Botanical name: Peganum harmala Family: Zygophyllaceae (Caltrop family)
Synonyms: Peganum dauricum
Harmal is a perennial plant which can grow to about 2.5 ft tall, but normally it is about 1 ft tall. The roots of the plant can reach a depth of up to 6.1 m, if the soil it is growing in is very dry. Leaves are stalkless, 4-8 cm long, irregularly and pinnately cut into 3-5 cm long, 2-5 mm broad, linear-lanceshaped or subelliptic, pointed segments. The flowers are yellowish-white and are about 2.5–3.8 cm in diameter. Petals are obovate-oblong, 1.5-2 cm long, 6-9 mm wide. The round seed capsules measure about 1–1.5 cm in diameter, have three chambers and carry more than 50 seeds. A red dye, "Turkey Red," from the seeds is often used in Western Asia to dye carpets. It is also used to dye wool. When the seeds are extracted with water, a yellow fluorescent dye is obtained. If they are extracted with alcohol, a red dye is obtained. The stems, roots and seeds can be used to make inks, stains and tattoos. Harmal is found in the Himalayas, from Afghanistan to Kashmir, and also in C. and W. Asia, Europe and N. Africa. It is prominent in Ladakh and Kashmir valley, at altitudes of 300-2400 m. Flowering: April-October.
Medicinal uses: Harmal is used as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent. In Yemen it was used to treat depression, and it has been established in the laboratory that harmaline, an active ingredient in Peganum harmala, is a central nervous system stimulant and a "reversible inhibitor of MAO-A (RIMA)," a category of antidepressant.
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