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jivaka - Malaxis acuminata D.Don, Microstylis wallichii Lindl.

jivaka :

jivaka  : Malaxis acuminata D.Don, Microstylis wallichii Lindl. Jivakah consists of dried and fresh pseudo-bulb of Malaxis acuminata D. Don syn. Microstylis wallichii Lindl. (Fam. Orchidaceae), a short stemmed terrestrial herb up to 25 cm in height, distributed throughout India on hills at an altitude of 2000 -3000 m. 


M.  acuminata  is  an  orchid  belonging  to  the  family orchidaceae.  Orchidaceae  is  the  largest  family  among monocotyledons,  containing  600-800  genera. Chinese were  the  first  who  have  described  the  orchids,  their cultivation  and  medicinal  uses.  In  mediaeval times  and even  later,  the  roots  of  the  most  orchids  were  used medicinally. Several of the orchids have bulging or thick tuberlike  roots  and  are  said  to  have  proved  nutritious emergency foods. However, to the great rarity of most of the  species,  already  fast  becoming  exterminate,  it  is hoped  that  no  one  will  experiment  with  these  plants as food. However, at the present  time in remote  districts of the  United  States  and  Canada  the  roots,  as  “Nerve-Boots”

Taxonomical Classification

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Family: Orchidaceae

Allied species:

4 orchid species

1. Malaxis muscifera
2. Malaxis acuminata
3. Habenaria intermedia
4. Habenaria edgeworthi


Sanskrit: jivya,dirghayu,cirajivi
English: none (jeevak)
Hindi: jeevak
Telugu: jeevakamu
Marathi: विलायती गवत vilayati gavat , lasun-ghas, lujen
Tamil: jeevakam
Malayalam: jeevakam
Kannada: ಜೀವಕ Jivaka


-In India, 19 species of Malaxis are distributed and six of them occur alone in Arunachal Pradesh. Some of the important Indian species are Malaxis acuminata, M. andamanica, M. cylindrostachya, M. khasiana, M. muscifera, M. rheedii and M. versicolor (Chowdhery, 1998). Only a few species of Malaxis are medicinally important


जीवकर्षभकौ ज्ञेयौ हिमाद्रिशिखरोद्भवौ | 
रसोनकन्दवत्कन्दौ निःसारौ सूक्ष्मपत्रकौ | 
जीवकः कूर्चकाकार ऋषभो वृषशृङ्गवत् ||१०९|| 
जीवको मधुरः शृङ्गो ह्नस्वाङ्गः कूर्चशीर्षकः | 
ऋषभो वृषभो धीरो विषाणी द्राक्ष इत्यपि | 
जीवकर्षभकौ बल्यौ शीतौ शुक्रकफप्रदौ | 
मधुरौ पित्तदाहास्रकार्श्यवातक्षयापहौ ||११०|| 


Synonyms in Ayurveda: jivaka

-The generic name Malaxis, established by Olof Swartz in 1788, is a Greek word meaning softening and refers to the soft texture of its leaves
Rasa: Madhura
Guna: Picchila Snigdha
Veerya: Sheetha
Vipaka: Maduram
Karma: Pittahara Vatahara

The pseudobulbs are sweet, refrigerant, aphrodisiac, febrifuge and tonic. They are useful in haematemesis, fever, seminal weakness, burning sensations, dipsia, emaciation, tuberculosis and general debility.


Microstylis wallichii thrives well in moist, shady places covered with thick leaf litter deposits in dense oak–deodar forest zone. It preferably grows on the cool northern and Microstylis wallichii – flowers western hill slopes. Sometimes, this species is also found in depressions and gorges in hills such as shola forest type habitat. It grows in loose sandy loam soil, rich in humus, chiefly on upper stratum of organic layer, in the wet localities. The requirement of mean annual rainfall ranges between 1000 mm and 1500 mm, and the optimal mean annual temperature range is 10–15 °C.


