Medicinal Plants

Rosary Pea (Abrus Precatorius)

Rosary Pea (Abrus Precatorius) is also called Gunja and Jequirity peas. Rosary plant is known for containing a toxic substance ‘abrin’. The common symptoms of its toxicity include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and trouble breathing. In some cases, it can also cause anuria (anuresis) and heart disease. The unwise use of any part of Rosary plant can lead to several side effects. Therefore, Rosary peas are not used in the raw form in ayurveda and traditional medicine. It is processed to detoxify and to eliminate its toxic effects.

The purified (detoxified) Rosary Peas exert stimulatory and strengthening actions on nerves. Due to this action, it is used to treat paralysis. However, it acts as a sedative when used in the high dosage. The rosary peas also have aphrodisiac action. Detoxified rosary seeds are dried and then ground to make a coarse powder. The coarse powder is then used to boil in milk. This milk is filtered and advised to drink for improving erection, stamina, and performance. Leaves and roots of the rosary plant act as antitussive and soothe the throat similarly like Mulethi (Licorice roots). Therefore, rosary roots and leaves are beneficial in the treatment of a cough, bronchitis and sore throat.

Detoxification of Rosary Pea

Raw seeds are not suitable for medicinal uses, as discussed above. The coarse powder of Rosary Peas (seeds) is taken in a cotton pouch (POTLI) and boiled in the cow’s milk for 3 to 6 hours.

The second method includes boiling the seeds in Kanji Water (Brown Rice Water) for 3 to 6 hours. Milk or Kanji used for detoxification should be discarded.

Boiling rosary peas in cow’s milk or Kanji Water reduces the toxic effects and make it usable for the medicinal purposes. Toxalbumins present in the rosary peas break down after heat treatment and dissolve into the milk or Kanji Water. Therefore, this process reduces toxic substances in rosary pea significantly.

The study also confirms the usability and effectiveness of ayurvedic detoxification process and found the absence of abrin band in detoxified rosary seed extract whereas non-detoxified extract contains abrin. (1)

Read: Kanji Water and its preparation Method

Medicinal Parts

  1. Seeds (also known as Gunja, Rosary Peas, and jequirity seeds)
  2. Roots
  3. Leaves

Medicinal Properties

Rosary Peas (Abrus Precatorius) have following healing properties.

Rosary Pea – Abrus Precatorius Seeds

The purified (detoxified) rosary seeds exert following pharmacological actions:

  • Anodyne
  • Antimicrobial
  • Diuretic
  • Expectorant
  • Vermifuge
  • Sedative
  • Purgative
  • Emetic
  • Aphrodisiac
  • Hair growth stimulator (Oil prepared using sesame oil and Gunja seeds)
  • Abortifacient

Abrus Precatorius Leaves & Roots

  • Anti-catarrhal
  • Antipyretic and Febrifuge
  • Expectorant
  • Diuretic

Ayurvedic Properties of Rosary Pea

RASA (Taste)TIKTA (Bitter) & KASAYA (Astringent)
GUNA (Main Quality)LAGHU (Light), RUKSHA (Dry), TIKSHNA (Sharp)
VIRYA (Potency)USHNA (Hot)
VIPAKA (Resultant)KATU (Pungent)

Ayurvedic Properties of Rosary Root

RASA (Taste)MADHURA (Sweet)
GUNA (Main Quality)SNIGADH or SNEHA (Unctuous or Oily)

Therapeutic Indications

Purified (detoxified) rosary pea (Abrus Precatorius seeds or Gunja) are helpful in following health conditions.

Internal Use of Rosary Seeds

  1. Hemiplegia
  2. Paralysis
  3. Sciatica
  4. Muscle spasm
  5. Low backache
  6. Rheumatoid arthritis
  7. Arthritis
  8. Bursitis
  9. Fibromyalgia
  10. Erectile dysfunction
  11. Premature ejaculation

External Use of Rosary Seeds

External application of detoxified Rosary seed paste is used in all diseases listed in above under the heading of “internal use of Rosary Seeds.” In addition to these diseases, the paste prepared using rosary seed powder and sesame oil is also applied to treat the following health conditions:

  1. Alopecia or hair loss
  2. Acne Vulgaris
  3. Eczema
  4. Psoriasis

The paste prepared with water is used in the following diseases:

  • Cervical lymphadenopathy
  • Leucoderma and Vitiligo
  • Paralytic disorders (for massage of affected parts)

Rosary Plant Roots

  • Hoarseness and Laryngitis
  • Cough and bronchitis
  • Dysuria (Painful or difficult urination)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Premature ejaculation

Generally, Rosary Plant Roots are not used as an external application.

Rosary Plant Flowers

  • Headache – a non-pulsating headache, but occurring with intense pain – Used in the form of flower juice as nasal instillation

Rosary Plant Leaf

The paste prepared from rosary plant leaves is used as an external application for the treatment of the following diseases:

  • Herpes zoster
  • Wounds
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

The juice of rosary plant leaves is used to treat vermilion poisoning and taken for 7 days.

Rosary Pea Benefits & Medicinal Uses

Detoxified Rosary Pea acts on nerves, muscles, skin, and organs of the reproductive system. Generally, it is used to treat paralytic disorders and erectile dysfunction and impotence.

Paralytic disorders

Detoxified Rosary Pea powder is used internally for the treatment of paralysis and hemiplegia in a dosage of 30 to 60 mg twice daily with lukewarm milk in ayurveda.

Purified rosary pea powder is mixed in water to make a paste. This paste is used to apply on affected parts. This application is also effective for treating frozen shoulder, sciatica and other musculoskeletal disorders.

The sesame oil processed with rosary pea powder is called Gunja Oil in ayurveda. This oil is used as external application or in massage to improve the sensitivity and movability of paralytic organs.

