Picrorhiza: Overview

Alternative Names: Kutki or Katki.


The rhizomes or underground stems of Picrorhiza are used.  The herb originated in and continues to grow primarily in the Himalayan mountains.

Function; Why it is Recommended

Of the active constituents in Picrorhiza, the glycosides picroside I, kutkoside, androsin and apocynin have received most of the research attention.

The bitter rhizomes of Picrorhiza have been used for thousands of years in India to treat people with indigestion.  [Krishnamurthy A.  The Wealth of India vol VIII.  New Delhi, Publication and Information Directorate, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1969: p.49] It is also used to treat people with constipation due to insufficient digestive secretion and for fever due to all manner of infections.  [Indian Materia Medica.  Bombay, Popular Prakashan, 1976: pp.953-5]

Human studies on this plant are not prolific.  A series of cases of acute viral hepatitis in India were reportedly treated successfully by a combination of picrorhiza with a variety of minerals.  [J Res Ind Med 1966;1:1-13] A number of similar reports have appeared in Indian literature over the years.


Between 400 and 1,500mg of powdered, encapsulated picrorhiza per day has been used in a variety of studies.  One author considers this equivalent to the use of 1-2ml twice per day of fluid extract of the plant.  [Townsend Letter for Doctors 1995;May: pp.88-94 (review)]

Picrorhiza tastes quite bitter; combination with ginger root powder capsules or tea can improve palatability.

Side-Effects; Counter-Indicators and Warnings

Loose stools and colic have been reported when unprepared picrorhiza rhizomes are used as medicine; extracts in alcohol have shown much less tendency to cause such effects.  [J Res Ind Med 1966;1: pp.1-13]

No other adverse effects or drug interactions have been reported with picrorhiza.

No information is available concerning pregnancy or lactation, though there is no reason to suspect picrorhiza would be a problem in either situation.  One test tube study found picrorhiza's glycosides to be non-mutagenic.  [Phytomedicine 1995;4: pp.319-22]

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Picrorhiza can help with the following:


Allergic Rhinitis / Hay Fever

[Dorsch W, Stuppner H, Wagner H, et al.  Antiasthmatic effects of Picrorhiza kurroa: Androsin prevents allergen- and PAF-induced bronchial obstruction in guinea pigs.  Int Arch Allergy Appl Immunol 1991;95: pp.128-33]



Picrorhiza, in preliminary research and in combination with the drug methoxsalen and sun exposure, was reported to hasten recovery in people with vitiligo, compared to using methoxsalen and sun exposure alone.  [Bedi KL, Zutshi U, Chopra CL, Amla V.  Picrorhiza kurroa, an Ayurvedic herb, may potentiate photochemotherapy in vitiligo.  J Ethnopharmacol 1989;27: pp.347-52]



Picrorhiza is used in India for people with constipation due to insufficient digestive secretions.  [Nadkarni KM, Nadkarni AK.  Indian Materia Medica.  Bombay, Popular Prakashan, 1976, pp.953-5]


Chronic / Hidden Infection

Picrorhiza is used for fever due to all manner of infections.  [Nadkarni KM, Nadkarni AK.  Indian Materia Medica.  Bombay, Popular Prakashan, 1976, pp.953-5]

Picroliv (a mixture of iridoid glycosides from the rhizomes of picrorhiza) has been shown to have an immuno-stimulating effect in hamsters, helping prevent infections.  [Puri A, Saxena RP, Sumati, et al.  Immunostimulant activity of Picroliv, the iridoid glycoside fraction of Picrorhiza kurroa, and its protective action against Leishmania donovani infection in hamsters.  Planta Med 1992;58: pp.528-32]


Rheumatoid Arthritis

Open-label studies conducted in India show a preliminary benefit for persons with primarily rheumatoid arthritis.  [Langer JG, Gupta OP, Atal CK (1981) "Clinical trials on Picrorhiza kurroa" Ind J Pharmacol 13: pp.98-103 (review)] More study is needed before any definite conclusions can be drawn.

See also [T Hart BA, Simons JM, Knaan-Shanzer S, et al.  Antiarthritic activity of the newly developed neutrophil oxidative burst antagonist apocynin.  Free Rad Biol Med 1990;9: pp.127-31]

Organ Health


A series of cases of acute viral hepatitis were reported by one group in India, showing picrorhiza, combined with a variety of minerals, to be helpful in hastening recovery.[Chaturvedi GN, Singh RH.  Jaundice of infectious hepatitis and its treatment with an indigenous drug, Picrorhiza kurrooa [sic].  J Res Ind Med 1966;1: pp.1-13]

A variety of similar reports have appeared in the Indian literature over the years.  Between 400 and 1,500mg of powdered, encapsulated picrorhiza per day has been used in a variety of studies.

A tincture of picrorhiza protected rats against oxidation in the liver.  [Anandan R, Devaki T.  Hepatoprotective effect of Picrorrhiza [sic] kurroa on tissue defense system in D-galactosamine-induced hepatitis in rats.  Fitoterapia 1999;70: pp.54-7] This confirmed earlier evidence suggesting picrorhiza contains antioxidant glycosides.  [Chander R, Kapoor NK, Dhawan BN (1992) "Picroliv, picroside-I and kutkoside from Picrorhiza kurroa are scavengers of superoxide anions" Biochem Pharmacol 1992;44: pp.180-3]



Two open-label, non-placebo, controlled human studies have shown picrorhiza to be of benefit in asthma.  [Indian J Pharmacol 1975;7: pp.95-6, J Postgrad Med 1977;23: pp.118-20] However, a follow-up double-blind study did not confirm these earlier findings.  [J Postgrad Med 1983;29: pp.89-95]

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Picrorhiza can help prevent the following:

Tumors, Malignant

Liver Cancer

Picrorhiza has been shown to reduce formation of liver cancer due to chemical exposures in animal studies.  [Jeena KJ, Joy KL, Kuttan R.  Effect of Emblica officinalis, Phyllanthus amarus and Picrorrhiza [sic] kurroa on N-nitrosodiethylamine induced hepatocardinogenesis.  Cancer Lett 1999;136: pp.11-6]

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