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Karonda or Bengal currants are sour-sweet and firm fruits about the size of a small grape. The currants are popular across the breadth of India, from Rajasthan to West Bengal. These drought-resistant and hardy plants grow in Karnataka (mostly in the Western Ghats), Maharashtra (Konkan region) and Goa. They are also cultivated in Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, among other states. The green or reddish-white currants can be turned into chutneys, pickles and curries.

Here's what you need to know about this deliciously tart currant that is also used in traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda:

  • Scientific name: Carissa carandas/Carissa congesta and Carissa spinarum (wild karanda)
  • Alternative names: Bengal currant, Christ’s thorn, Carandas plum, Karandas
  • Family: Apocynaceae (also known as the dogbane or oleander family of flowering shrubs, woody vines, herbs, succulents and trees)
  • Karonda is on CAB International’s Invasive Species Compendium, meaning it can proliferate and threaten local biodiversity when planted in areas where it isn’t found naturally. The karonda plant is a sturdy, drought-resistant shrub found in Asia.
  • Parts used: Traditional medicine used the whole karonda plant, including the fruits, roots and leaves.
  • Distribution: Originally from the Indian subcontinent (mainly India and Bangladesh), the currants are now also grown in China, Brazil, US, Indonesia, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, and the Philippines, among other countries and regions with a warm climate. It is known by slightly different names in these countries. For example, in Malaya it is called kerenda or karaunda; in South India, Bengal currant or Christ's thorn; in Thailand, nam phrom; and in the Philippines, caramba, caranda, caraunda and perunkila.

Read on to know what scientific research has to say about the purported uses of karonda to control blood sugar, treat constipation and other gastrointestinal problems, for pain relief, to reduce inflammation and reduce the duration of seizure or prevent them altogether.

  1. Karonda nutritional value
  2. Karonda benefits
  3. Other health benefits of karonda
  4. Karonda side effects
  5. Takeaways
Doctors for Karonda benefits and side effects

People often confuse cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpus) with karonda (Carissa carandas). However, the two are different fruits (one’s a berry with softer pulp around the pip, the other falls under currants with firm flesh around the seeds).

Karonda is also known as Bengal currant. There are at least two varieties: a small green or reddish-white sour currant with bitter long pips inside that’s called Carissa caranda, and a wild variety called Carissa spinarum that tastes slightly sweeter and is a deep maroon colour.

Research has shown that karonda contains important plant chemicals, some of which have antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective (liver-protecting), anti-hyperglycaemic (against high blood sugar), hypolipidemic (cholesterol-lowering) and wound-healing properties. Some of these chemicals are listed below:

  • Alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, cardiac glycosides, triterpenoids, phenolic compounds, tannins, salicylic acid and a phenolic lignan in the root extracts.
  • Alkaloids, glycoside, tannins and terpins in the leaf extracts.
  • Polyphenols, flavonoids and flavanones in the extract of unripe fruits. Karonda fruits are also rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus and iron.
  • Seeds of Carissa spinarum or wild karonda have over 10% protein, 22.4% oil (fatty acid composition of 12.6% palmitic, 7.6% stearic acid, 72.7% oleic acid, 5.2% linoleic acid, 0.9% linolenic acid and 1% arachidic acid).

According to a small study-based note by J. Morton in Fruits of warm climates by Julia F. Morton (1987, pp: 422–424), one pound (453.5 grams) of ripe karonda fruits from India and the Philippines have:

Nutrition Amount
Calories 338 kilocalories
Water 83%
Protein 0.39-0.66%
Fat 2.57-4.63%
Carbohydrates 0.51-0.94%
Sugar 7.35-11.58%
Fibre 0.62-1.81%
Ash 0.66-0.78%
Ascorbic acid 40-49.83 mg

The fruits, roots and leaves of the karonda plant are used in traditional medicine systems. Research shows that Carissa carandas parts have used to treat epilepsy, malaria, fever, dysentery and diabetes on the Indian subcontinent.

