Materia Medica of medicinally important orchids

Aerides crispum Lindl.

Origin: India

Phytochemistry: Phenanthropyran: aeridin. Part used: Tubers

Aerides multiflorum Roxb.

Syn: Aerides affine Lindl.

Distribution: The Himalayas (Garhwal to Sikkim), Assam, India and Myanmar.

Part used: Tubers.

Pre-clinical studies: Antibacterial.

Agrostophyllum brevipes Ridley

Distribution: E. Himalayas to Indo-China.

Phytochemistry: Triterpenoids: agrostophyllinol and agrostophyllinone. (9).

Part used: Tubers.

Agrostophyllum callosum Rchb. f.

Distribution: The Himalayas (Nepal to Bhutan), Assam, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia. (10)

Botany: Agrostophyllum callosum is 30-60 or higher plant. Stalks are creeping rhizomes. Rhizome 3-4 mm and stem erect. Leaves 8-13 cm wide and inflorescence 1-2 cm in diameter with short pedicles. Flowers pink or white colored. (10)

Phytochemistry: Triterpenoids: agrostophyllinone and isoagrostophyllol, stilbenoids: orchinol, 6-methoxycoelonin, imbricatin, flaccidin,oxoflaccidin, isooxoflaccidin, flaccidinin, agrostophyllin, callosin, callosinin, callosumin, callosuminin and callosumidin.

Part used: Tubers.

Anoectochilus formosanus Hayata

Distribution: Taiwan.

Botany: Agrostophyllum callosum is 30-60 or higher plant. Stalks are creeping rhizomes. Rhizome 3-4 mm and stem erect. Leaves 8-13 cm wide and inflorescence 1-2 cm in diameter with short pedicles. Flowers pink or white colored.

Phytochemistry: Glycoside: kinsenoside, and polysaccharide. Part used: Tubers. Action: Anticancer.

Therapeutics: Hepatitis, hypertension and cancer.

Pre-clinical studies: Antioxidant, antihperglycemic, hepatoprotective: kinsenoside, and immuno-modulating: polysaccharide.

Arundina graminifolia (D. Don) Hochr.

Syn: Arundina bambusifolia Lindl., Cymbidium bambusifolium Roxb. Common name: Bamboo Orchid.

Distribution: The Himalayas of Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, southern China, Japan, Taiwan and south to Malaya and Java.

Botany: Arundina graminifolia is a large terrestrial plant with erect stems that are 1.5-2.5 cm tall and up to 1.5 cm in diameter. The leaves are borne in two ranks and are narrowly oblong and grass-like, 12-30 cm long and 1.6-2.5 cm. The simple, terminal inflorescence may be branched and is 1530 cm long. The large cattleya-like flowers are purple-red, flesh-colored or white and are up to 10 cm across. The lip is darker than the sepals and petals, often veined dark purple and has a yellow to orange-yellow patch at the base. The short-lived, scented flowers last for about 3 d and usually several open at the same time.

Phytochemistry: Benzyldihydrophenanthrene: arundinaol, stilbenoid:

arundinan and phenanthrene constituents.

Part used: Rhizome.

Pre-clinical studies: Antibacterial.

Bletilla striata (Thunb.) Rchb.f.

Syn: Bletilla hyacinthine (Sm.) R.Br.

Common name: Hyacinthina orchid, urn orchid.

Distribution: East Asia: China and Japan.

Botany: Bletilla striata is a deciduous terrestrial orchid. The tuberous rhizomes go up to 60 cm, papery, thin leaves. Light green leaves are plicate and are about 7.5 cm wide.

Phytochemistry: Polysaccharide.

Parts used: Pseudo bulbs.

Actions: Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiphlogistic, demulcent, pectoral, skin, styptic and vulnerary. Therapeutics: Internal hemorrhage.

Human study: Vascular embolizing agent in interventional treatment of primary hepatic carcinoma.

Cypripedium calceolus pubescens (Willd.) Correll

Syn: Cypripedium pubescens Willd., Cypripedium parviflorum pubescens (Willd.) Knight.

