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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DEVIL'S HORSEWHIP -PLANT WITH LOTS OF POTENTIAL: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF DEVIL'S HORSEWHIP


DEVIL’S HORSEWHIP, ACHYRANTHES ASPERA 
Devil’s Horsewhip or Prickly (Chaff) Flower has been used since time immemorial in the Indian subcontinent for a number of ailments. It has edible leaves and seeds, and as the plant is an amaranth, like Elephant’s Head or Kang Kong, it can be used as a substitute for spinach which is in the same family. It has been naturalized in southern Europe and grows in East Asia through to Australia.
  The whole plant is used medicinally and is an important medicinal plant in Nepal where it is used for eye complaints including night blindness among other health problems. It is believed to be efficacious due to its triterpenoid saponins which may account for its astringent, diuretic and antispasmodic properties.
  It is widely used for stomach complaints, including diarrhoea and dysentery, as a laxative and purgative as well as an emetic, and the smoke from the burnt plant is inhaled for asthma and coughs. The powdered root and seeds are also burned and inhaled for the same purposes. The seeds taken with milk are said to be good if you want to lose weight; to reduce fat in the organs, the expressed juice of the leaves is mixed and heated in sesame oil and placed on the skin over the parts where fat needs to be removed. This is also used for many skin problems.
   The powdered seeds are mixed with powdered salt and used to whiten the teeth and stop bleeding gums. The stems of the plant may also be used as toothbrushes. With pepper and garlic the leaves, ground to a paste are made into pea sized balls and dried and given to reduce fever, while the crushed leaves mixed into an ointment with ghee are used for piles.
  The seeds may be eaten and are rich in protein, and the plant is a food crop in China. The leaf is sometimes used as a pot herb to flavour dishes.
  The plant contains betaine and achyranthine an alkaloid, along with tannin, glycosides and triterpenoid saponins (mentioned above) and yields essential oil. Scientific studies have found that the plant has anti-inflammatory, analgesic antibiotic, anti-fungal, cholesterol-lowering, immuno-stimulatory, wound healing, and anti-bacterial properties. It also is anti-allergenic, supports the kidneys’ functions, is spermicidal and anti-parasitical.  It also seems to kill mosquito larvae.
   It is used for snake bites and those of poisonous insects and bites from rabid dogs. A decoction of the powdered leaves mixed with honey or gur is given for diarrhoea and dysentery, and the roots are used in the treatment of cancer, bladder stones, and stomach problems. The seeds are used for leprosy and bronchial problems and for the kidneys, and he crushed plant boiled in water is used for pneumonia. The flowering tops or seeds are used for snake bites night blindness and ground into a paste with water for application to skin problems. The root is ground into a paste with water and applied to snake bites, or given internally to produce vomiting.
  Clearly it is a beneficial plant to grow although it is not necessary to cultivate it in the Indian subcontinent as it grows profusely on wasteland. More scientific studies are needed before the medical world accepts the usefulness of this plant, but studies so far have supported many of the traditional uses of this plant.

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