A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.
The psoralea is a climbing variety of beans commonly found all over China. The seeds of psoralea are large, hard and black in color. And dissimilar to the common variety of beans grow in the gardens; the seeds of psoralea are heady and bitter to taste. These seeds are normally harvested during the fall when they are ripe.
In China and Japan, psoralea is among the key herbs used extensively by herbalists to treat the various skin disorders. Chinese and Japanese herbal medicine practitioners have been using the herb to cure eczema, vitiligo as well as hair loss. Besides its benefits in treating skin disorder, psoralea combats staph (bacteria appearing in clusters) infections and at the same time, invigorates the heart. Psoralea is known as bu gu zhi that literally translated into English denotes ‘tonify bone resin'. The herb is also useful for enhancing bone calcification or adding calcium and this process makes psoralea valuable while treating bone disorders such as osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Psoralea comprises of a substance called psoralen that is a vigorous element to enhance pigmentation of the skin and hence useful in treating vitiligo, a disease in which patches of the skin loses its pigments. Experience has shown that when applied externally on hypo-pigmented skin or skin that is losing pigmentation, psoralens brings about residual pigmentation. At the same time, psoralens improve the flow of blood and enhance the activity to produce melanin (pigments) on the unhealthy areas of the skin.
Here is a word of caution for people applying psoralea on the skin. It must be borne in that mind that external application of psoralea on the skin may often sensitize the skin and lead to allergic effects when exposed to the sun. The psoralea fruits that are one-sided, as they include the seed as well as the seedpods are considered to possess rich aphrodisiac properties and are used as a tonic for the genital organs. The psoralea fruits are widely used to stimulate sexual urge. The seed of the psoralea fruit has numerous properties and it is said to possess anti-bacterial, anthelmintic (a substance that eliminates parasitic worms), aphrodisiac, astringent, cardiac, cytotoxic, de-obstruent, diuretic (a substance that enhances the flow of urine), diaphoretic (a substance that enhances sweating), stimulant, stomachic (something related to the stomach) and tonic functions. Herbal medicine practitioners extensively use the psoralea seeds to treat feverish ailments, premature ejaculation, impotence, lower back pains, frequent urination, incontinence, bed wetting and many other physical disorders.
Seeds of the psoralea fruits are also beneficial in treating different skin problems such as leprosy and leucoderma (loss of the skin's pigmentation). Both the fruit as well as the seed of the plant enclose psoralen, which is valuable for enabling the skin to create new pigments when out in the open to sunlight and hence is effectively used to cure diseases such as vitiligo and psoriasis (a skin ailment that is marked by red scaly patches). In addition, the anti-bacterial function of the psoralea fruit slows down the development or growth of Mycobacterium tuberculos. The fruits of psoralea are harvested when they ripen in autumn. The fruits may be used fresh or even dehydrated and stored for future use. The plant's roots are effectual in treating dental caries or tooth decay. The herb also produces a very valuable therapeutic resin oil mixture or oleoresin that is useful in treating kidney problems, impotency, premature ejaculation, lumbago or pain in the lumbar region of the back.
The psoralea is a useful therapeutic plant and is widely used to treat different disorders. Listed below are the benefits of psoralea for exact physical conditions.
Cancer - researches have shown that the psoralea plant encloses elements such as bavachinin, corylfolinin and psoralen. All these substances present in the plant slow down the speedy growth of osteosarcoma as well as lung cancer cells. Hence, medications prepared with psoralea are recommended by herbalists to treat these specific conditions of cancer.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
The psoralea herb grows and thrives well in any average garden top soil. The plant however, prefers a well-drained soil and enough of sunlight. The psoralea plants are very sensitive in the sense that they cannot endure any disturbance of the root and hence it is advisable while the plants are still small they should be planted outdoors in their stable place. The psoralea enjoys a symbiotic or ‘give-and-take' rapport with specific bacteria in the soil. These bacteria form lumps on the psoralea roots and attach the much need nitrogen for the plant from the atmosphere on the roots. The amount of nitrogen deposits in the nodules formed by the bacteria are so abundant that while the psoralea plants can utilize some of it, the remaining nitrogen can be used by plants growing in the vicinity.
The psoralea plant is propagated through seeds. The best season to grow the plant is from early to middle of spring. For effective propagation of this variety of climbing beans, soak the seeds in warm water for approximately 24 hours and then sow them early in a greenhouse. It is always better to sow the seeds in separate pots or containers as this will not require any relocation of the plant. Alternatively, the seeds may be sowed in one large pot and the seedlings removed as early as possible, as the psoralea plant cannot tolerate any root disturbance. Continue to grow them in the pots till they are suitable for planting in their permanent place in the outdoors. It may be remembered that it is virtually not possible to transplant this variety of the beans species without afflicting some damage to their roots. The psoralea plant requires a division during the spring. Utmost care should be adopted while undertaking the division process as the plant is averse to any kind of annoyance to its roots. Again, it must be mentioned here that it is almost unfeasible to do the division of the plant with 100 per cent success as there is bound to be some damage to the roots.
Side effects and cautions
Psoralea is available in the market in various forms, especially capsules. Psoralea capsules that are commonly available are branded as psoralea seed capsule, bug u zhi and scurfy pea. Significantly, psoralea is bizarre in the sense that the herb has the potential to make the skin sensitive to the harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun as well curing the disorder. It is advisable to use the herb with a sunscreen or keep away from the sun if not psoralea is being used to heal the skin of a light-sensitive complaint. It may be noted here that mild stomach disorders caused owing to the use of psoralea may be cured by drinking ginger tea.
Here is a word of caution. One should never use psoralea or medications prepared with it along with licorice (a perennial herb with spiked blue feathery leaves) root. There have been some complaints that applying psoralea locally on the skin have resulted to irritation and blistering.