Saussurea – Introduction, Health Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects of Indian Costus – 2023


Saussurea scientific name is Saussurea lappa, some other common names are costus, kuth, kustha, Amaya. It is one of the 11 ingredients in the Ketoret incense mentioned in the Talmud. The Romans used it both in culinary spices and perfume. Theophrastus listed it as one of the principal plants in perfumes of the time. Pliny mentions two varieties of costus, white and black. The white variety was considered more fragrant and came from an Arabic plant, Costus Specious Syn Arabica. The root which is the source of incense is yellow and the bark is white.

Saussurea Costus

It is known as Qust in Arabic and was used at the time of the Prophet Mohammed as a medicine and post-menstrual wash. The Oil prepared with Qust and olive oil was said to be effective as a muscle toner, with vinegar, it is effective in treating ringworm.

Morphology of Saussurea

It is a tall, stout herb having an annual stem and perennial roots, it has large heart-shaped leaves, bluish, bluish-purple, or almost black flowers, and hairy fruits. The dried roots of the plant constitute the drug.

Chemical Constituent

The roots of the plant contain an essential oil, alkaloid saussurine, and a bitter resin. The resinoid, on distillation with superheated steam under reduced pressure yields essential oil. However, essential oil contains terpenes, aplotaxene, and sesquiterpenes. Costus is rich in resinoids, inulin, alkaloids, tannins, and sugars. Sesquiterpene lactones have been reported to be the major phytochemicals of this species. In Ayurveda, costus is an ancient rasayana, mentioned in the Atharvaveda as a remedy for excess jvara. Kushta was considered a divine plant, derived from heavenly sources because it grows high soma.



Saussurea is indigenous to India, it occurs in Kashmir and adjoining areas at altitudes ranging from 2500 to 4000 meters. The plant has been extensively cultivated since the 1920s in the high-altitude Lahaul valleys of Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, and in the Garhwal region in the hill state of Uttarakhand, in the northern part of India. It is regarded locally as green gold and is a major non-timber forest product and an important source for locals, who also smoke the leaves with tobacco.

Health Benefits and Uses of Saussurea

The plant is well-known both in Ayurvedic and Tibbi medicine, the root has a pungent taste and a peculiar fragrance. It contains aphrodisiac, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, anti-cancer, and hepatoprotective properties. It strengthens the functioning of the stomach and promotes its action; it is also helpful in arresting secretion or bleeding.

It is beneficial to normalize and strengthen digestion, detoxify, enhance fertility, and reduce pain, the essential oil has antiseptic and disinfectant properties, and it helps to relax the involuntary muscle tissue and serves as a cardiac stimulant. It relieves flatulence and is a diuretic, it is also useful in removing catarrhal matter and phlegm from the bronchial tubes.

The root can be used to treat toothache, asthma, dysentery, skin disease, and rheumatism. The costus root oil is used in massage oils, body fragrances, laundry detergents, air fresheners, perfumes, diffusers, bath oils, soaps, and hair treatments. Ancient cloth merchants used costus oil to protect valuable silks and textiles from months.

Costus essential oil has an aroma often described as human hair or wet dog. As it ages, it develops a sweeter aroma with rosy undertones. It blends well with sandalwood, vetiver, rose, violet, patchouli, and floral fragrances like ylang-ylang, patchouli, opopanax, and myrrh.

Here are some health benefits and uses


This powerful aromatic stimulant is also useful in cholera, an infusion made of 3 grams of fresh Saussurea, 1 gram of cardamom and 120 ml of water can be administrated in 30-gram doses every half an hour in treating this condition. The essential oil in the herb produces reflex inhibition through its stimulating properties. It helps in controlling the disease, it is an irritant and has a strong penetrating, and persistent odor and taste. The depressant action of the drug on the brain helps in relieving the spasm.

Premature Greying of Hair

The dried and powdered root of the herb used as hair wash prevents premature greying of hair.

Respiratory Disorders

Saussurea is beneficial in treating respiratory disorders like bronchitis, and asthma and controlling attacks of bronchial asthma and cough. The combined action of the essential oil and the alkaloid in the root restricts the paroxysms. The alkaloid saussurine has a depressant action on the vagus centre in the medulla, which supplies motor nerve fiber, as well as on the involuntary muscle fibers of the bronchioles and gastrointestinal tract. It produces a slight but persistent rise in blood pressure and increases the contraction force and the ventricles' amplitude.

The essential oil not only relaxes the bronchial muscle but also has a marked expectorant action that relieves the mucosa's turgescence. It, however, does not produce a permanent cure unless the causal factors are investigated and removed.


Saussurea is useful for severe ulcerations, the dried and powdered root is the principal ingredient in any astringent and stimulant ointment.

Other Uses


In Indian indigenous medicine, saussurea is used as a tonic and as an aphrodisiac, during its passage through the urethra the essential oil extracted in the urine produces a certain amount of irritation, acting as a stimulant.

The root forms a valuable raw material for producing expensive perfumes, resembling violet perfume.

Side Effects of Saussurea

All Ayurveda herbs are plant-based, and they don’t have any side effects, but they may react with some allopathy or homeopathy medicine. It is better to consult the doctor if you are on any medications or have unique health issues.

Overdose or wrong dose may cause some health problems like acidity, dermatitis, damage to kidneys and causes cancer as it contains aristolochic acid. Some symptoms are upset stomach, and diarrhea, it is hot in nature and may cause an allergic reaction. Severe intake can also cause dermatitis and allergic reactions due to its high potency.

Saussurea herb is safe to use in limited and suggested quantities by Ayurvedic doctors, it is recommended that patient with diabetes should consult their doctors before consuming Kuth. Breastfeeding and pregnant women should not consume Kuth before consulting a doctor.

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