Hermal is a bushy herb with leaves divided into numerous narrow segments. It has white solitary flowers, capsular, spherical fruits and brownish seeds in various shapes. The dried seeds of the plant constitute the drug. The trade name is based on the local Indian name of the herb. It is also known as wild rue or Syrian rue.
The seeds contain four alkaloids, harmine, harmaline, harmolol and peganine. The blossoms and stems yield alkaloid peganine identified with 1-peganine.
Botanical Name: Peganum harmala
Indian Name: Hermal
Below are some of the medicinal properties of hermal:
- Hermal is useful in the treatment of remittent and intermittent fevers. It is also beneficial in chronic malaria but is not so effective in acute cases. The seeds are given either as an infusion, decoction or in powder form.
- Hermal is useful in asthma. The powder of the seeds given in doses of 2 to 8 grams, provides relief.
- Hermal seeds are gatactogogue, that is, an agent which stimulates the secretion of breast milk or increases milk flow in nursing mothers.
- The drug is useful in the treatment of laryngitis, that is, inflammation of the larynx. A decoction of the seeds is used as a mouthwash.
- Hermal is effective in killing head lice. A paste of the roots made with mustard oil should be applied externally.
- Hermal seeds are used with gratifying results in treating tapeworm infestation. The alkaloid hermaline has been found to have anthelmintic action. The powder of its seeds should be given for expelling worms. The herb as such has narcotic properties and can be used to induce deep sleep in case of insomnia.
- It is also beneficial in painful and difficult menstruation and for regulating the menstrual periods. A decoction of the seeds is given in 15 to 30 ml doses.
The drug should be used only in the prescribed doses. In higher doses, it may prove poisonous and bring about severe depressant action on the nervous system.