Adalodakam or Vasaka Plant

Adalodakam, also known as Vasaka plant or Malabar Nut Tree is a tall shrub from the family Acanthaceae. Being a plant native to India, it has been largely used in traditional medicinal systems like Ayurveda.

There are in fact two species of plants referred to as Vasaka. One is Adhatoda vasica while the other is Adhatoda beddomei (Cheru Adalodakam). In this article, we are mainly considering the former.

Adalodakam plant
Adalodakam / Vasaka Plant / Justicia adhatoda – photos from Kottayam, Kerala

Quick Facts

Plant Type: Perennial Evergreen Shrub
Family: Acanthaceae
Scientific name: Adhatoda vasica/Justicia adhatoda

Height: usually 2.5 meters
Leaves: long, 14 pairs of veins
Flowers: white

Distribution: native to India and other parts of South Asia

Common names:
Sanskrit: Vasaka
Hindi: Adusa
Malayalam: Adalodakam
English: Malabar Nut Tree

Main use: as a traditional medicine

Description

The shrub often looks like a small tree and can reach a height of 2.5 meters or more. This evergreen plant has lots of branches with plenty of leaves.

Leaves

The leaf of Adhatoda vasica has 14 pairs of veins while A. beddomei has only 8 pairs. The lanceolate leaf has prominent mid-rib.

The length of a leaf is in the range of 10 to 15 centimeters while the width is around 5 centimeters. Tender leaves are hairy.

Adalodakam plant

Flowers & Fruits

The white flowers appear as inflorescence with pink linings. They occur along spikes with numerous green bracts.

Each fruit contain up to four seeds which are brown in color.

Adalodakam plant
Growing bracts

Distribution & Habitat

A. vasica is a native plant widely occurring all over India. However, A. beddomei occurs mainly in parts of Kerala only.

Propagation

In addition to seeds, stem cutting is a main method to propagate A. vasica.

Traditional Uses & Benefits

Leaf of Vasaka plant is the most useful part which contains an alkaloid called Vasicine. The presence of this alkaloid makes it an effective remedy for cough and respiratory-related problems like bronchitis and asthma[ref]. The roots and flowers also possess similar medicinal properties[ref].

Since the leaves of Adalodakam has a bitter taste and unpleasant smell, it helps to keep animals away. So the plant works well as a hedge plant too.

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