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Calotropis gigantea: Useful Weed

Pankaj Oudhia
Society for Parthenium Management (SOPAM)
28-A, Geeta Nagar, Raipur - 492001 India

Copyright © 2001. All Rights Reserved. Quotation from this document should cite and acknowledge the contributor.

Calotropis gigantea

Calotropis gigantea R.Br. Asclepiadaceae, commonly known as milkweed or swallow-wort, is a common wasteland weed (Singh et al. 1996). Calotropis belongs to Asclepiadaceae or Milkweed or Ak family which includes 280 genera and 2,000 species of world-wide distribution but most abundant in the sub-tropics and tropics, and rare in cold countries. Other familiar plants of Calotropis are Milk weed or Silk weed (Asclepias syriaca L.), Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa L.) and Calotropis procera (Ait.) Ait.f. Comparision of these plants is given in Table 1. Native to India (Lindley, 1985), Calotropis grows wild up to 900 meters throughout the country (Sastry and Kavathekar, 1990) on a variety of soils in different climates, sometimes where nothing else grows

Table 1. Comparison of Calotropis and Asclepias species.

Common name(s)


Height (ft.)

Leaf arangement




Size (inches)


Calotropis gigantea
Gigantic swallow wort, Madar





White to purple, rarely light green yellow or white. Flowers not scented


Follicles recurved, 2 or 1 follictes, second more often suppressed, 3-4" long

Asclepias tuberosa
Butterfly weed

South America




Corolla greenish-orange, scented

Sessile or very short petiolated

Follicles finely pubescent, 4-5" long

Asclepias syriaca Common milkweed Sikweed

South America

Up to 5

Opposite or verticillate


Corolla greenish to purplish white, scented.


Follicles tomentose and echinate, 3-5" long.

Calotropis procera





White to pink, scented.


Follicles 3-4", recurved


Calotropis is used as a traditional medicinal plant (Rastogi and Mehrotra 1991; Oudhia and Dixit 1994; Oudhia 1999a,b,c,d) with unique properties (Oudhia and Tripathi 1998, 1999a). Traditionally alotropis is used alone or with other medicinals (Caius 1986) to treat common disease such as fevers, rheumatism, indigestion, cough, cold, eczema, asthma, elephantiasis, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (Das 1996). According to Ayurveda, dried whole plant is a good tonic, expectorant, depurative, and anthelmintic. The dried root bark is a substitute for ipecacuanha. The root bark is febrifuge, anthelmintic, depurative, expectorant, and laxative. The powdered root used in asthama, bronchitis, and dyspepsia. The leaves are useful in the treatment of paralysis, arthralegia, swellings, and intermittent fevers. The flowers are bitter, digestive, astringent, stomachic, anthelmintic, and tonic (Agharkar 1991; Warrier et al. 1996). Calotropis is also a reputed Homoeopathic drug (Ghosh 1988; Ferrington 1990).

Calotropis yields a durable fiber (commercially known as Bowstring of India) useful for ropes, carpets, fishing nets, and sewing thread. Floss, obtained from seeds, is used for stuffing purposes. Fermented mixture of Calotropis and salt is used to remove the hair from goat skins for production of "nari leather" and of sheep skins to make leather which is much used for inexpensive book-binding (Singh et. al. 1996). Fungicidal and insecticidal properties of Calotropis have been reported (Ganapathy and Narayanasamy 1993).

Allelopathic effects of Calotropis on different agricultural crops have not been well studied. Extracts of different plant parts viz. root, stem, leaf ,and stem+leaf of Calatropis affect germination and seedling vigor of many agricultural crops have been reported (Oudhia and Tripathi 1997, 1999; Oudhia et al. 1997, 1998a,b). However, extracts of Calatropis failed to produce any detrimental effects on weeds such as Chenopodium album Melilotus alba, Melilotus indica, Sphaeranthus indicus, and Phalaris minor (Oudhia and Tripathi 1997).


Agharkar, S.P. 1991. Medicinal plants of Bombay presidency. Scientific Publ., India. p. 48-49.

Caius, J.F. 1986. The medicinal and poisonous plants of India. Scientific Publ., Jodhpur, India.

Das, B.B. 1996. Rasraj Mahodadhi. Khemraj Shri Krishnadas Prakashan, Bombay.

Ferrington, E.A. 1990. Clinical Materia Medica (reprint ed.) B. Jain Publ. Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, Ganapathm. Kalyani Publishers Ludhiana, India. p. 347-353.

Ghos, N.C 1988. Comparative Materia Medica. Hannemann Publ. Co. Pvt. Ltd. Colicata, India.

Lindley, J. 1985. Flora medica. Ajay Book Services, New Delhi.

Oudhia, P. 1999a. Int. Rice Res. Notes 24(1):40.

Oudhia, P. 1999b. Int. Chickpea and Pigeonpea Newslett. 6:29-33.

Oudhia, P. 1999c. Int. Arachis Newslett.19:62-64.

Oudhia, P. 1999d. Rachis. 18(1):40-41.

Oudhia, P. and A. Dixit, 1994. Weed News 1(2):19-21.

Oudhia, P. and R.S.Tripathi. 1998. Proc. National Conference on Health Care and Development of Herbal Medicines, IGAU, Raipur, India 29-30 Aug. 1997.p. 71-78.

Oudhia, P. and R.S. Tripathi, 1999. World Weeds 4:109-119.

Oudhia, P. and R.S. Tripathi, Abstract National Seminar on Institute/Industry Cooperation Programme for Developing Skills in Students of Seed Technology, Govt. Motilal Vigyan Mahavidyalaya, Bhopal, India 20-21 Nov. p. 88-89.

Oudhia, P., S.S. Kolhe, and R.S. Tripathi. 1997. Legume Res. 20(2):133-136.

Oudhia, P., S.S. Kolhe, and R.S Tripathi, 1998a. In: Abstract. III International Congress on Allelopathy in Ecological Agriculture and Forestry, UAS, Dharwad, India 18-21 Aug. p. 151.

Oudhia, P., S.S. Kolhe, and R.S. Tripathi, 1998b. Extended Summaries. First International Agronomy Congress on Agronomy, Environment and Food Security for 21st Century, Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. 23-27 Nov. p. 27.

Oudhia, P., R.S Tripathi, S. Puri, and D.S. Chandel, 1999a. Vasundhara The Earth 1(1):12-15.

Oudhia, P., R.S. Tripathi, and P. Katiyar, 1999b . Abstract National Seminar on Chemistry of Environmental Pollution with special emphasis on pesticides, Department of Chemistry, Govt. DB Girls P.G. College, Raipur (India) 28-29 Jan. p. 22.

Singh, U., A.M. Wadhwani, and B.M. Johri, 1996. Dictionary of Economic Plants of India. Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi. p. 38-39.

Rastogi, Ram, P. and B.M. Mehrotra, 1991 In : Compendium of Indian Medicinal Plants. Pbl. Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow and Publications & Information Directorate, N. Delhi. p. 70-73.

Sastry, C.S.T. and K.Y. Kavathekar. 1990. In: Plants for reclamation of wasteland. Publication and Information Directorate, CSIR, New Delhi. p. 175-179.

Warrier, P.K., V.P.K Nambiar, and C. Mankutty 1994. Indian Medicinal Plants. Orient Longman; Chennai, India p. 341-345.

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