Katuka/Kutki (Picrorhiza Kurroa): The Magic Herb For Liver Diseases

Kutki / Katuki- Picrorhiza Kurrao
Kutki / Katuki- Picrorhiza Kurrao

Katuki is a small hairy perennial herb with elongate, stout creeping rootstock and withered leaf base. The botanical name is Picrorhiza kurroa, and the Hindi name is kutaki, usually pronounced, kutki. The Sanskrit name ‘Katuki’ means ‘That which envelops diseases’. It is usually found in the Himalayas and belongs to the family of Scrophulariaceae. Its leaves are 4 to 10cm long radially. It has a whitish or pale bluish coloured flower which has a long flowering branch. The fruits are usually ovular (capsule-shaped) in shape. It is harvested between October to December. The locals of the place collect Kutki from May to December. The whole plant is pulled out manually. Kutki root is bitter in taste but has a cooling effect.

The bitterness is a mixture of two molecules, the irioid glycosides known as picroside I and picroside II (picroside II also being called kutkoside) and this together makes kutkin or picroliv. Kutki Powder helps in healthy digestion of food. It helps to improve the secretions of the liver & gall bladder and protects the liver from different types of infections. It also helps to improve digestion & metabolism of fats. It helps in purifying the blood and helps to provide healthy skin.


Katuka Uses

The anatomy and the feature of each component are listed as follows:-

  • Asrajit –it is a  coolant which is useful in bleeding disorders such as menorrhagia, nasal bleeding etc.
  • Dahajit – used to relieve burning sensation (as in case of diabetic neuropathy)
  • Arochaka – useful in anorexia
  • Vishamajvara – useful in chronic recurrent fever
  • Bhedani, Rechani – it is piercing, causes purgation/diarrhoea
  • Deepani – improves digestion and metabolism
  • Hrudya – good for the heart
  • Kapha Pitta Jwarapaha – it is used for fever of Kapha and Pitta origin.
  • Prameha – which is very useful in urinary tract disorders and curing diabetes
  • Shvasa – useful in asthma, dyspnoea
  • Kasa – useful in cough, cold
  • Kushtahara – useful in skin disorders
  • Orally, it is used in the treatment of Vitiligo, jaundice, hepatitis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • It acts as a potent liver stimulant. In higher doses, it acts as purgative.
  • It is very useful in relieving intestinal worm infestation
  • It is useful in weight loss treatment.
  • Used to restore liver functions after alcohol toxicity


Composition And Dosage

Ayurvedic Formulations: Patola katurohinyadi kashayam, Patoladi gana kashayam, Tiktaka kashayam, Mahatiktaka gritha, Arogyavardhini rasa.

  • For regular usage take 1 to 2 grams, as a laxative 5 to 10 grams along with hot water.
  • For Liver Detoxification: Take 3gms of Kutki powder with  1 tablespoon of honey. 3 times daily with meals.
  • For High Blood Sugar: Make an equi solution of Kutki and turmeric(Haldi). Take 5 gm of this mixture with warm water before each meal
  • For Clear Skin: Take 1 tablespoon of Tikta Ghrita with 1/2 cup of hot water. This should be the first thing each morning on an empty stomach. Also, you can add 1.5 Grams of katuka and 1.5 Grams of Turmeric for added benefit.
  • For Asthma and Allergies: Take 3 Grams Turmeric and Ginger with 1.5 Grams of Kutki. Mix it with honey and 1/4 cup of warm water. Take 3 times daily after meals.
  • For Arthritis: Take 1.5 Grams Picrorrhiza, 3 Grams Ginger with 1 tbs of Castor Oil. Mix well with warm water and take before bed each night.

Dosage depending on the weight of the person:-

  • 130 mg for a 150lb person
  • 170 mg for a 200lb person
  • 220 mg for a 250lb person

Ayurveda Properties Of Picrorrhiza Kurroa


  • Rasa: Tikta
  • Guna: Ruksha, laghu
  • Virya: Shita
  • Vipaka: Katu
  • Agnikarma: Deepana
  • Dosha karma: Pittakaphahara
  • Other Karmas: Bhedana, pittarechana
  • Rog karm: Vishamajwar, shwas, kas, prameh, arsh, dah, kusta, krimi, hridroga, pandu, kamala, grahani and arochaka.

