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Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Field bindweed was a common plant where I grew up in South Wales, but we simply called it “convolvulus.” It has pretty white trumpet-shaped flowers  which are rather like those of Coccinia indica or Khochoper , the ivy gourd, and the orange ones of the Trumpet Vine), but my grandfather told me they were called snake flowers and I wasn’t to pick them because snakes might live in the canopies they created with their twining vines. My daughter was fascinated by these flowers too, but could never remember the name for them. We always thought they were a British native plant, but it seems that they originated in the warmer Mediterranean climes.
  These members of the Convolvulaceae also grow in the Indian subcontinent, and in the Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa province of Pakistan they roots of Field bindweed are used as a rinse after washing hair in order to get rid of dandruff.
  The name convolvulus comes from the Latin “convolvere” meaning to twine and arvensis means of the field or cultivated land. The stems of this plant can grow to around two metres long and they can twine in a total revolution in less than 2 hours, making them a very rapid-growing plant. The roots burrow deep into the soil too, making it a difficult plant to eradicate. In the US it is classed as an invasive species in all states except Alaska, where it is probably too cold for it to proliferate. It was actually introduced in to North America in the early 18th century as an ornamental and probably for its medicinal properties too. Some theorize that it got to North America as an adulterant in seeds, but whatever the case, the Native Americans soon realized its medicinal potential and used it to reduce excessive menstrual flow and for spider bites. For these problems they used a tisane of the leaves, which are apparently edible and used like spinach in parts of Turkey, where they are also used as a flavouring for some dishes. The flowers are made into a tisane which is used internally as a laxative and for fevers, to promote sweating and so reduce the temperature, and externally to put on wounds. The juice of the root is also used for fevers, and the Arabs used the roots and leaves to stop haemorrhages.
  In Europe there are various superstitions about this plant, one is my grandfather’s that vipers make their nests under it, and in other parts of Britain it is said that if a young woman picks the flowers of the Field bindweed, the object of her affections will die. Another superstition is that if you pick the flowers there will be a thunder storm, and it is called the “thunder flower” for this reason.
  Dioscorides in the 1st century AD believed that this plant could stop internal bleeding and help in the healing of wounds.
  One study exists: Meng, X. L. et al. December 2002, “Effects of a high molecular mass Convolvulus arvensis on tumour growth and angiosperm” P.R. Health Science Journal, Vol. 21 (4) pp 323-328. However the results are inconclusive as the extracts of the plant did not kill cancer cells in an in vitro culture, but, according to the researchers, “inhibited tumour growth in mice” by approximately 70 %.
  The whole plant produces a green dye, and the stems can be used to tie up other plants, such as tomatoes, but they are not durable.
  This plant was once used for medicine, but these uses seem to have been forgotten as it is now viewed as a menace, especially in field with crops.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. Considering how much of this plant I've got in my back yard, maybe I should start eating 'morning glory' salads! Nice to know it has medicinal properties too.


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