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.1-2 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 studiescan actually show a treatment effective, and the two such studies of picrorhiza for asthma failed to find the herb more effective than placebo.3,4 (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 acute viral hepatitis.5 However, this study was highly preliminary and suffered from numerous flaws. The other evidence used to support the use of picrorhiza as a liver protectant is even weaker, consisting of test tube and animal studies, and open studiesin humans.6

Other proposed uses of picrorhiza that have undergone some study, but at present lack meaningful evidence that they include the following: enhancing response to vaccinations,7 speeding the healing of wounds,8 and enhancing the effectiveness of conventional treatment for vitiligo.9