Ayurveda References:

  • Charaka samhita: Sthanya shodhana, Bhedaniya mahakashaya Tiktaskanda.
  • Sushruta samhita: Mustadi, Patoladi, Pippalyadi.
  • Astagha hradayam: Patoladi gana, Mustadi gana.
  • Bhavaprakasha nigantu
  • Raja nigantu
  • Dhanwantari nigantu


Benefits At A Glance

katuka herb plant
katuka herb plant
  • Supporting liver health: Kutki plant has the power to support your liver function by secreting bile which helps your liver enzymes to come down at the normal levels
  • Fights fever: Root of the kutki plant, while bitter to taste, is useful for soothing a fever. Its antipyretic property means that it can cool the body down, bringing down even a high fever
  • Improves skin health: Kutki controls and prevents itching, burning sensation on the skin; clear out plaques and scales.
  • Boosts metabolism and immunity: Kutki extracts can help you in increasing the lymphocytes, white blood cells that are a vital part of the immune system. Besides that, it majorly increases the level of cell signals in your body
  • Purifying the blood
  • Promotes cardiac health
  • Maintain healthy cholesterol
  • Supports the reproductive system
  • Maintains normal blood sugar levels
  • Kidney health


Liver Health

Katuka is a quite powerful herb for the liver.  The most important prabhava (property) of this herb is called pitta rechana in Sanskrit (it stimulates the liver to get rid of accumulated pitta toxins). In Ayurveda, herbs can be classified by their effects on the 3 doshas as:vata, pitta and kapha. This classification is determined by the taste of the herb, its action in the body and its post digestion effect.

Kutki is well known as the bitter tonic for the liver. Since it is found in the Himalayan regions due to frigid cold, this herb inherits the cooling property.

Bitter herbs are usually cool in nature. The cooling property makes them very efficient towards pitta imbalances, which include acidity issues related to stomach, skin irritations, hypersensitivities to environmental irritants, liver, spleen heat or discomfort. 


Fighting Against Fatty Liver

Picrorhiza kurroa is also known as an effective cholagogue. They stimulate the healthy downflow of bile from the liver to the intestines. Histopathology reports have shown that kutki extract brought about a reversal of the fatty infiltration of the liver (mg/g) and a lowering of the quantity of hepatic lipids (mg/g). By boosting antioxidants like glutathione and many liver enzymes, it supports detoxification and immunity through the liver and lymphatic system.

Fatty liver disease is a condition caused due to an excessive accumulation of fats in the hepatic cells since the most common cause of this disorder is the consumption of alcohol. The fatty liver causes disturbances in the process of handling the fat by the liver cells as a result of which an increased amount of fat is produced by the hepatic cells, and not enough is eliminated from the body. Due to this, there is a deposition of excess fat in the liver. To eliminate this naturally kutki is a recommended herb. Kutki stimulates the removal of fat deposits present over or near the liver. It has also been proven to reverse hepatotoxicity caused due to drugs like paracetamol.

This herb also has the capacity to protect the liver tissues against the bad effects of alcohols and toxins. Kutki manages the lipid levels in the body by working to reduce the bad cholesterol, LDL & triglycerides. This mechanism involves, cleansing the liver by excreting waste like bad cholesterol out of the body.

This was first tested on rats where when looking at fatty liver (steatohepatitis) in rats fed at a high-fat diet, 200-400mg/kg of a 50:50 ethyl alcohol+water picrorhiza kurroa extract (6.54% picrosides) is able to significantly reduce liver fat over the course of four weeks supplementation, with the higher dose having a greater potency than 50mg/kg silymarins. The increase in liver fat from changing to a high-fat diet in rats was fully prevented, and the picrorhiza kurroa group ended up with 42% the liver fat is seen in the control group.

This basically proved that the fatty acid content in the liver was reduced by a much greater extent with just the little amount of kutaki.


