| Encyclopedias &|
Monier-Williams: A Sanskrit-English Dictionary (p. 356)
guñja, m. humming ŚārṅgP.; (= guccha) a bunch, bundle, cluster of blossoms, nosegay L.; (ā) f. humming L.; a kettle-drum Bhaṭṭ. xiv, 2; Abrus precatorius (bearing a red and black berry which forms the smallest of the jeweller's weights) Suśr. VarBṛS. Pañcat.; the berry of Abrus precatorius (averaging about 1 5/16 grains troy) or the artificial weight called after it (weighing about 2 3/16 grains, = 1/5 Ādya-māshaka or Māshaka, = 3 or 2 barley-corns, = 4 grains of rice, = 2 grains of wheat L.; with physicians 7 Guñjās = 1 Mātha, with lawyers 7 1/2 Guñjās) Yājñ. iii, 273 Cāṇ. VarBṛS.; a kind of plant with a poisonous root Suśr. v, 2, 3; (= gañjā) a tavern L.; reflection, meditation L.
Tamil Lexicon, University of Madras (p. 1401)
cikaṇṭikai: A black species of bead vine, Abrus precatiorius
Tamil Lexicon, University of Madras (p. 753)
karuṅkuṉṟi: 1. Black dhal; 2. A black species of crab’s eye, Abrus precatorius melanospermus
Tamil Lexicon, University of Madras (p. 1061)
kuṉṟi: 1. Crab’s eye, m. cl., Abrus precatorius; 2. A mineral poison
Tamil Lexicon, University of Madras (p. 2541)
pavaḷakkuṉṟi: Crab’s-eye, m. cl., Abrus precatorius
Dymock, Warden, Hooper: Pharmacographia Indica (vol. I, pp. 430-432)
Abrus precatorius, Leguminosae
Fig. - Jamaica Wild Liquorice, Jequirity (Eng.), Arbre a chapelets (Fr.)
This plant is mentioned by Suśruta and the older Sanskrit writers, it must therefore have long been in use as a medicine among the Hindus; they describe two varieties, namely, red and white-seeded. The seeds are said to be poisonous, and are used internally in affections of the nervous system, and externally in skin diseases, ulcers, and as an application to fistulas to excite inflammatory action. The root is described as emetic. Examples of compound medicines containing the seeds, extracted from Sārangadhara, Chakradatta and the Bhavaprakasa will be found in Dutt's Hindu Materia Medica, p. 152. Mahometan writers under the name of Ain-ed-dik (cock's eye) describe the seeds, and state that they are hot and dry, tonic and aphrodisiac. Their use by gold-smiths as a weight is alluded to in the following well known Doha (couplet): - Sonā kahe sunar se, "uttum mhāri jāt - Kāle munh ki ghungehi, aur tule hamare sāth."
My rank is of the highest, said the gold to the gold-smith, shall I be weight against that black faced seed! Sloane, in 1700, appears to have been the first to suggest the use of Abrus root as a substitute for liquorice. Prosper Alpinus, who visited Egypt in 1592, only mentions the use of the seeds as beads, and states that they are sometimes eaten, but are very unwholesome; he calls the plant "abrus," a name probably of Coptic origin, but possibly derived from the Greek -*-, pretty. Greek and Latin writers do not mention any plant bearing this name. Dr. Burton Brown (Punjab Poisons) records a case in which 40 seeds of Abrus, administered internally, caused purging and vomiting, with symptoms of collapse and suppression of urine; the patient recovered under the use of stimulants.
In the Concan singers chew the leaves of the white-seeded variety as a remedy for hoarseness; they are also chewed with cubebs and sugar to cure aphthae of the mouth. In spermathorrhoea with bloody discharges, equal parts of the juice of white Abrus leaves and Henna leaves are rubbed with the root of Holostemma Rheedii, cumin, and sugar, and administered. Abrus seeds are said to have been used for centuries in Brazil as a popular remedy for granular lids and pannus, and attention was called to this practice in Europe in 1862, without apparently leading to any experiments with the drug. Ainslie says: - "This root, when dried, coincides so exactly with the liquorice root of the shops, that it is often sold for it in the bazaars in Bengal." Other writers repeat the same statement, one which we cannot confirm, as we consider the root to bear very little resemblance to liquorice either as regards appearance or qualities; as pointed out by Mr. Moidīn Sheriff, the leaves are by far the sweetest part of the plant, and from them a tolerable extract may be made, but in most parts of India, where true liquorice is obtainable in any quantity as an article of commerce, it would be much more expensive to collect them than to use liquorice.
The roots of Taverniera nummularia, and Alysicarpus longifolius, are sweet like liquorice, and are called liquorice by the Indian peasants.