The medicinal plant Pericampylus incanus is a member of the Menispermaceae (moonseed) family. This page includes its habitat, botanical descption, medicinal uses (eg., Ayurveda), chemical constituents and history of use in modern and ancient India.
Index in Flora of British India (Hooker): 1.102.
Vernacular:—Barak Kanta (B).
Habitat:—Sikkim, Assam, the Khasia hills, Chittagong, throughout the Eastern Peninsula, Malay Peninsula and Archipelago.
Botanical description:—A tomentose climbing shrub.
Stem: cylindrical and grooved.
Wood: in wedges, separated by broad medullary rays.
Branchlets: tomentose, then glabrous.
Leaves: membranous from a straight or cordate, sometimes slightly peltate base, suborbicular, obtuse, acute or retuse; pale beneath; 5 basal nerves (Brandis).
Petiole: 1-2 in.
Inflorescence: Cymes 2-3-chotomous, often many and superposed.
Peduncles: 1-2 in., axillary.
Sepals: villous, 6, with three bracts, outer smaller, inner spathulate.
Petals: 6 cuneate-acute, says Hooker, margins incurved.
Male flowers:—6 stamens; filaments cylindric, anthers adnate, bursting transversely.
Female flowers:—Staminodes 6, clavate, ovaries 3; styles bifid, segments subulate.
Drupes: red, subglobose, the size of a pea. Endocarp horse-shoe-shaped, dorsally crested and echinate; sides excavated, seed curved. Cotyledons elongate, flat, scarcely broader than the radicle.
Part used:—The root.
Medicinal uses:—The roots have long been held in great repute among snake-charmers in India as an antidote to the bites of poisonous snakes. Surgeon-Colonel D. D. Cunningham has proved that a fluid extract of the roots, when injected into the bitten place, possesses decided remedial power, though it has no general action. It acts by precipitating the poison, and thus rendering it inert when brought into direct relation with it, prior to the absorption of the venom into the system generally.