Khella (Arabic name), or its more popular name Bishop’s weed, and the colloquial name Ajwain weed (Hindu name) is a small annual plant. Its botanical name is Trachyspermum ammi (or Ammi Visnaga) and it belongs to the cumin and parsley family. Among those popular names there are some others: Ammi, Greater Ammi, Khellin, Carum copticum, Ajmud , Carom, Omum
Picktooth, Toothpick Weed, Daucus visnaga, False Queen Anne’s Lace, Honeyplant, and Spanish toothpick.
This erect plant grows to approximately 120 cm in height. It looks pretty much like celery or wild parsley. Khella bears wispy soft, fine feathery leaves clusters of small white flowers. Tiny fruits bear irregular, grey colored seeds. Seeds have a characteristic odor and are lingering on taste. Khella flowers in about two months and the fruits become ready for harvesting when the flower heads turn brown.
Khella is one of the oldest herbs cultivated by the ancient Egyptians. This aromatic shrub is also native to the Mediterranean area of North Africa and the Middle East, and now cultivated in different countries, such as United States, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and others. Khella grows on all kinds of soil but prefers well-drained soil, which consists of easily crumbled or pulverized mixture of clay, silt and sand. It tolerates the shades, but likes sunny places.
In herb medicine fruits and seeds are used. The ripe fruits are picked and dried, as well as seeds. The seeds of the herb are the most important part that has medicinal value.
Khella is available in the form of tinctures, tablets, and prescription creams (for vitiligo). In the form of oil (omam) it is almost colorless (slightly brownish) with characteristic odour and a sharp hot taste. Another form of it – Omam water – water distilled from the seeds (which is extremely popular in some Arabian countries, south India, Malaysia and Srilanka. Khella also is an ingredient in many products and herbal remedies.
Bishop’s Weed contains thymol (35 to 60%), which has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and preservative properties. Khella’ herbal properties conclude also antispasmodic, smooth muscle relaxing action. It is a non-stimulating bronchial dilator and vasodilator.
Its other important constituents are: the essential oil (2.5 to 5% in the dried fruits), isothymol (50%), α-pinene, p-cymene, γ-terpinene and limonene. In fruits there are also coumarins and furocoumarins (psoralens), the most important of which are khellin (1%) and visnagin (0.3%), and a small amount (less than 0.03%) of a volatile oil.
Bishop’s Weed has been used in many aliments. Its beneficial uses are:
· Asthma (cardiac, bronchial asthma)
· Bronchitis, emphysema, spastic coughs (khellin (a constituent) is considered a bronchio-dilator, and along with its antispasmodic qualities, is said to alleviate spasms of the smooth muscles that line bronchial airways)
· Angina (relieves the pain of angina pectoris)
· Spastic heart
· Coronary insufficiency
· Arteriosclerosis (help to increase the levels of „good” cholesterol (HDL), thus helping to reduce plaque formation in the linings of arteries) It also diminish the risk of stroke and heart attack
· Spasms and constriction of the urinary tract and bladder
· Gallbladder and bile duct
· Relieves gallbladder colic and facilitates passage of gallstones
· Relieves urinary colic and facilitates discharge of urinary stones and thick mucous-pus discharge
· It is indicated as a recovery after heart attack and during spastic menstruation (begin taking three to five days before expected period and continue until period ends).
· Khella is shown to be very beneficial for good heart health (as a vasodilator). It doesn’t reduce blood pressure while improving the circulation in the heart muscle (coronary arteries), so that it gives the heart a mild boost to its pumping action. Moreover, the visnagin component of Khella acts as a calcium channel blocker. It can eventually help to prevent blood vessel constriction that could result in raised blood pressure.
· All kinds of spasm (spastic coughs, abdominal cramps and painful periods) are treated with Khella rather successfully, due to its antispasmodic properties.
· The plant has been used for treating of a disease, in which the skin loses its pigment-carrying melanocytes (vitiligo). The khellin component of Khella together with sun exposure gives 76-to-86 percent effectiveness.
· Wounds treating, inflammation, psoriasis and other dermatological problems
However, research reveals no clinical data as the use of Khella for most of these conditions yet.
Here are some of the preparations:
· For cold and cough: 1 tablespoon of seeds crushed and tied up in a small cloth bundle is used for inhalation; for nasal congestion – use a similar bundle, placed it near the pillow while sleeping; for cough – drink hot water after chewing little khella seeds; dry cough – chew betel leaf with khella at night before sleeping
· Influenza: drink boiled water with some khella seeds and cinnamon bark for 3 days 3 times a day
· Flatulence relief, spasmodic disorders relief: eat khella seeds with betel leaves
· Indigestion (diarrhea): a household remedy is to eat a teaspoon of khella with a little rock salt, or take 1 to 3 drops of khella oil
· Toothache: Burn khella seeds, after two hour do gargle with lukewarm water (boil 1 tsp. of ground khella with little salt) and take it two to three times a day
· Earache: put one two drops of khella into your ear, it will relieves the pain
· Mouth disorders: for cut pharyngitis, sore and congested throat and hoarseness of the voice (after shouting or due to colds) – make an infusion of seeds mixed with common salt
· Rheumatism: apply on the affected parts of the body, where it hearts
· Heartache: take 1 tablespoon of khella seeds with hot water, it will stimulates the heart and relieves heart
· Asthma (and heart disease): take 30 to 60 drops, 3 to 5 times per day. For positive effects khella should be taken for at least several weeks. These 3 doses throughout the day and a dose before bed assure you a quiet night without an asthma attack
As for the side effects, khella has few of them. Nausea, vomiting, and ophthalmic changes (decreased visual acuity) have been associated with using the herb. Avoid long exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet radiation while taking Khella, as it contains the compound, that increases the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. Mind, that most of the listed conditions need to be treated with doctor supervising. Follow the product label directions and for more information ask your health care professional.