In traditional medicine, the roots of the karonda plant were used:

  • As a stomachic, to improve appetite and digestion
  • For deworming
  • To reduce itchiness

According to a paper published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, unripe karonda fruits were used in Ayurveda as:

The leaves of the karonda plant are used in traditional medicine systems to treat:

  • Fever that keeps coming back
  • Diarrhoea
  • Ear pain
  • Inflammation in the mouth

Here's what research has to say about some of the purported benefits of karonda:

Karonda for diabetes

In a study at Nagpur University, Prakash R. Itankar tested whether the extract of unripe Karonda fruit could reduce blood sugar in lab mice that had been given alloxan to induce diabetes.

The researchers reported that depending on whether it was a methanol extract or an ethyl acetate soluble fraction, at a dose level of 400 mg per kilogram of mouse weight karonda fruit extract reduced blood glucose levels in mice by 48% or 64.5%, respectively, compared with diabetic mice that were not given karonda fruit extract.

The scientists attributed this effect to the polyphenolic and flavonoid compounds present in karonda fruit.

(Read more: Diabetes diet)

Another animal study on the effect of methanolic extract of karonda fruit for diabetic nephropathy found that it increased antioxidant activity in the kidney, thereby reducing oxidative stress and biomarkers of nephrotoxicity (kidney damage) in the blood and urine. From this, the researchers surmised that 200-400 mg per kilogram of weight given to Sprague Dawley rats (injected with gentamicin antibiotic to create nephrotoxic conditions) over eight days exerted a protective influence over the kidneys. The research was published in the Journal of Acute Disease in 2015.

(Read more: Exercises for Diabetes)

Another study on the effects of the leaf extract of karonda and ramphal (Annona reticulata L. or bullock’s heart fruit) on lab mice found that:

  • Karonda leaf extract nearly halved artificially increased blood glucose in mice when given at 400 mg per kilogram of mouse weight
  • Ramphal leaf extract achieved similar results at 200 mg per kilogram.

It is important to note that much more research (including human clinical trials) is needed to confirm the effects of the leaves and fruit of these plants in humans. The authors of this study admitted as much when they wrote: "However, the exact mechanism of reduction in the concentration of serum glucose remains to be elucidated. The antihyperglycemic activity of extracts of leaves from both plants (Carissa carandas L. and Annona reticulata L.) suggests that further scientific studies need to be conducted towards the discovery of possible new antidiabetic compounds.”

(Read more: Ayurvedic herbs for diabetes)

Karonda for constipation and diarrhoea

A study published in the Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research in 2015 states that karonda has been used to treat digestive issues like constipation and diarrhoea for many years in India as per Ayurvedic, Unani and Homeopathic systems of medicine. Modern medicine and research prove these benefits, crediting them to the presence of phytonutrients like alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, glycosides, triterpenoids, phenolic compounds and tannins. Another study published in the journal J Ethnopharmacol in 2011 also says that karonda may help improve digestion and may also be used as a medication against intestinal worms due to its anthelmintic and antimicrobial properties.

Karonda for pain

Current research shows that karonda has analgesic properties which ensure that it can aid in pain relief. A study published in the journal Natural Products and Bioprospecting in 2017 suggests dose-specific consumption of the extract of the wild species of karonda, Carissa spinarum, may help manage chronic joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and arthritis. Another study, also published in 2017 in the journal Medicines, shows that consuming karonda extract may help relieve muscle pain and fever due to pain. However, the dosage of the extract required to manage pain should be decided by a naturopathic doctor.

(Read more: Homeopathic treatment for joint pain)

Karonda for seizures

A 2009 study with Swiss mice in a lab found that an ethanolic extract of the root of karonda plant could:

  • Reduce the duration of a seizure induced by maximal electroshock in mice when it is administered at 100-400 mg per kilogram weight
  • At 200 mg/kg and 400 mg/kg, this extract could provide some protection against seizures
  • These dosages also delayed the onset (latency) of chemically induced seizures in mice

The researchers also found that the crude extract of karonda root contains “small quantities of alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins and large amounts of cardiac glycosides, triterpenoids, phenolic compounds and tannins”. These are all plant compounds, and many of them have been separately shown to have antioxidant or antimicrobial properties.

