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 Medicinal Plant Picrorhiza kurroa (Kutki)

  Common Name
  Picrorhiza kurroa Plant
  Chemical Constituents
  Picrorhiza kurroa as Medicinal Herb
  Picrorhiza kurroa History
  Picrorhiza kurroa Side Effects
  Recent research


Picrorhiza kurroa (katuka, kutki) is a small perennial herb growing in the hilly parts of the North-Western Himalayan region in India and Nepal. The leaf, bark and the underground parts of the plant, mainly rhizomes are widely used in the traditional Ayurvedic systems of medicine to treat people with indigestion, constipation due to insufficient digestive secretion, liver, a potent immune stimulant and prevent hepatic injury. The rhizome of Picrorhiza has been traditionally used to treat worms, constipation, low fever, scorpion sting, asthma and ailments affecting the liver.

   Kutki plant

     Picrorhiza kurroa (Kutki) plantv

  Common Name

Hindi -            Kutki 
English -        Hellebore 
Latin  -           Picrorhiza kurroa Royle ex Benth
Sanskrit -       Katuka katurohini
Tamil    -        Katuka rohini, Katuku rohini, Kadugurohini
Kannada -      Katuka rohini, katuka rohini
Telgu       -     Karukarohini
Malayalam-    Kaduk rohini, Katuka rohini
Marathi     -    Kutki, Kalikutki
Gujarati        :Kadu, Katu
Assamese -   Katki, Kutki
Oriya        -    Katuki
Punjabi    -     Karru, kaur
Urdu        -     Kutki
China       -    Hu huang lian

   Picrorhiza kurroa Plant

The plant is naturally distributed in alpine and temperate regions of Himalaya from 2500 to 3500 m. It is a perennial creeping herb, which spreads by stolons. A whorl of radical leaves arise from rhizome tip. The flowering scape attains an average height of 16 cm to 17.5 cm

 Root : Picrorhiza kurroa roots are bitter tasting and hard, about 6-10 inches in length, and creeping.

   Kutki roots

       Picrorhiza kurroa roots

  Leaves: The leaves are 2-4 inches long, oval in shape with a sharp apex, flat, and serrate. 
  Flowers: The flowers are white or pale purple on a long spike, blooming in June through August. Flowering occurs in one or two phases depending upon altitude of the growing site. The fist phase starts in  May and continues up to the end of June and the second flowering begins in August and  continues up to end of September. In alpine regions , flowering occurs only once in July-August and seeds develop in September. Flowers are borne on a scape in an indeterminate spike forming more or less a triangular head. Flowers are purple coloured, bisexual and having convex thalamus.
Fruit: The fruit is ½ inch long and oval in shape.
Seed: The extremely small sized seed is 1.3 x 1 mm in size. Embryo is enclosed in the large bladdery loose hyaline reticulate testa.

  Chemical Constituents

Picrorhiza kurroa root contains a Kutkin, a bitter glycosidal principle  Also isolated D-mannitol, vanillic acid and some steroids are present in the plant. Kutkin was later shown to be a stable mixed crystal of two C-9 iridoid glycosides- Picroside I and Kutakosid. Apocynin has been isolated from the plant. Picroside II has been isolated and shown to have hepatoprotective activity. With the help of preparative HPLC, larger Quantities of picrosides have been isolated, permitting precise structure identification and biological experiments.


Picrorhiza kurroa, or Kutki, is  a valuable medicinal herb that grows at high altitudes in the  Himalayas. It  is harvested today in traditional pattern, as it has been for thousands of years, by the local villagers The plant is self- regenerating. The seeds of this herb have low viability and regeneration potential and plants are difficult to grow at low altitudes and in new ecological niches. Various biotechnological approaches have been employed during the past few years to enhance the content of bioactive molecules in both plants and microbes. Marked success has been reported in enhancing the production of key secondary metabolites in plants by the genetic manipulation of biosyn-thetic pathways using genetic transformation

For the cultivation of Picrorhiza kurroa andy textured loam soil is best for the cultivation of kutki. High moisture contents and partial shady areas are suitable for its cultivation. The rhizome of picrorhiza kurroa is manually harvested in October through December.

   Picrorhiza kurroa as Medicinal Herb

Picrorhiza kurroa is an important herb in Ayurvedic medicine used  to protects the liver against hepatotoxins, hepatoprotective properties, Potent antioxidant activity, Modulates liver enzyme levels, anti-inflammatory action anti-allergy action. It is used as a mild laxative, hepatoprotective, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic. It helps in cases of skin problems, jaundice and improves eye sight. It is also used to check first stage of liver cancer.

It has been used to cure disorders of the liver and upper respiratory tract (URT). It also reduce fevers and to resolve dyspepsia, chronic diarrheal condition. Picrorhiza kurroa also contains apocynin, a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, which also reduces platelet aggregation.

The actions of Picrorhiza kurroa are antibacterial, antiperiodic, laxative(in smaller doses) stomachic and bitter tonic, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy, antioxidant; modulates the immune system and liver enzyme levels. Picrorhiza kurroa is traditionally used to treat disorders of the upper respiratory tract, and beneficial as an herbal treatment for bronchial asthma  Picrorhiza is a traditional herbal treatment for scorpion stings and snake bites.

  Picrorhiza kurroa History

The leaf, bark and the underground parts of the plant, mainly rhizomes are widely used in the traditional Indian Ayurvedic  systems of medicine since ancient times. Although it shows anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immuno-modulatory activities, it is most valued for its hepatoprotective effect. The bitter rhizomes of Picrorhiza kurroa (Kutki) have been used for thousands of years in India to treat people with indigestion , and constipation due to insufficient digestive secretion .Picrorhiza kurroa is considered as a trophorestorative herb for the liver, as well as a potent immune stimulant . Its constituent, picroliv is also reported to possess choleretic effect , and prevent hepatic injury caused by ethanol , chemicals and microorganism

  Picrorhiza kurroa Side Effects

Picrorhiza root extracts are widely used in India with no adverse effects being reported. It is essential to consult your health care professional when altering medications and you should thoroughly investigate how your medications may interact with each other. Use this herb internally at all, or only under the supervision of a qualified expert.


Picrorhiza kurroa is an important herb in the traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of medicine, used to treat liver and upper respiratory conditions. In market the demand of rhizome is increasing.

  Recent research

Studies have shown that the curcubitacins in picrorhiza kurroa are highly cytotoxic and have antitumor actions and that it may reduce blood cholesterol levels and reduce coagulation time. Recent studies of the rhizome, was shown to boost the immune system and to have a specific action against the parasite Leishmania donovani, which causes the tropical parasitic disease called leishmaniasis.

Studies on Animal  have shown that picrorhiza kurroa has a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. The active constituents of picrorhiza kurroa may prevent liver toxicity and the ensuing biochemical changes caused by numerous toxic agents. In other animal studies picrorhiza raised depleted glutathione levels in rats infected with malaria and boosting detoxification.


 1.Krishnamurthy A: "The Wealth of India - Volume VIII". New Delhi, Publication and Information Directorate, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research
 2. Indian Materia Medica Bombay, Popular Prakashan
 3. Shukla B, Visen PK, Patnaik GK: *Choleretic effect of Picroliv, the hepatoprotective principle of Picrorhiza kurroa.
 4. Subedi BP. Plant profile: Kutki (Picrorhiza scrophulariiflora)
 5. Stuppner H, Wagner H. New cucurbitacin glycosides from Picrorhiza kurroa. Planta Med 1989


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