FAMILY: Apocynaceae (Dogbane Family)
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.
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Hemidesmus indicus 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 and oval shaped, closely resembling blades of grass, and they maintain a uniform shiny dark green color throughout the year. The stems stiffens and become woody over time, and the bark varies in color from dark red to rust to brown. In the right climate H. indicus will produce flowers almost all year round; the flowers are small, thin and elongated, and 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 (Austin 2008).
Sugandi is found growing natively all over southern Asia, but it originated in India where it is still often found growing wild. 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 (Acharya et al. 2006).
TRADITIONAL USES: Hemidesmus indicus, also known in ancient Ayurvedic medicine as Sugandi or Sariva, has been revered for its medicinal properties for nearly a thousand years. Traditional Ayurvedic 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. It is used to treat stomach problems, cure rashes, ease the mind, quell the symptoms of syphilis, induce trance states and deep meditation, and to clarify and prepare the mind for the dream world (Pole 2006).
Ayurvedic 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. Sariva is used to help the experienced conscious dreamer achieve lucidity during the dream or REM phase of sleep. Ayurvedic healers also prescribed it to men suffering from low libido and sexual impotence, it is believed that one of active compounds produced by the roots improves male testosterone levels and therefore sexual desire, sperm count, and overall sexual performance (Rout et al. 2009).
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 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. 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 consumed immediately to minimize degradation of the active compounds and revitalize the body (Pole 2006).
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), and 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 (La-Medicca 2007).
MEDICINAL USES: Over the centuries, Ayurvedic sages have developed myriad medicinal uses and a wide variety of traditional medicines made with Sariva root. Several of these traditional uses have been validated by modern science and the plant is still prescribed as medicine to this day. The majority of traditional remedies and medicinal tonics are almost exclusively made from the plant’s 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 and vulnerary. It prevents miscarriages, improves fertility, and treats syphilis (Arun et al. 2007).
For hundreds of years Ayurvedic practitioners 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 aid in meditation, trance, and lucid dream induction. 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 high stress (Arun et al. 2007).
In traditional Hindi folk wisdom, healers or sages used the roots to cleanse the blood of toxins, soothe skin irritations and rashes, reduce the burning sensations caused by urinary tract infections, reduce fevers, and to heal moderate cases of acne. Women use Sugandi root to promote a healthy pregnancy and to reduce the possibility of a miscarriage (Arun et al. 2007).
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: 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, and vanillin, as well as many other potentially psychoactive compounds (Kainthla et al. 2006).
Sugandi root is a powerful Ayurvedic dream traveling plant. The most noteworthy effects are the calming, clarifying and tranquil feelings produced by consuming the root tea. After drinking the tea, users describe an overall relaxing, calming sensation that envelopes them with feelings of euphoria and puts the mind at ease. Many avid dreamers drink the tea an hour before they go to bed, reporting that it helps them maintain mental clarity and focus as they drift off to sleep. Later in the night, dreamers report being able to recognize the dream state and to easily achieve lucidity, often four or five times in one night. The roots are also known to help relieve stress by inducing an overwhelming sensation of relaxation, euphoria, and tranquility (Pole 2006).
Arun, V., V. Liju, and J. Reena. “Traditional Remedies of Kani Tribes of Kottoor Reserve Forest, Agasthyavanam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.” Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, n.d.
Grieve, M. “Sarsaparilla, Indian.” Botanical.com, 2009.
“Hemidesmus Indica Capsules.” La-meddica.com, 2007.
“Hemidesmus Indicus.” Wikipedia, 2009.
Kainthla, R., R. Kashyap, and J. Deopujari. “Effect of Hemidesmus Indicus (Anantmool) Extract on IgG Production and Adenosine Deaminase Activity of Human Lymphocytes in Vitro.” Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 2006.
Madhu, A., K. Prashanth, and J. Singh. “To Evaluate the Anti-Epileptic Activity of Aqueous Root Extract of Hemidesmus Indicus in Rats.” Archives of the Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, 2009.
Pole, S. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. Philadelphia: Elsevier: Churchill Livingstone, 2006.
Prabakan, M., R. Anandan, and T. Devaki. “Protective Effect of Hemidesmus Indicus Against Rifampicin and Isoniazid-induced Hepatotoxicity in Rats.” SciVerse, 2000.
Rout, S., T. Panda, and N. Mishra. “Ethno-medicinal Plants Used to Cure Different Diseases by Tribals of Mayurbhanj District of North Orissa.” Studies on Ethno-Medicine, 2009.