ḴĀKŠI (or ḵākšir, ḵākšū; flixweed), a medicinal plant, Descurainia sophia (L) Webb ex Prantl (Syn. Sisymbrium sophia L.) of the Brassicaceae, known as the mustard family (Moẓafariān, p. 181). Ḵākši is an annual herbaceous plant, 50 to 80 cm high with thin branching. It has long leaves with deep cuts, light yellow flowers, and oblong seeds of 1 x 0.35 mm in one row within pods of about 20-30 × 1 mm. The orange to reddish seed is mildly pungent and acrid in taste and flavor (Ḥojjati, p. 32).
A less popular species, Sisymbrium irionis L., known as bitter ḵākši (Eng. London rocket), is often treated as a weed. Compared to common ḵākši, bitter ḵākši has thicker branches at the base, darker green leaves, bigger flowers, and larger seeds of 1.4 × 0.65 mm, and is about half size in height (Ḥojjati, p. 32). The red to brownish seed of London rocket has a mustard-type taste of pungency and acridity, probably due to higher content of sulfur-containing compounds that are glucoside derivatives (Miraḥmadi, passim).
To study the chemical composition of ḵākši, Farhād Dehdār collected seeds from roadsides and plains in the central Iranian plateau (Golpāyagān, Kuhpāya, Ḵonsār, Šahreżā), a region at 51-52◦ E. longitude, 32-33◦ N. latitude, and 1,800-2,600 m elevation, with 50- 170 mm annual rainfall. He found out that the seeds contain 32.4 percent oil, 4.7 percent mucilage, and 2.2 percent gum (Dehdār, pp. 73-76). In the study conducted by Afsar Bāqi, corresponding figures have been reported as 30 percent, 4.1 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively, with 3.7 percent nitrogen content (Bāqi, pp. 48-49, 53).
Chemical analyses of the two ḵākši species, Sisymbrium sophia and Sisymbrium irionis, yielded almost identical results for quantity and quality of alkaloids, glucosides, tannins, flavonoids, sugars, protein, and oil (Ḥojjati, pp. 35-43). The gum and mucilage content were, however, higher in Sisymbrium irionis than in Sisymbrium sophia. The bitter ḵākši also contained cardiac glycosides, which adversely affect the heart, while common ḵākši lacked them (Ḥojjati, p. 44).
Ḵākši seed has been used in folk medicine for centuries. It is thought to be a harmless medicine with no noticeable side effects, a quality reflected in the popular expression ḵākši mezāj in referring to a concordant personality and agreeable temperament. Ḵākši infusion produces abundant, clear mucilage, which may serve for two opposite purposes. A suspension of 2-4 grams of seed in boiling water serves as a laxative, while 1 gram of seed in ice-cold water or mixed with smashed ice, referred to as ḵākši yaḵmāl, is used to treat children’s diarrhea (Bāqi, p. 58-59). Ḵākši yaḵmāl does not produce as much mucilage and is used as a cooling drink in summer. To make it more palatable, it is often mixed with sugar or honey and rosewater.
Steamed ḵākši is believed to control coughing, clear the voice, and serve as an expectorant (Bāqi, p. 58). It is also diuretic, probably due to its high flavonoid and potassium content, and can be also used as an antipyretic (Bāqi, p. 57; Miraḥmadi, passim). Cold suspension of about 10 grams of ḵākši with honey is regarded as restorative for adults, when taken before breakfast. Soaked ḵākši, if it remains for a long time, becomes rancid, demonstrating yellow discoloration with an unpleasant mustard smell (Ḥasanzāda-Mohārluʾi, p. 14).
Ḵord o ḵākši is an expression for very small and tiny particles, such as a broken crystal vase. The expression ḵākši nabāt be ḥalqam nakardaʾi means “You have not done the favor I expected from you, or you have not gone the extra mile for me” (Dehḵodā, Loḡat-nāma, s.v.).
Afsar Bāqi, “Barrasi-e šimiāʾi-e giāh-e sonnati-e ḵākši (Sisymbrium sophia L.),” Ph.D. diss., College of Pharmacy, University of Esfahan, 1980.
Farhād Dehdār, “Barrasi-e kammiyat wa kayfiyat-e mawād-e motešakkela-ye giāhān-e dermana-ye torki (Artemisia herba-alba Asso.), ḵākši (Descurania sophia L.), šāhtara (Fumaria vaillantii Loisel) wa Stachys inflata Benth., jamʿ-āvari šoda az noh manṭaqa-ye ostān-e Eṣfahān,” Ph.D. diss., College of Pharmacy, Esfahan University of Medical Sciences, 1992.
Faršid Ḥasanzāda Mohārluʾi, “Barrasi-e barḵi āṯār-e fārmākoložik-e dāna-ye giāhān (Descurania sophia L.) wa (Brassica napus L.) bar rāt (aṯar bar ḡodda-ye tiroʾid),” Ph.D. diss., College of Pharmacy, Esfahan University of Medical Sciences, 1988.
Moḥammad-Ḥasan Ḥojjati, “Barrasi-e fārmākognoži-e giāhān-i keh taḥt-e nām-e ḵākši dar bāzār-e dāruʾi-e Irān maṣraf mišavad,” Ph.D. diss., College of Pharmacy, Esfahan University of Medical Sciences, 1993.
Madḥat Miraḥmadi, “Ḵākširhā-ye širin wa talḵ wa moṭālaʿa-ye ḵawāṣṣ-e dāruʾi-e ānhā,” Ph.D. diss., College of Pharmacy, Tehran University, 1962.
Wali-Allāh Moẓaffariān, Farhang-e nāmhā-ye giāhān-e Irān, 5th ed., Tehran, 2007.
Originally Published: June 29, 2015
Last Updated: September 28, 2015Cite this entry:
Bahram Grami, "ḴĀKŠI," Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2015, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/khakshi (accessed on 29 June 2015).