Fighting Against Weight loss

Loss of appetite or sudden weight loss can occur due to ageing, medical conditions, or by the side effects of medication. Organic herbs like Picrorhiza kurroa are being used for countering these problems. Consumption of kutki stimulates gastric secretions and improves your appetite by countering anorexia and thereby improving your ability to eat.

On the other side, if someone is struggling with a weight problem, kutki can step in there too. It has the ability to boost the digestive fire (Agni), improve metabolism, and keep your bowel movements regular, helping you cut fat accumulation and manage weight better.


Fighting Against Diabetes

Ayurveda defines diabetes as a metabolic kapha type of disorder in which diminished functioning of Agni (or digestive fire) leads to a tendency towards high blood sugar. Diabetes is one of the most common health conditions prevailing in recent times. Kutki is a wonderful liver tonic which not only controls diabetes but also cleanses the gut and expels the unwanted contents from the body.

There is still research going on the diabetes treatment of the plant. So far it has been noted that 100-200mg/kg of a water extract of picrorhiza kurroa over the course of 14 days in diabetic rats (streptozotocin-induced) is able to improve blood glucose and insulin levels in a dose-dependent manner, with the 200mg/kg dosage being nonsignificantly less potent than the reference drug of 10mg/kg glibenclamide.


Fighting Against Psoriasis

Skin is the organ of the sense of touch, pain, pressure and temperature. In Ayurveda, healthy skin indicates the good health of a person. Skin diseases are becoming quite common these days. Psoriasis is one such disease. It may be caused due to an immunity issue. Here the person develops red patches on the skin covered with thick scales, dry and cracked skins, itching and burning sensation near the surrounding skin.

To such skin diseases, katuka is a boon. Kutki contains kutkin, which is an alkaloid that can help in abdominal and skin ailments. It reduces skin inflammation and removes the itching and burning sensation. It reduces redness of the scaly patches in psoriasis. It acts as a cooling agent for the skin and hence removes the toxic element from the body which may cause such skin disease.

In a study, supplementation of 200mg of the dried rhizome twice daily alongside methoxsalen therapy was able to significantly reduce symptoms of psoriasis.


Precaution And Side Effects

  • Since kutki decreases the level of blood sugar, people who suffer from diabetes or take the medication with a similar effect have to be very careful. Many of the herb’s effects can overlap with other drugs and caution is needed in such cases. Examples include people who take immuno-suppressants or have a suppressed system for other reasons, as well as people who either have cancer or take anti-cancer drugs.
  • Like most herbs that are not fully researched, it should be avoided by pregnant and lactating women.
  • Kutki can be a serious hazard to people with low blood sugar levels, it is advised to ask a doctor to monitor serum glucose and tweak the medication as needed.
  • Because of its purgative action in higher doses, it should be very carefully used.
  • It worsens diarrhoea. It can be used in very low dose in children.


Be cautious: It is necessary to be aware of the contraindications that this herb has. In cases of excess lightness and dryness in the body, it is not recommended. It can also cause diarrhoea and gas. Hence it is not suggested for a weak digestive system.

It is also contraindicated in pregnancy. Always seek a physician’s advice before undertaking herbal supplementation.

Storage of Picrorhiza Kurroa at 50-degree Celcius for 3 to 6 months appears to not result in any significant degradation, although storage at 60-degree Celcius for this time frame results in a 30-50% rate of degradation. Hence it is advisable to store it at or below 50-degree Celcius.


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Writer & Blogger, Entrepreneur, Co-Founder and CTO Turiya Infotainment Private Limited I am an Ayurveda enthusiast and have a deep love for everything natural. I am also a software engineer by degree and now I work as a full time blogger on Honey Fur! I have been learning about Ayurvedic principles for past 7 years now and have completed certificate courses from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy. The courses I have completed are: Ayurveda For Women Care: A course which deeply dives into women health problems like menorrhea, leucorrhea, amenorrhea. It also gives a detail study of child birth and pregnancy care, pre and postpartum. Ayurvedic Cosmetology: This is a lecture and video course which deeply dives into Skin Care, Hair Care, Eye & Oral Care & Common Issues and solutions pertaining to the same.

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