Bougainvillea spectabilis is a shruby climbing perrenial plant native to South America. Because of the astonishing beauty of its flowers it has been distributed all around the world, grown in many gardens in warm regions and kept as houseplant wherever it is too cold. There are many cultivars of this plant, with inflorescences that are coming in many shades of red, pink, orange, golden, violet, magenta and pure white.
Botanists around the world are usually using names Bougainvillea spectabilis and Bougainvillea glabra for those charming ornamentals, with indication that first one is more robust and called Great Bougainvillea, while second grows smaller. But in reality it is hard to indentify and segregate those hundreds of hybrids, in other order than by its flower's colour. Only white varieties have always longer more oval leaves, most of the other have rather more or less heart shape. Even though it was introduced to Europe around two hundreds years ago and soon was spread around the world, becoming one of most popular cultivated plants. It is still widely known only as an ornamental. Knowledge about its medicinal values didn't spread that easily. Very few people are using it in India, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia, but only in South and Central America to Mexico, traditional use of this plant for healing have any popularity. In recent years there were quite few studies made in few different countries, conducted to test Bougainvillea medicinal values, that confirmed in laboratory tests its healing powers. But that still didn't make it popular as a herb. Its colourful inflorescence are sometimes used for dye.
Beside of many variations of name Bougainvillea, like: Buganvilea (Brasil), Bougainvillier (French), Bogambilia (Spanish), Booganbel (Hindi), Baganbilas (Bengali), Bongabilya (Tagalog). This plant is also commonly called : Paper Flower, Glory of the Garden, Cansarina, Ceboleiro, Juvu (Brasil), Tres-Marias (Portuguese), Santa Rita, Trinitaria (Spanish), Drillingsblume (German), Sekku-Pan (Burmese), Ye Zi Hua (Chinese), Kembang Kertas (Indonesia), Bunga Kertas (Malaysia), Shpupu-Kutshanat (Mexico), Fuengfa (Thai), Hoa Giay Nhan (Vietnam), Livetso (Congo), Ikada-kazura (Japan)
CULTIVATION AND HARVESTING
Bougainvillea spectabilis is a woody perrenial plant with tendencies to climb. On its own it can create around 4m height wide bush with weeping branches. But when planted next to tall tree or with other type of support, its stems can climb on it even up to 15m height. There are dwarf cultivars as well. It grows best in temperatures above 18'C, and dies when it is not much less than 0'C ( if your plant has been killed by frost, there is still chance that the roots survived, and it will sprout back when temperature will rise ). In regions with very dry season it often lose leaves and stay dormant till rains come. It flowers better when it has a bit of seasonal drought or chilly temperatures time than when it is in all year round humid tropical area. It can have flood of flowers for around half of the year or even all year round (equatorial regions). It loves strong sun. It grows best on fertile, well watered and well drained soils but can cope even on pore dry sandy or claish ground, and have high salt tolerance. If your plants are not making flowers or have just few, but have lushy growth, it means its overfed and over watered and you should starve it a bit. Bougainvillea should to be propagated from cuttings to keep original colour of flowers, as it is crosspolinates easily, creating hybrids with new shades. It should be maintained with care as its thorns, hiding under leaves, can have from 1 to 2 cm and can cause serious harm, but rare cultivars without thorns also can be found. It can be grown in containers and is cultivated as a house plant in cold climate regions. Many people are using its strong adaptation skills and toughness to turn it into beautiful bonsai.
Bougainvillea spectabilis leaf extract is highly effective in reducing yellow vein mosiac infection in okra and inhibited tomato spotted wilt and spovirus on capsicum annum, thanks to antiviral protein it contain. Methanolic extracts of flower bracts of Bougainvillea spectabilis are very good pH indicators.
Flowers of Bougainvillea are edible, it can be eaten fresh and have gently bitter taste, thats gives feeling of refreshment. It is used in salads and drinks (violet flovers color drinks violet ), including tea for coughs. It can also be turned into a snack, by frying whole flower clusters dipped in batter.
Bougainvillea has long tradition of medicinal use in south, central America and Mexico, that is very seldom known in India and other tropical countries where it is popular as an ornamental plant. All parts of plant including roots are used in forms of infusions (mostly flowers) decoctions (stems, leaves, roots) and tinctures (all parts). It is most commonly used as a tea for cough, sore throat, flu, fever, diarrhoea, and diabetes (it contain pinitol - chemical that mimicing insulin). And is also used for hepatitis and liver problems (it protects liver thanks to esculetin content), asthma, bronchitis, to reduce stomach acidity, dissolve blodcloths, to regulate menstruation and stop leucorrhea (white vaginal discharge), and for anemia associated with gastrointestinal bleeding and epigastric pain. Infusion from flowers is drunk as a remedy for low blood pressure.
Even though nowadays cultivars of plants called Bougainvillea spectabilis, B. glabra and their hybrids, called Bougainvillea specto-glabra cannot be indentified by differences in features. Scientists are ussually unaware of that fact or too afraid to call them synonyms. In fact they just stick to spectabilis or glabra name that was passed to them from the source of the plant, without focusing on the most significant feature that differentiate those beautiful plants - flowers colour. Sadly even in descriptions of plant material that was used in tests on bioactivity of Bougainvillea flowers, its colour is mostly not mentioned. It is known though that violet, magenta and deep red coloured flowers (more exactly flower bracts, that looks like petals) contains more healthy anthocyanins, than those brighter ones. It is obvious that like every herb, Bougainvillea spectabilis/glabra has many different chemotypes. But no matter which of those two names is on the title of research, its results are always proving one medicinal pattern for Bougainvillea s/g stems and leaves, that contains : anthraquinones, saponins, triterpenoids, flavonoids, phenols, sterols, glycosides, alkaloids, tannins, furanoids, antiviral proteins, pinitol, esculetin, kaempferol, myricetin, quercetin, apigenin, rutin, sinapic acid, p-coumarin acid, p-hydroxy benzoic acid, ferulic acid, gallic acid, protocatechiuc acid, chlorogenic acid, vanillic acid, caffeic acid, oxalic and syringic acid. And confirmed actiones : antioxidant, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antidiarrhoeal, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, expectorant, antitumor (antiproliferate activity against several cancer cell lines), antithrombic, antiulcer, antiasthmatic, laxative, hepatoprotective, anti-atherogenic, nematicidal, larvicidal, analgesic, wound healing, antialergenic, antimutagenic and amylase inhibition.
In tests, water extracts significantly lower testosterone level in male, and estrogen in female mice. Alcohol extract reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases and reduces bad cholesterol level. Tests on effect of ethanolic extract of Bougenvillea leaves, showed it significantly reduces serum calcium and potassium and significantly increase phosphate concentration, serum urea and creatinine concentration. Therefore continous usage of EEBSL might adversly affect normal functions of kidney and liver.
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