Kutki photo

Picrorrhiza kurroa, scrofulariiflora – Rhizoma (Scrophularaceae)

Common name: Kutki (H), Picrorrhiza (E)

Sanskrit: Katuka

Kutki is a very bitter root that has wonderful anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It grows in the freezing climate of the Himalayas and evidently absorbs some of this ‘cooling’ property from its surrounding environment. Katuka literally means ‘pungent’ which is strange as it is a very bitter tasting herb.

Botanical Description

Kutki is a perennial herb confined to the alpine Himalayas, growing at altitudes of between 2500 and 3600 metres. It is a small, woody herb with a curved and irregular looking root. The leaves appear to have serrated edges and grow to between 5-10cm in length. The flowers are very small, oblong and displayed in spikes with a dark violet colouring. Picrorhiza kurroa is an endangered plant species, presently CITES Appendix 3 listed and suppliers must have a certificate to prove source of cultivation

How it Works

Constituents found in kutki have been found to protect the liver from drug-induced injury, providing strong hepato-protective qualities. Kutki also increases levels of bilirubin, improving recovery rates from conditions such as jaundice.

Kutki is a strong immune-modulatory agent that modulates antibody and macrophage activity and also the non-specific immune response. It is also a strong anti-bacterial. In the respiratory system, kutki has demonstrated the ability to reduce the severity and longevity of asthmatic attacks and has been attributed to compounds such as androsin and apocynin. 

The constituent’s kutkin, picroside and kutkoside have demonstrated strong anti-inflammatory activity, particularly within the musculoskeletal system.

Into the Heart of Kutki

Kutki has been used for many centuries in various medicinal cultures across India, Greece and Arabia. Kutki is traditionally used as a hepatoprotective, antiasthmatic, immunomodulator and anti-inflammatory. It has an incredibly bitter taste, which is indicative of its activity in the liver.

Kutki is most widely recognised for its protective and regenerative effects upon the liver, protecting against long-term damage and bacterial infection that can be influenced by chronic drug consumption or abuse. Kutki will also improve circulation within the liver, ensuring that it is working and metabolising efficiently, supporting detoxification. Its stimulating effect upon the liver means that kutki also stimulates digestive metabolism and can be quite purging and clearing for the bowels, particularly where there is chronic congestion or toxicity.

Its profound effect upon the immune system, the allergic response and strong anti-inflammatory activities, make kutki an excellent choice for those with autoimmune based conditions and hypersensitivities such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic asthma and Crohn’s disease.


Liver: Kutki protects the liver against damage from the hepatitis virus. It increases the flow of bile and reduces such bilious symptoms such as sour or bitter tastes in the mouth, acidity and nausea. It is used in all forms of liver damage, cirrhosis and inflammation of the liver.

Heart: Kutki clears heat from the blood and can benefit the heart; especially palpitations.

Allergies: Kutki’s anti-inflammatory effect is used for immune reactions and hypersensitivity to environmental allergens; asthma, rhinitis, eczema with signs of heat. It is also used in bronchial asthma for its expectorant properties.

Immunity: It is indicated in auto-immune conditions as an immune stimulant with inflammation; arthritis, psoriasis, acute and chronic infections. Clinical trials for inflammatory and allergic conditions showed significant improvements.

GIT: Low dose (less than 1g/day) can increase digestive metabolism and peristalsis. Large doses will purge the bowel. It scrapes toxic accumulations from the intestines and blood. This scraping action is also used to clear fat from the body.

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