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Hemidesmus indicus - Sugandi, Sariva
Apocynaceae - Subtropical India -

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FAMILY: Apocynaceae (Dogbane Family)
GENUS: Hemidesmus
SPECIES: Indicus
COMMON NAMES: Ananta-mula, Anantmoola, Ananthamoola, Anantmula, Asclepias pseudosarsa, Country Sarasaparilla, Durivel, East Indian Sarsaparilla, Eternal root, False Sarsaparilla, Fragrant one, Gadisugandhi, Gopakanya, Hemidesmus pubescens, Hemidismus Indica-Radix, Kapuri, Karibandha, Magrabu, Muttavapulagamu, Naga-jihva, Naruninti, Nunnari, Nunnery root, Onontomulo, Periploca indica, Sariva, Smilax aspera, Sogade, Sugandhi-pala, Sugandi root, Upalasari, White Sariva.

Hemidesmus Indicus, also known in ancient Ayurveda medicine as Sugandi, has been revered for its medicinal properties for nearly a thousand years. Sugandi is a perennial, fast-growing thin creeper vine; that sends tendrils out at every node to cling to the surrounding vegetation for stability and support. The leaves are very slender, smooth, oval shaped, closely resembling blades of grass, and they maintain a uniform shiny dark green color throughout the year. The stems will stiffen and become woody over time, the bark will vary in color from dark red, rust to brown. In the right climate it will produce flowers almost all year round; the flowers are small, thin and elongated, light green with a purple hue inside. The seeds are white and covered in tiny silvery white hairs. The root system is sparse, linear and usually produces one main root with very few side branches. The roots are known to be very aromatic, emitting a sweet scent reminiscent of a combination of vanilla, cinnamon and almonds.

Sugandi is found growing indigenously all over southern Asia, but it originated in India where it is still primarily found growing wildly. It is also known to grow in Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. This ancient healing plant has been transported to all parts of the world and is prized by many horticulturists and practitioners of traditional medicine for its healing properties and aromatic qualities.

Hemidismus Indica is known to naturally produce a wide variety of beneficial compounds known for their healing and calmative effects. This plant has been the focus of many different scientific studies, and there are over a hundred unique compounds that have been isolated from the roots, stems, leaves and flowers. Some of the many compounds found in this plant include: 2-hydroxy-4-methoxy benzaldehyde, 2-hyroxy-4-methoxy benzenoid, alpha-amyrins triterpene, benzoic acid, beta-amyrins, beta-sitosterol, coumarin, delta-dehydro lupeol acetate, delta-dehydrolupanyl-3-beta-acetate, desmine, glucosides, hemidesmin-1, hemidesmin-2, hemidescine, hemidesmic acid, hemidesmine, hemidesmol, hemidesterol, hemidine, hemisine, hexa triconate acid, hyperoside, indicine, indicusin, lactone, lupanone, lupeol acetate, lupeol octacosonate, medidesmine, p-methoxy salicylic aldehyde, pregnane ester diglycoside desinine, sarsapogenin, sarsaponin, sitosterol, smilacin, smilgenin, stigmasterol, tannin, triterpenoid saponin, vanillin, as well as many other potentially psychoactive compounds.

TRADITIONAL USE: Traditional Ayurveda medicine practitioners have used Sariva for hundreds and hundreds of years; it was used as a healing herb as well as a magical-spiritual dream herb. They used it to treat stomach problems, cure rashes, ease the mind, quell the symptoms of syphilis, to help induce trance states and deep meditation, and to clarify and prepare the mind for the dream world. Ayurveda tradition holds that the roots of the Hemidesmus Indicus plant will transport the user to deeper states of sleep and through the four gates of dreaming, as written about by Carlos Castaneda, in The Art of Dreaming. It is used to help the experienced conscious dreamer achieve lucidity during the dream or REM phase of sleep. Ayurveda healers also prescribed it to men suffering from low libido and sexual impotence, it is believed that one of active compounds produced by roots improves male testosterone levels and therefore improves sexual desire, sperm count and overall sexual performance. In traditional Hindi folk wisdom, the healer or sages used the roots to cleanse the blood of toxins, soothe skin irritations and rashes, to reduce the burning sensations caused by urinary tract infections, to reduce fevers, as well as to heal moderate cases of acne. Women use Sugandi roots to promote a healthy pregnancy and to reduce the possibility of a miscarriage.    

TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: Because so many different tribal communities in India utilize Hemidesmus Indicus for its healing properties, there are many different ways in which the plant is prepared. Most of the preparations call for the roots of the plant to be dried and ground into a fine powder, which is then either mixed with other medicinal herbs to make salves and balms, or the powder is steeped in warm water and then ingested as a tea. One popular recipe requires two ounces of the root to be boiled in water for an hour and the resulting liquid must then be consumed over the course of twenty-four hours. However, it is known that some of the active compounds are destroyed while the roots are boiling, so it may be wise to simmer the roots instead of allowing them to remain in boiling water. Tribes in India crush the roots and then pressing them to extract the vital juices which are then consumed immediately to minimize degradation of the active compounds and revitalize the body. Modern preparations merely encapsulate the dried root powder into gelatin capsules, and recommend consuming five grams per day for maximum health benefits. The native people living throughout the Himalayan highlands and elsewhere on the Indian subcontinent are known to grind dried Sugandi roots and leaves and mix them with Ocimum tenuiflorum (Holy Basil) seeds, Aegle marmelos (Bel Fruit), Nelumbo nucifera (Blue Lotus), Picrorhiza kurroa (Katuka), Carthamus tinctorius (Safflower) and then smoke the resulting blend, which induces visions and acts as a catalyst, launching the user into profound waking dream states.

MEDICINAL USES: Over the centuries, Ayurveda sages have developed myriad medicinal uses and a wide variety of traditional medicines made with Sariva roots, several of these traditional uses have been validated by modern science and continue to be prescribed to this day. The majority of traditional remedies and medicinal tonics are almost exclusively made from the plantís roots; however there are several skin creams and digestive aids that utilize the whole plant. There are six major therapeutic uses that have been time tested and shown to be efficacious: Hemidesmus Indicus is effective as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, vulnerary, anti-miscarriage, to improve fertility and treat syphilis. For hundreds of years Ayurveda shaman have used Sugandi root to promote a calm and tranquil state of mind, to maintain mental clarity while falling asleep and to achieve lucidity while dreaming. This is definitely a powerful dream herb that is used by many people to aide in meditation, trance, and to induce lucid dreams. There is also significant scientific evidence that Hemidesmus Indicus can be used effectively as a treatment for arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, epileptic seizures, high blood pressure, immune disorders, and to relieve stress.

TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Sugandi root is a powerful Ayurveda Shamanic dream traveling plant and should be studied with great care. The most noteworthy effects are the calming, clarifying and tranquil feelings produced by consuming the root tea. After dinking the tea users describe an overall relaxing, calming sensation that envelopes them with feelings of euphoria and puts their mind at ease. Many avid dreamers drink the tea an hour before they go to bed, they report that the tea helps them maintain mental clarity and focus as they drift off to sleep. Later in the night they explain that they are able to recognize that they are dreaming and then they can easily achieve lucidity, often four or five times in one night. The roots are also known to help relieve stress by inducing overwhelming sensation of relaxation, euphoria, and tranquility.  

Acharya, D; Sancheti, G; Shrivastava, A; et al. 2006. Rare Herb of Patalkot: Hemidesmus indicus.

Arun, V; Liju, V; Reena, J; et al. 2007. Traditional Remedies of Kani Tribes of Kottoor Reserve Forest, Agasthyavanam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge. (PDF)

Austin, A. 2008. A Review on Indian Sarsaparilla, Hemidesmus indicus. Journal of Biological Sciences. (PDF)

Grieve, M. 2009. Sarsaparilla, Indian.

Kainthla, R; Kashyap, R; Deopujari, J; et al. 2006. Effect of Hemidesmus indicus (Anantmool) extract on IgG production and adenosine deaminase activity of human lymphocytes in vitro. Indian Journal of Pharmacology. (PDF)

La-Medicca. 2007. Hemidismus Indica Capules. (India) Private Limited;

Madhu, A; Prashanth, K; Singh, J; et al. 2009. To Evaluate the Anti-Epileptic Activity of Aqueous Root Extract of Hemidesmus Indicus in Rats. Archives of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research. (PDF)

Pole, Sebastian. 2006. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. Elsevier: Churchill Livingstone; Philadelphia, PA. (PDF)

Prabakan, M; Anandan, R; Devaki, T. 2000. Protective effect of Hemidesmus indicus against rifampicin and isoniazid-induced hepatotoxicity in rats. Fitoterapia.

Rout, S; Panda, T; Mishra, N. 2009. Ethno-medicinal Plants Used to Cure Different Diseases by
Tribals of Mayurbhanj District of North Orissa. Studies on Entho-Medicine. (PDF)

Wikipedia. 2009. Hemidesmus indicus.

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