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The rhizome (underground extension of the stalk) of picrorhiza has a long history of use in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of digestive problems. Other traditional uses include treatment of scorpion sting, asthma, liver diseases, and febrile infections.
There are no scientifically established medicinal uses of picrorhiza.
Picrorhiza is often advocated as a treatment for asthma, based primarily on two studies conducted in the 1970s. 1 However, neither of these studies was conducted in such a manner as to produce reliable results in the modern sense. Only double-blind, placebo-controlled studies can actually show a treatment effective, and the two such studies of picrorhiza for asthma failed to find the herb more effective than placebo. 2 (For detailed information on the overwhelming importance of this type of trial, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-Blind Studies? )
One small, double-blind study found picrorhiza root (375 mg, 3 times daily) more effective than placebo for reducing signs of liver damage in people with...
Based on its long history of traditional use, picrorhiza appears to be relatively safe. However, systematic, scientifically modern safety studies of picrorhiza are lacking.
Many herbs and other treatments considered safe based on traditional use have later turned out to present severe, previously unrecognized risks. Herbalists would be expected to notice immediate, dramatic reactions to herbal formulas, and one can assume with some confidence that treatments used for thousands of years are at least unlikely to cause such problems in very many people who take them. However, certain types of harm could be expected to easily elude the detection of traditional herbalists. These include safety problems that are delayed, occur relatively rarely, or are difficult to detect...