Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Abrus
Botanical name: Abrus precatorius Linn.
Sanskrit: Gunja, Kakanantika, Kakapilu, Raktika, Kakadani
English: Indian liquorice, Crabs eye
Hindi: Gunchi, Ratti
Malayalam: Kunni
Kunniis a slender, perennial climber that twines around trees, shrubs, and hedges. It has no special organs of attachment. It has slender branches and a cylindrical wrinkled stem with a smooth-textured brown bark. Leaves are glabrous with long internodes and are alternate compound paripinnate with stipules. Each leaf is 50-100 mm long. It bears from 20 to 24 or more leaflets, each of which is about 12-18 mm long, oblong and obtuse. It is blunt at both ends, glabrous on top and slightly hairy below. Flowers are small and pale violet with a short stalk, arranged in clusters. The ovary has a marginal placentation. The fruit, which is a pod, is f lat, oblong and truncate-shaped with a sharp, deflexed beak, 30-45 x 12 mm, and silky-textured. The pod curls back when opened to reveal pendulous seeds and contains from 3 to 5 oval-shaped seeds, about 6 mm long. They are usually bright scarlet with a smooth, glossy texture, and a black patch on top.
The seeds of Abrus precatorius are much valued in native jewelry for their bright coloration. Most beans are black and red, suggesting a ladybug, though other colors are available. Jewelry-making with jequirity seeds is dangerous, and there have been cases of death by a finger-prick while boring the seeds for beadwork
From the ancient times, the medicinal properties of kunni plant are well known. It appears in two verities white coloured seed and red coloured seeds. The white coloured seed is used in toxicology.
In Siddha medicine, the white variety is used to prepare oil that is claimed to be an aphrodisiac. A tea is made from the leaves and used to treat fevers, coughs and colds. Seeds are poisonous and therefore are used after mitigation. The plant is also used in Ayurveda.
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