Pongamia Pinnata (Karanja): Fungal Dermatosis Cure

Chronic fungal infection of the skin, hair, or nails is caused by specific species of fungi such as Trichophyton, Microsporum and Epidermophyton. In layman’s terms, the condition is called “ringworm” or tinea infection which is extremely common in general practice. Ringworm is characterized by round lesions (rings) and there are multiple terms for ringworm infection of various body sites such as; tinea corporis (body), tinea paedis (feet), tinea unguium (nail), tinea capitis (scalp) or tinea cruris (groin).


It is highly contagious and can spread through contact with an infected person, animal, and objects like contaminated toilet articles, clothing, pool surfaces, showers, locker rooms and even soil. Acquisition of ringworm appears to be favoured by minor trauma (including that incurred during wrestling), maceration and poor hygiene of the skin. Heat and moisture help fungi grow and thrive, which makes them more common in areas of frequent sweating as well as skin folds in groins or between toes.

The signs and symptoms vary with the site of infection and the fungal species involved. Foot infection (athlete’s foot, tinea paedis) may present as fissuring of the toe webs, scaling of the plantar surfaces or vesicles around the toe webs and soles. Inter-digital lesions may be itchy but become painful when bacterial superinfection occurs. Hand infection is less common but it resembles foot infection. Scalp infection (tinea capitis) is characterized by areas of alopecia and scaling. Nail infection (tinea unguium) presents as a white discoloration of the nails or as thickening, chalkiness and crumbling of the nails. Tinea of the groin (‘jock itch’) tends to have a darkening of skin colour and extends from the folds of the groin down onto one or both thighs.

Though skin fungal infection like ringworm is not so easy to treat, recent uncomplicated infection can be checked by one of the most popular herbal powders and oil made from a single drug, Karanja, and also by maintaining hygiene and following certain do’s and don’ts given in the Ayurvedic literature.
  1. Keep the affected part clean, wash it daily with warm water and wipe dry. 
  2. Local application of simple medicaments like neem oil, turmeric paste made with water or sulphur ointment can provide added effect. 
  3. It is always advisable to continue the treatment for sometime, even if symptoms come under control. 
  4. The cloth once used at the affected part should be reused only after washing and dipping in an antiseptic solution. 
  5. Curd and heavy foods should be avoided. Food items with bitter taste are beneficial. 
Karanja (Pongamia pinnata Linn. Merr.)

Karanja botanically known as Pongamia pinnata Linn., is a mediumsized tree with a short bole and spreading crown and found almost throughout India up to an altitude of 1200 metres. Karanja seeds are used internally as well as externally in various types of skin aliments including fungal skin disease. Seed oil is highly esteemed for medicinal purposes and is indicated for local application in scabies, herpes, leucoderma and other cutaneous diseases. This remedy is also enlisted in Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia of India for management of various skin diseases.

Composition 

Pongamia oil is extracted from Karanja seeds for local application on affected parts.

English name Indian beech, smooth leaved pongamia, Pongam oil tree
Latin name Pongamia pinnata Linn.
Family Fabaceae
Part used Seeds

Pongmia Pinnata


Main chemical constituents

Karanja seeds contain fixed oil, flavones and traces of essential oil. 

Quality standards

Foreign matter Not more than 2% 
Total ash Not more than 11% 
Acid-insoluble ash Not more than 3.5% 
Alcohol-soluble extractives Not less than 10% 
Water-soluble extractive Not less than 16% 

Method of preparation 
  • Preparation of powder: 
    • Clean the dried fruits of Karanja by removing dust and other foreign particles. Remove the seeds from the shells and grind them into powder form. 
    • Filter the powder through sieve. Store in air-tight container, away from direct sunlight and in a cool and dry place. 
    • It is always good to use fresh Karanja seed powder for better results. It can be used only up to four months. 
  •  Preparation of oil: 
    •  Pongamia oil is extracted by crushing seeds of Karanja. Purified Pongamia oil available in the market can also be used. 
Dosage form 

Dusty powder and yellowish orange oil. 

Dose and mode of administration 
  1. The adult dose of Karanja seed powder is 250 mg and for children the dose is 30 mg to 60 mg, to be taken orally twice daily with lukewarm water after meals. 
  2. Simultaneously, Pongamia oil is to be applied on the affected skin as per the requirement. Pongamia oil can be applied alone or in combination with sesame oil or neem oil. 
Therapeutic properties

Karanja has anthelmintic, insecticidal, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, nematocidal, and wound-healing properties. 

Indications and uses

Karanja is indicated for skin diseases such as ringworm, scabies, eczema, urticaria, erysipelas, leucoderma, leprosy, gonorrhoea, herpes (shingles or herpes zoster and also against herpes genitalis), impetigo and pityriasis versicolor. 

Precaution and safety aspects 
  1. Overdose of Karanja seed powder should be avoided. If any adverse effect is observed, stop taking it further. 
  2. Internal use of Pongamia oil is reported to have adverse effects due to its toxic components3 and hence should be avoided. 
  3. Adverse effects with external use of Pongamia oil are not reported but be observant while using this medicament.
  4. Internal use of Karanja is not advisable for pregnant women and nursing mothers. 
References 
  • India. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia of India. Part I. Vol. I. New Delhi: Department of Indian Systems of Medicine & Homeopathy. 2001. p. 63-64. 
  • India. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia of India. Part I. Vol. I. New Delhi: Department of Indian Systems of Medicine & Homeopathy, 2001. p. 63.

(Meyda Azzahra)