Synonyms Bitter stick; Chiretta; Chirayita; East Indian Balmony.
Biological Source It is the dried plant of Swerlia (Ophelia) chirata (Roxb) Buch-Ham; belonging to family Gentianaceae.
Geographical Source It is found in India from Himalaya to the mountainous regions in Kashmir, Bhutan, Meghalaya and Khasi Hills at an altitude ranging between 1200-1500 meters. It is also grown in Nepal.
Preparation The plant usually flowers from July to October. It is collected for medicinal utilities as and when the capsuls are fully formed. The dried plants are tied into bundles weighting approximately 1-1.25 kg.
Colour : Leaves, flowers and fruits-yellowish shade; stem-yellowish brown to purple
Odour : Odourless
Taste : Extremely bitter
Size : Stems = Length: 1.0 meter; Breadth = 6 mm
Shape : Stems are mostly cylindrical, glabrous and quandrangular at the appex hawing a large pith.
Chemical Constituents It invariably contains bitter principles, namely: ophelic acid; bitter glycosides: amarogentin and chiratin; alkaloids; gentianine and gentiocrucine.
Substituents/Adulterants In fact, there are three widely known substituents for chirata, namely:
(a) Swertia paniculata Wall: The plant grows in the temperate climate of Western Himalaya, from Kashmir to Nepal at an attitude of 2000-3000 meters;
(b) Swertia angustifolia Buch-Ham: The plant is found in the subtropical region of Himalaya at an altitude ranging between 300 to 2000 meters from the Chenab to Bhutan; and
(c) Sweritia densifolia: It grows in the Konkan region and usually attains a height of about 30 to 90 cm.
1. It is invariably used as a bitter tonic.
2. It also finds its use as a febrifuge.
3. It is employed in dyspepsia.
4. It has been recommended as a diuretic and in epilepsy.
5. Industrially, it is extensively used in dyeing cotton cloth.