Kutki: Health Benefits, Side Effects, Ayurvedic Uses

Kutki: Health Benefits, Side Effects, Ayurvedic Uses

In This Article

What Makes Kutki So Special?

Kutki is considered Ayurveda’s premier liver tonic, but its benefits reach far beyond the liver.

Traditionally, Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine used it to support healthy liver, digestive, elimination, skin, immunity and respiratory function. (2,3)

By boosting antioxidants like glutathione and many liver enzymes, it supports detoxification and immunity through both the liver and the lymphatic system. (1,5,7)

Kutki Benefits:

  • Helps shield the liver from toxins, stress and the environment
  • Decongests bile and liver ducts, supporting healthy bile flow
  • Encourages liver, gallbladder and intestinal detox
  • Supports healthy external skin
  • Maintains the integrity of the intestinal and respiratory inner skin
  • Maintains healthy lymph and immune function

Kutki: Bitter + Pungent

In Ayurveda, herbs are classified by their effects on the 3 doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. This classification is determined by the taste of the herb, its action in the body, and its post-digestive effect.

Kutki is well-known as a bitter tonic for the liver, but its traditional name is katuki, which is derived from the word “katu,” meaning pungent. (4) It is both bitter and pungent—a rare combination in the wild.

The herb is said to have taken on the ruthless properties of its native high-altitude, mountainous Himalayan environment. The frigid cold making it a cooling herb, and for protection, it had to become a bit spicy or pungent as well.

Bitter herbs are extremely cooling, as is kutki, but having pungent (hot-spicy) properties are what make kutki so special and powerful. Its cleansing and detoxing properties come from its pungent properties.

Kutki’s bitter-based, cooling properties make it a perfect, kind and gentle approach to address most pitta imbalances, including acidity issues of the stomach, mild skin irritations, seasonal hypersensitivities to environmental irritants, liver, spleen heat or discomfort.

Kutki is also known as an effective cholagogue. Cholagogues stimulate the healthy downward flow of bile from the liver into the intestines. (4)

It is rare to come across an herb that is so bitter (cooling), but also pungent (warming and cleansing), while being so gentle and safe to use! Think of how few hot peppers you can eat, but how cleansing they would be if you could tolerate them…

Kutki is easygoing and gentle to the intestinal tract, but has powerful effects on the lymph, liver, skin, immunity, lungs, gut, gallbladder, digestion, and much more.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11410077
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9715310
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2266895/
  4. Kapoor, L.D. Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal plants. CRC Press. 2000. P.263
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3579017/
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/picrorhiza-kurroa
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3783750/

Kutki Energetics & Properties:

Taste (Rasa): Bitter, Pungent
Energy (Virya): Cooling
Post-digestive quality (Vipaka): Pungent
Quality (Guna): Dry, light
Constitution Effect (Dosha): PK -, V+
Tissue (Dhatu): Plasma, Blood, Fat Tissues, Nerves
Channel (Srotas): Digestive System, Hepatic System, Circulatory System, Respiratory System, Urinary System, Nervous System, Female Reproductive System
Part used: Root and rhizome

Need Support?

Ayurvedic Supplements with Kukti

KutkiKutki (Picrorhiza kurroa), one of Ayurveda’s most treasured and well researched herbs, has been used for millenniums to support liver, lymph, skin and digestion.

Kutki has been shown to protect, decongest and detoxify the liver and bile ducts, support healthy external skin, maintain the integrity of the intestinal and respiratory inner skin, and maintain healthy lymphatic, antioxidant and immune function. Kutki provides a multi-pronged approach to help the body resolve health issues globally without the risk of creating dependency.

The RARE Project: Reviving Ayurveda’s Rare Ecology

Early on in my practice, kutki was the most important herb in my Ayurvedic pharmacy.

When kutki was classified as endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1997, I stopped using it.

Sadly, since 1997, it has been sold illegally in the states and around the world without CITES certification—driving this precious herb even closer to extinction. This is why it is crucial to buy kutki through a trusted, CITES certified source.

LifeSpa, in coordination with The Dunagiri Foundation, is taking action to return kutki legally, ethically, and sustainably back into the market through the RARE project: Reviving Ayurveda’s Rare Ecology.

Sourcing CITES-certified kutki is essential to the restoration of this powerful Ayurvedic herb. The RARE project also supports the Gesh villagers and farmers who have taken on this project to grow it for the world in an ethical way.

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Dr. John

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