  3. Udakirya
  4. Angaravallika
  5. GucchaKaranja
  6. RithaKaranja, are described as six types.

Botanical details

It is a medium-sized glabrous, tree, growing upto 18 m height and 1.5 m in girth.

Leaves– imparipinnate; leaflets 5-7, elliptic or ovate, 5.1-17.8 cm. long.

Flowers– in axillary racemes, fragrant, lilac or white, tinged with pink or violet; peduncle as long as the rachis.

Fruits– pods, com¬pressed, woody, glabrous, indehiscent, elliptic to obliquely oblong, 4.0-7.5 cm long and 1.7 3.2 cm. broad.

Seeds– 1-2, ellipticor reniform, wrinkled, 1.7-2.0 cm long and 1.2-1.8 cm. broad with reddish-brown leathery testa (Flowers and fruits during May June).


Throughout India upto 1200m.

Chemical constituents

Karanjin, pongapin, 3-meth¬oxypongapin, pongaglabrone, kanjone, pongol, gamatin, lonchoca¬rpin, isolonchocarpin, karanjachromene, porgachromene, isopon¬gaflavone, pongamol, glabrin, ovalitenone, kanugin, cemethoxy¬kanugin, pongamin, neoglabrin etc.


Rasa –tikta, katu, kasaya

Guna –laghu, tiksna

Virya – usna

Vipaka –katu

Karma –kapha- vatahara, sothahara, bhedana


Yoniroga, Kustha, Udavarata, Gulma, Arsas, Krmi, sotha, Unmada etc.

Part used

Root bark, stem bark, leaves, seeds, twigs (as tooth brush), seed oil.


Fresh juice 10-20 ml; seed powder 1-3g, bark powder 3.5 g

Therapeutic uses

Granthivisarpa- Paste of Karanja bark may be applied locally

Romasanjanana- Kasisa and tender leaves of Karanja are pounded with the juice of Kapittha is useful

Rakta pitta- Seed powder of Karanja should be given with sugar & hones


Karanjaditailam, Karanjadighirta, Karanjadichurna.

Research works

  1. The essential oil from leaves showed marked in vitro antibacterial activity against B. anthracis, Ps. mangiferae, Sal. typhi, B. mycoides, B. pumilus, Esch. coli, Sar. lutea, Stap. aureus, Staph. albus etc. (Chaurasia& Jain, 1978).
  2. The oil of P. pinnate showed antibacterial activity against several organisms (Patel &Trivedi, 1962).
  3. Karanja showed good antibacterial activity against M. tuberculosis H37 Ro leading to complete inhibition of the growth of the organism at a concentration of 10 ppm. (Ramaswamy&Sirsi, 1960, 1967).
  4. The essential oil from P. Pinnata showed mild antifungal activity (Jain &Agarwal, 1978).
  5. It showed hypoglycaemic effect in normal and alloxaninduced diabetic rabbits (Aiman, 1970).
  6. Kanugin and desmothoxykanugin isolated from stem bark given in higher doses lead to clonic convulsions in rats (Garg&Khhanna, 1980).
  7. The refined oil (free from toxic. flavonoids, bitterness and unpleasant odour) from the seeds when given at 10% level in a 20% protein diet for 12 weeks in rats showed poor growth performance. Altered lipid metabolism and fatty infiltration in liver (Mandal et al; 1984 b).
  8. In one of the toxicity studies, karanja oil was found to be more toxic, while the other fractions were also found toxic (Chakrabarty&Mandal, 1983).