Leucoderma and Vitiligo

In cases of Leukoderma and Vitiligo, detoxified rosary pea powder and Chitrak (Plumbago Zeylanica) root powder is mixed in equal parts. The paste is prepared using water and applied on the affected parts. The regular application of the paste reduces the white patches on the skin.

Acne Vulgaris

The sesame oil processed in detoxified rosary pea is applied on the acne at night before sleep and application should be left overnight. This application helps to treat acne in a few days. Before applying the Gunja Oil on the face, it should be tested on the arm for any allergic reaction.

Alopecia Areata (Baldness or Hair Loss)

The powder of detoxified seeds and roots of rosary plant are mixed with water to make a paste. This paste is applied on the spots of the scalp affected from the baldness. It stimulates the hair re-growth.

Hoarseness and Laryngitis

Tablets are prepared with rosary (Gunja) leaf powder, cubeb powder, and sugar. These tablets are advised to chew in the case of hoarseness and laryngitis.

Skin Diseases

The sesame oil processed in detoxified rosary pea (Gunja oil) is applied on affected parts of the skin with eczema and psoriasis. It is also applied on the scalp to reduce dandruff.

Dosage & Administration

The dosage of detoxified rosary pea (Abrus Precatorius) varies according to medicinal parts.

Medicinal PartsTherapeutic Dosage (for adults)
Detoxified Rosary Pea Powder30 to 125 mg
Rosary Leaf Powder500 to 2 grams
Rosary Root Powder500 to 2 grams

The maximum dosage of Rosary Pea (Gunja seeds) Powder should not exceed 250 mg per day. Rosary (Gunja) leaves and root powder dosage should not exceed 4 grams per day.

How to calculate the adequate dosage

You should calculate the dosage of Abrus Precatorius according to body weight as follows.

Plant PartsChildrenAdults
Seeds Powder0.5 to 1 mg/Kg body weight1 to 2 mg/Kg body weight
Leaves Powder2.5 to 5 mg/Kg body weight5 to 10 mg/Kg body weight
Roots Powder2.5 to 5 mg/Kg body weight5 to 10 mg/Kg body weight

Note: We do not recommend Abrus Precatorius to children. It may have poisonous effects. However, you can decide the dosage according to body weight if its requirement is necessary and you do not have any other alternative.

In case, patient has history of gastritis, any sign of excess heat in the body or PITTA disorders, sunstroke, burning sensation in feet, heartburn etc., then Abrus Precatorius should not be used or the dosage of Abrus Precatorius should be further reduced by 1/8 to 1/4 part of the recommended dosage if its use becomes compulsory and there is no other alternative available.

Antidote for Rosary Pea (Abrus Precatorius) Poisoning

Amaranth leaf juice along with sugar is the best antidote for Rosary Pea (Abrus Precatorius) Poisoning. It immediately reduces toxic effects of Rosary Pea. For treatment of rosary pea toxicity, 10 ml Amaranth leaf juice along with 5 grams sugar should be used 2 to 3 times a day for 7 days.

In addition to Amaranth, pomegranate juice, grape juice, and Grewia asiatica (Phalsa or Falsa) fruit juice are very useful for reducing the toxicity and restoring the health.

Safety Profile

However, roots and leaves contain a little amount of poisonous substance, but they can still cause poisoning. Its seeds contain poisonous enzyme in excess amount, which can cause severe side effects when it is used without consulting a doctor. Unwise and unsupervised use of Rosary pea (Abrus Precatorius) is LIKELY UNSAFE.

Toxic Effects of Non-detoxified Rosary Seeds

The use of non-detoxified seeds can result in severe toxic effects.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Difficult Breathing
  • Anuria (anuresis) – inability to urinate
  • Heart Failure
  • Shock
  • Respiratory failure
  • Fatal within 36 to 72 hours

Side Effects of Detoxified Rosary Pea

The detoxified rosary pea does not exert toxic effects like above when used less than 250 mg per day in divided doses and when taken with milk. However, the high dosage can still cause the following side effects:

  1. Vertigo (severe reeling sensation)
  2. Restlessness
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Vomiting

Pregnancy & Lactation

In traditional medicine, the roots of rosary plant are commonly used to induce abortion and treat incomplete abortion. The use of any part of rosary plant (Abrus Precatorius) during pregnancy is COMPLETELY UNSAFE due to its abortifacient action. It can induce uterine bleeding and miscarriage and expel the developing fetus.

In breastfeeding, it can result in low breast milk supply and may secrete into the milk, which can cause diarrhea and vomiting in breastfeeding babies.


Any part of rosary plant should not be used before and after surgery. It may cause bleeding and affect clotting time. All parts of rosary plant are not suitable for the following diseases:

  1. Gastritis
  2. Ulcer
  3. Ulcerative colitis
  4. Mouth ulcer
  5. Vertigo

Drug Interactions

Gunja (Abrus Precatorius) can interact with various medicines including antiplatelet drugs, antihypertensive drugs, and antidiabetic medicines, so you should consult a physician before using any part of rosary plant with these drugs.

Compound Preparations

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Dr. Jagdev Singh

Dr. Jagdev Singh is a qualified Ayurvedic Practitioner and Herbalist with B.A.M.S. and M. Sc. in Medicinal Plants. He has a wealth of experience in using Ayurveda to treat patients, including the use of herbal medicine and personalized Ayurvedic diets. His passion for spreading accurate and scientific information about Ayurveda and Medicinal Plants led him to create Ayur Times, a trusted resource for those seeking reliable information on the topic. Through his dedicated work, Dr. Singh has helped thousands of patients find relief and improve their health with Ayurveda and Herbal Medicine.

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