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Abrus precatorius (BIli Gulaganji)
Abrus precatorius, commonly known as jequirity bean or rosary pea, is a herbaceous flowering plant in the bean family Fabaceae. It is a slender, perennial climber with long, pinnate-leafleted leaves that twines around trees, shrubs, and hedges.
In Siddha medicine, the white variety is used to prepare oil that is claimed to be an aphrodisiac. A tea is made from leaves and used to treat fevers, coughs and colds. Seeds are poisonous and therefore are used after mitigation. The plant is also used in Ayurveda. The oil made from the Crab's Eye seed is highly used in Ayurveda because it is said to promote the growth of hairs. It is sometimes used as an ingredient in Indian hair products.
The plant is native to India. The seeds of Abrus precatorius are very consistent in weight. Formerly Indians used these seeds to weigh gold using a measure called a Ratti, where 8 Ratti = 1 Masha; 12 Masha = 1 Tola (11.6 Grams)
The seeds of Abrus precatorius are much valued in native jewellery. The Tamils use Abrus seeds of different colors. The red variety with black eye is the most common, but there are black, white and green varieties as well. In Trinidad the brightly coloured seeds are strung into bracelets and worn around the wrist or ankle to ward off jumbies or evil spirits and "mal-yeux" - the evil eye. It is dangerous too, there have been cases of death by a finger-prick while boring the seeds for beadwork.