Common name: Lady's Slipper orchid. Distribution: N. America to E. Asia - Japan.

Botany: Plants erect, 70-700 cm. Flowers: sepals greenish or yellowish (often obscured by darker markings); dorsal sepal suborbiculate or ovate to ovate-lance-acuminate, 19-80 x 7-40 mm; lateral sepals connate; synsepal 11-80 x 5-34 mm; petals horizontal to strongly descending, same color as sepals, commonly spirally twisted or undulate, sometimes flat, linear-lanceolate to lance-ovate or oblong, 24-97 x 3-12 mm; lip rather pale to deep yellow, very rarely white, rarely with reddish spots or suffusion on adaxial external surface, 15-54 mm; orifice basal; staminode cordiform-ovoid, deltoid, lance-ovoid, or ovoid-oblong .

Parts used: Roots.

Phytochemistry: The active constituents are soluble in alcoholic extract of the plant and is known as cyprepedin. The plant is reported to contain 1-4 phenanthrenequinone known as cypripedin.

Actions: Antispasmodic, diaphoretic, hypnotic, nervine, sedative, tonic. The plant is used as substitute for Valeriana officinalis L. although it is inferior.

Therapeutics: Diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, paralysis, convalescence, impotence and malnutrition.

Dactylorhiza hatagirea (D.Don) Soo.

Syn: Orchis latifolia L.

Common name: Salampanja, Marsh orchis, salep orchid. Ayurvedic name: Munjataka.

Distribution: Western Himalayas, Afghanistan and Iran.

Botany: Dactylorhiza hatagirea is a terrestrial orchid with fleshy tuberous roots. Tubers are slightly flattened, palmately lobed. Stem is usually 30-50 cm tall, leafy and with few sheathing scales in the lower portion. Leaves are erect, oblong-lanceolate, 7-15 cm long, obtuse and with a sheathing base. Flowers are pink-purple, crowded in terminal, spicate racemes. Parts used: Roots.

Phytochemistry: Mucilage, starch, glucoside: loroglossin, albumen, volatile oil and ash. Five new compounds known as dactylorhins A-E and two natural compounds known as dactyloses A-B have been reported from plants growing in Nepal.

Actions: Aphrodisiac, expectorant and nervine tonic.

Therapeutics: Diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, paralysis, convalescence, impotence and malnutrition.

Dendrobium macraei Auct

Syn: Ephemerantha macraei (Lindl.) Hunt et Sunmeh, Flickingeria nodosa (Dalz.) Seiden f.

Ayurvedic name: Jivanti, Jeva jevaniya, saka shreshtha, yasasvini, jiva bhadra.

Distribution: The Himalayas.

Botany: An air plant, growing on jabmul tree, much branching, stems long, pendulous and knotty, with many oblong pseudo bulbs, leaf one, red sessile and long. The flowers are white, with a yellow lip 3 or 4 inches in diameter and fragrant.

Parts used: Tubers.

Phytochemistry: a and p jibantic acid and alkaloid: jebantine. Actions: Tonic.

Therapeutics: General debility. Dendrobium nobile Lindl.

Syn: Dendrobium lindleyanum, Dendrobium coerulescens. Distribution: The Himalayas and China.

Phytochemistry: mucilage, alkaloid: dendrobine, 1-4: phenanthrenequinone: denbinobine. Recently gigantol has been reported from methanolic extract of the plant growing in Japan. A bibenzyl compound, moscatilin has been isolated from the storage stem of the plant.

Actions: Antiphlogistic, pectoral, sialogogue, stomachic and tonic. Therapeutics: In Vietnam the plant is used in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, general debility, flatulence, dyspepsia, reduced salivation, parched and thirsty mouth, night sweats, fever and anorexia.

Pre-clinical studies: Anti-mutagenic.

Eulophia nuda Lindl.

Syn: Eulophia dabia (D.Don) Hochr. Common name: Whitton root, Salep. Ayurvedic name: Mankand. Distribution: The Himalayas.

