Calotropis is primarily harvested owing to its distinctive medicinal properties. It is commonly referred to as ark, swallow-wart or milkweed. It is frequently found in Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Indian subcontinent as wasteland weed. Calotropis belongs to the Ark or Asclepiadaceae family and is mostly spread across in the tropics and sub-tropics and rarely in the cold regions of the world. The ark plant with white flowers is a superior variety and is referred to as Calotropis procera whilst the one with lavender color flowers is referred to as Calotropis gigantea. Its milky latex is rich in lupeol, calotropin, calatoxin and uscharin.
The plant is toxic and is one of the few plants not consumed by the grazing animals. Due to its toxicity the latex extracted from the stem was traditionally used to make poison arrows. The extracts from different parts of the ark plant are of much healing value. The whole plant when dried and consumed is a good tonic, antihelmintic and an expectorant. The roots besides being endowed with similar qualities serves as an effective laxative. Traditionally the dried root is powdered and effectively used to cure bronchitis, asthma, leprosy, eczema and elephantiasis. The ark latex is processed and finds use in treating vertigo, baldness, hair fall, tooth aches, intermittent fevers, rheumatoid /joint swellings and paralysis. Leaves of ark are heated in oil and are of much medicinal value in treating joint pain and in reduce its swelling. Besides Ayurveda, Homeopathy also makes use of Calotropis as medicine. The pungent latex extracted from the leaves and flowers of Calotropis procera is processed and used in the commercial preparation of eye tonics. The alcoholic extracts of the plants have known to induce spermicidal and anti-microbial properties as well. Study on the ovariectomized female rats with the alcoholic extract of Calotropis procera is known to simulate the estrogenic activity in the reproductive track. This was evident from the increased protein content and increased uterine weight of the target animal under study. In addition there was alteration in the biochemical environment of the track which probably leads to antifertility.
The inner bark of Calotropis is used to make strong fibers called madar and is used to make weave carpets, ropes, sewing thread and fishing nets.
However the side effects of its consumption it is reported to have caused blisters, lesions and eruptions when consumed by patients on treatment of joint pains and gastrointestinal ailments. The preparations of Calotropis procera is to be used under the careful surveillance of a capable medical practitioner. Calotropis is a home to many insects.
Rosy Vohra works for online bookstore India