Orchids are characterized by very small seeds that are not fit for propagation. Only vegetative parts, whether pseudobulbs, daughter plants, nodal segments of rhizomes or tubers, are feasible as propagation material

The crop is raised by planting whole, half or segmented pseudobulbs directly in main field in the first fortnight of May. The soil is treated with fungicide or solarized to check the fungal attack


Flowering: July-September

The crop matures in five months and the tubers are ready to be harvested when dormancy sets in during the last week of October or first week of November. Bulbs are dug carefully after watering. The injured bulbs cannot be stored and are prone to decay


Alcohol (ceryl alcohol), glucose, rhamnose and diterpenes

M.  acuminata  is  important  for  its  medicinal  uses  in traditional  system  of  medicine  since  Vedic  period  but study  on  its  phytoconstituents  is  very  less.  Malaxis orchids are believed to contain large number of alkaloids, glycosides, flavonoids. Some phytoconstituents has been reported  from  M.  acuminata.  One  sterol  namely  β-sitosterol (1) has been isolated from ethyl acetate extract of  M.  Acuminata19.  Other  reported  Compounds  include piperitone (2) citronellal (3), eugenol (4),  Limonene (5), 1,  8-  cineole  (6),  p-  cymene  (7),  O-Methylbatatasin  (8) and cetyl alcohol (9)



1. Manasamitra Vataka, 
2. Dasamularishta, 
3. Cyavanaprashyaa, 
4. Brahma Rasayana, 
5. sivagutika,
6.  Amrtaprasha Ghrta, 
7. Asoka Ghrta, 
8. Dhanvantara Taila, 
9. Bala Taila, 
10. Guduchyadi Taila, 
11. Brihat Asvagandha Ghrta

Parts used for medicinal purpose

Stem, ,


5-10 gm

tuber- 3-6 gm




  Jivaka is substituted with Vidari (Pueraria tuberose) , Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) or Centaurea behen, Ashwagandha(Withania  somnifera),  Safed Musli(Chlorophytum  borivilianum)  andLillium wallichianum (Balkrishna et al2012)


-Malaxis acuminata D Don syn Microstylis wallichii Lindl is an important ingredient of an important polyherbal Ayurvedic formulation Ashtavarga. This species is variously known as Jivakah (as per the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India), Jivya, Dirghayu, Cirajivi (in Sanskrit), Jeevak (in Hindi and English), Jeevakam (in Malayalam and Tamil), Jeevakamu (in Telugu). These different names (for the same identity) generally lead to misidentification, unintentional adulteration etc with an adverse impact on its potency.

Due to its widespread demand andlimited availability it is being extremelyadulterated by  rootstock of Ipomoeadigitata (Chinmay et al 2011)


-Rshabhaka(Malaxis muscifera)

Commercial value:

The species is of great medicinal significance. Its dried pseudobulbs form an ingredient of ‘Ashtavarga’ [a group of eight drugs, namely Jivak, Rishbhak, Mahameda, Meda, Kakoli, Khirkakoli, Ridhi and Bridhi (Singh, 2006)] used in the preparation of Ayurvedic tonic ‘Chyavanprash’. The tonic is energizing, cures tuberculosis, and enhances sperm formation (Chauhan, 1990; Govindarajan et al., 2007). Extensive pressure of commercial collection and habitat destruction have detrimentally affected the size and frequency of its natural populations which even otherwise stand impaired because of poor fruit set and slow vegetative propagation.

M.  acuminata  is  the  main  ingredient  of  Chyawanaprash


M. acuminata is a small, medium-sized terrestrial orchid, up to 30 cm in length, with pseudobulbous stem covered at base by old leafy scales. Leaves 3-4, ovate- lanceolate, membranous and measuring 10-15  5-6.5 cm showing acute apex and undulate margins. Flower pale-green tinged purple, shortly stalked, 1-1.2 cm across, present on many flowered, 8-10 cm long spikes; bracts linear, minute. Sepals oblong; lateral broad and short with recurved margins. Petals are linear, longer than sepals. Lip shield like, broadly ovate, somewhat convex, tip notched, auricles at base straight or overlapping. Leaves have sheathing leaf base and new plants grow near the base of the decaying mother plant. Flowers, in terminal racemes, are small, pale yellowish-green in color, but with a purple tinge.
Fresh pseudo bulb conical in shape, fleshy, green, smooth, shining, 1 to 9 cm long and 1  to 3 cm broad, slightly mucilagenous, covered with shining, transluscent light green, membraneous, 3 or 4 sheathing leaves arranged alternately and having parallel venation; stem rudimentary; roots arising at the union of stem and bulb. 