Botany: The tubers, conical, surrounded with circular marks. The remains of leaflets are yellowish white or of a green color.

Parts used: Tubers.

Phytochemistry: Phenanthrenes: chief is nudol.

Actions: Demulcent and anthemnintic. Therapeutics: Worm infestation and scrofula.

Eulophia campestris Wall. Ex Stapf

Syn: Eulophia dabia (D.Don) Hochr. Distribution: The Himalayas.

Botany: The tubers, conical, surrounded with circular marks. The remains of leaflets are yellowish white or of a green color.

Parts used: Tubers.

Phytochemistry: Mucilage.

Actions: Demulcent and anthemnintic.

Therapeutics: Worm infestation and scrofula.

Habenaria edgeworthii Hook.f. ex Collett.

Syn: Habenaria acuminata Lindl. syn Platanthera edgeworthii (Hook.f. ex Collett) R.K. Gupta)

Ayurvedic names: Riddhi, Laksmi, Mangala, Rathanga, Risisrista, Saravajanpriya, Siddhi, Sukha, Vasu and Yuga.

Distribution: E. Asia—The Himalayas. In dry grassy slopes, field borders upto 2800m (26).

Botany: Stem: 30 to 60 cm. high, leafy, stout. Leaves-Ovate, oblong-lanceolate, 4-10 cm long acute, acuminate thick, upper leaves gradually smaller, nerves 5-7, base sheathing. Flowering spike- 7 cm to 25 cm long bearing many flowers. Flowers- Yellow-green 1 to 1.5 cm across with lanceolate acute bracts , the lower shorter, the upper longer; than the ovary sepals green, pubescent, the margins slightly fringed; petals yellow thick, erect; lip yellow longer than the sepals concave narrowing to a long strap shaped limb, spur about twice the length of ovary, yellowish-green curving upwards with tip curved down.

Ayurvedic dynamics: Sweet in taste and pacifies vata and pitta but aggravates kapha.

Actions: Cooling and spermopiotic. Therapeutics: Diseases of the blood. Parts used: Leaves and roots. Substitute: Pueraria tuberosa DC.

Habenaria intermedia D.Don

Syn: Habenaria arietina H.f. English name: Wild orchid.

Ayurvedic names: Riddhi, Laksmi, Mangala, Rathanga, Risisrista, Saravajanpriya, Siddhi, Sukha, Vasu and Yuga.

Distribution: E. Asia—The Himalayas. In dry grassy slopes, field borders upto 2600 m. Botany: Erect, 25-60 cm high, terete, robust leafy. Leaves-Scattered usually 5, nerved ovate-lanceolate acuminate, cordate at the base. Inflorescence: 2-6 flowered. Flowers: 5 cm across white or greenish-white few, distant. Bracts leaf like lanceolate, acuminate, equal or more than ovary. Sepals persistent, 20-25 mm long, green, spreading tips reflexed, upper one white inside. Petals white, 5-nerved. Lip 3-lobed, longer than sepals, green spur 5-6 cm stout, longer than ovary more or less curved. Side lobes deeply fringed.

Ayurvedic dynamics: Sweet in taste and pacifies vata and pitta but aggravates kapha.

Actions: Cooling and spermopiotic. Therapeutics: Diseases of the blood. Parts used: Leaves and roots. Substitute: Pueraria tuberosa DC.

Habenaria pectinata D.Don

Distribution: The Himalayas. Common name: Safed musli.

Therapeutics: The leaves are crushed and applied in snake bites. Tubers mixed with condiments are used in arthritis.

Malaxis muscifera (Lindl.) Kuntze

Ayurvedic names: Jivaka, Chiranjivi, Dirghayu, Harsanga, Ksveda, Kurchasira, Pranda, Sringaka and Svadu.

Distribution: The Himalayas 1850 m to 2300 m from Himachal Pradesh to Arunachal Pradesh.