Another study on the anticonvulsant and sedative effects of karonda focused on the leaves of the plant—it suggested that an extract of karonda leaves may be used in the treatment of epilepsy. The researchers found alkaloids, glycoside, tannins and terpins in the leaf extracts, and found that the extract could offer some protection against chemically induced seizures in mice at about 400 mg/kg. They also said that at this dosage, the extract could help reduce two of the symptoms of seizures: extensor (in which the muscles extend and tense up; for example, a pronounced arching of the back for several seconds) and stupor.

Many more studies need to be done to confirm or deny any benefits of karonda roots or leaves for seizures including epilepsy seizures, as this seems to be an under-researched area.

(Read more: Ayurvedic treatment for epilepsy)

Karonda for the liver

Studies show that consuming karonda extract may have hepatoprotective effects, meaning that it can prevent liver damage and keep this vital organ healthy too. One particular study published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology in 2009 explains that extract of the roots of Carissa carandas protects the liver against toxicity and inflammation by reducing the activities of liver enzymes and bilirubin and the oxidation of lipids. At the same time, this extract can significantly increase the levels of uric acid, glutathione, superoxide dismutase, catalase and protein in such a way that the weight of the liver is well maintained and the risk of liver disease is significantly reduced. This evidence also supports the role played by karonda in liver health as indicated in Ayurvedic texts.

Karonda for skin health

Ayurveda supports the use of karonda in treating, as well as preventing, skin infections and skin diseases. A study published in BioMed Research International in 2014 reveals that consuming the dried fruits of Carissa carandas can reduce skin inflammation and prevent skin rashes and infections. Another study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology in 2020 says that karonda contains a wide variety of flavonoids, phenolic acids, steroids, volatile oils, lignans, alkaloids and other phytonutrients that provide it with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antifungal properties. This suggests that consuming dried or juiced karonda can prevent fungal infections and bacterial infections associated with the skin. Although there is only limited research currently, some studies also suggest that karonda may help manage skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis.

As mentioned earlier, karonda plant was used across the Indian subcontinent in traditional medicine systems. Scientific research on this, though nascent, is showing proof for some of these purported benefits.

  • Antibacterial properties: According to research published in 2012 in the Asian Journal of Plant Science and Research, a methanolic extract of karonda leaves has antimicrobial properties against bacteria like S. aureus and E. coli. (Read more: E. coli infection)
  • Wound healing: 1% and 2.5% (w/w) root extracts of Carissa spinarum may help in healing wounds by improving wound contraction and epithelization (new skin coming over the wound), according to research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
  • Brings down fever

Overconsumption of these delicious currants is unlikely to produce side effects in people who are not allergic to them. That said, supplements with Karonda leaf, root or seed extract may cause problems like stomach cramps and diarrhoea is taken in excess.

An animal study of the effect of Karonda extract showed side effects in cats and rats. These side-effects include:

More research is needed to fully understand the adverse health effects of karonda plant and extracts.

Karonda is a berry-sized fruit which is widely available in India and has been used for its medicinal properties for ages. While you may usually find fresh karonda in chutneys and pickles, dried karonda and karonda juice are also easily available for consumption in the market, especially in stores that provide Ayurvedic and herbal medicines. Since traditional Indian medicine systems use the extracts of karonda bark, roots and fruits, these may be prescribed by Ayurvedic, Unani and Homeopathic practitioners.

However, for your own safety, it is recommended that you consume these only if recommended by a doctor or registered practitioner. Ensure that the karonda product or medication suits your individual health, especially if you have any underlying diseases. If you have been prescribed karonda, ask your doctor how much to consume and stick to that dosage to prevent any possible side effects.

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Nutritionist
8 Years of Experience

Surbhi Singh

Surbhi Singh

Nutritionist
22 Years of Experience

Dr. Avtar Singh Kochar

Dr. Avtar Singh Kochar

Nutritionist
20 Years of Experience

Dr. priyamwada

Dr. priyamwada

Nutritionist
7 Years of Experience


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