Dried pseudo bulbs conical, transluscent, reddish-brown in colour, measuring 2 to 5 cm long and 0.25 to 1 cm wide, covered with sheathing leaves, which are light brown, membraneous with parallel venation; surface rough, punctated, fracture hard; cut surface dark brown, coarsely granulated with irregular margins and white spots; pleasant smell; astringent, slightly mucilagenous in taste


 T.S. of pseudo bulb oval to circular in outline; section passing through scaly leaves which exfoliate, showing a single layered, thick walled, sclerified epidermis having acicular crystals of calcium oxalate, followed by mesophyll adjacent to the upper epidermis composed of 2 to 4 layers of elongated cells with lignified reticulate thickening the lignification was confirmed with phloroglucinol and Conc. HCl, devoid of chlorolplast; vascular bundles prominent, phloem well developed with large sieve plates, surrounded by sclerenchymatous bundle sheath; section passing through bulb shows a single layer of cuticle and a layer of thick walled sclerified epidermal cells; below this lie 1 or 2 layers of large sclerified cells and these extend unevenly into ground parenchymatous tissue; ground parenchyma irregular, with large air spaces with passage cells in the form of small protuberances at some places; vascular bundles scattered throughout the ground tissue surrounded by thick walled sclerenchymatous cells, which occasionally extend into intercellular spaces. 

Geographical distribution:

Malaxis acuminata is an Asiatic species distributed widely in Thailand, China, Burma, Bhutan, Nepal, and India. In India, it dwells in the Himalayan, Khasia and Jaintia, and peninsular (Western Ghats, Nilgiris) hills on the mainland and Andaman hills offshore. Along the Himalayas, it extends from Shimla eastwards to Sikkim within an altitudinal range of 1500-2300 m, and occupies humus-rich and moist substratum in shaded situations. 


-Forest, Grassland, Shrubland

Plant conservation:

-Jeevak,  the orchid  is  a  critically  endangered  species  and  collection from  the  wild  can  cause  irreparable  damage  to  the survival  of  this  species.  Collection  from  wild  has  been banned in certain states like Uttarakhand. No report on its commercial cultivation  is available  so  far.

General Use:

To treat of haematemesis and fever, seminal weakness, burning sensations, emaciation, tuberculosis and general debility.
Refrigerant, aphrodisiac, febrifuge and tonic.

Therapeutic Uses:


rejuvenating tonic, styptic aphrodisiac, and antioxidant. It has a cooling action and cures bleeding diathesis, fever, phthisis, and burning sensation. It is an important ingredient of Ashtawarga, under Jivaniya Varga of Charaka Samhita, which literally means ‘life-giver’. 

Systemic Use:

 It is used in condition of  sterility,  vitiated  condition  of  pitta  and  vata,  seminal weakness,  internal  and  external  haemorrhages, dysentery,  fever,  emaciation,  burning  sensation  and general  debility.  Paste  of  pseudo  bulb  can  be  applied externally  in  case  of  insect  bites,  and  when  mixed  with other  plants  are  used  in the  treatment  of  rheumatism. Ayurvedic Dynamics of the plants includes sweetness in taste,  cold  in  potency,  pacifies  vata  and  aggravates kapha.  It  has  also  been  used  pharmacologically  in bleeding diathesis, Burning sensation, and Phthisis (lung disease)


 Paste  of  pseudo  bulb  can  be  applied externally  in  case  of  insect  bites,  and  when  mixed  with other  plants  are  used  in the  treatment  of  rheumatism
externally in case of insect bites, and when mixed with
other plants are used in the treatment of rheumatism



Clinical trials:

Arenmongla, T and CR Deb (2012) Germination of immature embryos and
multiplication of Malaxis acuminata D. Don.: an endangered therapeutically
important orchid, by asymbiotic culture in vitro. Indian J. Biotech., 11: 464-46

Garg, P, P Aggarwal, P Sharma and S Sharma (2012) Antioxidant activity of the
butanol extract of Malaxis acuminata (Jeevak). Journal of Pharmacy Research,
5(5): 2888-2889


Deb, CR and T Arenmongla (2013) In vitro regeneration potential of foliar
explants of Malaxis acuminata D. Don.: A therapeutically important terrestrial
orchid. Applied Biological Research, 


-not known

Toxicity studies:

-not known

Use in other system of medicine:

-Orchids are widely used in traditional Chinese medicines.


Malaxis  acuminata  (Jeevak)  is  of  a  renowned  status  in  the  Ayurveda. M.  acuminata  is a globally  soil loving plant that  grows in the  shady  areas  of  semi-evergreen  to  shrubby  forest.  Its  dried  pseudo-bulbs  are  important  ingredients  of  several Ayurvedic  preparations  like  Chyawanprash,  therefore  it  is  well  known  for  its  medicinal  properties.  It  belongs  to Ashtverga (combination of eight drugs) which is one of the core parts of the Ayurveda

Ayurvedic Formulations:

Common Ayurvedic Formulations of jivaka with their Indications
Brahma Rasayana

KEY WORDS: jivaka Malaxis acuminata D.Don, Microstylis wallichii Lindl.

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