Botany: Microstylis muscifera is a terrestrial, robust herb, up to 25 cm high. Stem tending to be psuedobulbous at base. Leaves -usually 3 may be more, 5-10 cm ovate-lanceolate, acute with prominent veins and light green. Flowers- shortly stalked about 10 mm in diameter, yellowish-green with purple centre. Sepals oblong, 2 lateral shorter than the dorsal, margins recurved. Petals linear longer than sepals, margin recurved. Lip-slightly convex, tip notched or bilobulate, auricles straight and slightly over lapping.

Phytochemistry: No information.

Ayurvedic dynamics: Sweet in taste, cold in potency, pacifies vata and aggravates kapha.

Actions: Cooling, febrifuge and spermopiotic.

Therapeutics: Bleeding diathesis, burning sensation, fever and phthisis. Part used: Bulb.

Substitute: Pueraria tuberosa DC. Malaxis acuminta D.Don

Syn: Microstylis wallichii Lindl., Malaxis wallichii Deb.

Ayurvedic names: Rishbhaka, Bandhura, Dhira, Durdhara, Gopati, Indraksa, Kakuda, Matrika, Visani, Vrisa and Vrisnabha. Distribution: The Himalayas 1800 m to 3500 m eastwards to Sikkim.

Botany: Stem- 3 to 25 cm high with ovoid pseudo bulbs. Leaves- One or two (unequal) 3-10 x 2-4 cm sessile, ovate to ovate-lanceolate obtuse, narrowed at base to sheathing petiole. Infloresence-10 to 25 cm long. Flowers- 3-4 mm long, pale-yellow-green, bracts lanceolate shorter than ovary sepals broadly lanceolate. Petals liner shorter than sepals. Lip ovate abruptly pointed, margins thickened. Flowering time- July-August. Tuber-round, shining bearing stem giving the shape of a bullock horn having a similar curvature. The taste is slightly bitter with a fat like substance. Phytochemistry: No information.

Ayurvedic dynamics: Sweet in taste, cold in potency, pacifies vata and aggravates kapha.

Actions: Cooling, febrifuge and spermopiotic.

Therapeutics: Bleeding diathesis, burning sensation, fever and phthisis. Part used: Pseudo bulb. Substitute: Pueraria tuberosa DC.

Orchis laxiflora Lam.

Syn: Orchis ensifolia Vill.

Common name: Oriental Salep, Marsh Orchis.

Distribution: South Europe, North Africa and West Asia.

Botany: Orchis laxiflora is a terrestrial orchid with fleshy tuberous roots.

Tubers are slightly flattened. Stem contains sheathing scales in the lower portion. Leaves are erect and oblong-lanceolate. Flowers are dark-purple in spicate racemes.

Phytochemistry: Mucilage.

Actions: Astringent and expectorant.

Therapeutics: Diarrhea, bronchitis and convalescence.

Part used: Bulb.

Vanda spathulata (L.) Spreng.

Distribution: Peninsular India and Sri Lanka.

Therapeutics: Powdered flowers are used in the treatment of consumption, asthma and mania.

Vanda tessellata (Roxb.) Hook. Ex Don

Syn: Vanda roxburghii R.Br. Common name: Vanda. Ayurvedic names: Atirasa and Rasna. Distribution: India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Botany: Vanda tessellata is an epiphytic orchid, 30-60 cm high, with leafy stem. Leaves are thickly coriaceous, recurved, plicate, obtuse keeled. Flowers are greenish yellow, mottled with brown on the mid lobe of lip with purple caruncles.

Phytochemistry: Alkaloid, glucoside, bitter principle, tannins, resin, saponin, sitosterols and coloring matter. A glycoside (melianin) and a complex withanolide have been reported from plants growing in Pakistan.

Actions: Aphrodisiac, analgesic and nervine tonic.

Therapeutics: Paste of leaves is used as application in fevers. It is ingredient of Rasna Panchaka Quatha, the Ayurvedic formulation used in the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism. Expressed juice of the leaves is used in the treatment of otitis media.The root is used as an antidote against scorpion stings and as a remedy for bronchitis. Parts used: Whole plant.

Pre-clinical studies: Aphrodisiac, anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, antimicrobial, and wound-healing.

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