Alternanthera sessilis is a small perennial plant from Amaranthaceae family, common in many wet regions of tropical and subtropical climate zones, all over the world. It's origin is uncertain, but it was mentioned in Indian Ayurvedic texts in around 1000BC, when Charaka was prescribing the whole plant for promoting memory and inteligence, and externally for complexion, also useing it as an ingredient in rejuvenating tonic. Nowadays this plant is quite commonly used as a medicinal herb in India, for treatment of ailments of stomach and liver, as well as for improvement of condition of eyes, skin and hair. And in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, it is one of the most popular vegetables, often sold in bundles on local markets. Alternanthera sessilis and it's closely related and similar looking species like Alternanthera philoxeroides, Alternanthera nodiflola and Alternanthera brasiliana, and some of the less similar too, like Alternanthera pungens, Alternanthera bettzickiana and Alternanthera ficoidea. Are also used as a vegetables and herbal medicine in many other countries, in Asia, Africa, Americas and in Australia. Alternanthera sessilis likes wet, swampy grounds, but it easily adapt to even very dry conditions. But according to conditions, it's growth habit significantly changes, from more upright, to totally crawling. And it's leaf size and shape vary too, from more ovate to lanceolate. That can often lead to misidentification with similar Alternanthera species (with wich it can easily crosspolinate creating hybrids), but since they are all edible and share the same medicinal values, there is no threat in that.
Red leafed varieties of Alternanthera sessilis and Alternanthera brasiliana are often planted in tropical gardens as an ornamental plants, and they are edible an healthy too. And both green and red leafed varieties of Alternanthera reineckii, are popular around the world as an aquarium plants.
But while Alternanthera sessilis is highly valued as a vegetable and herbal drug, it is also often obnoxsious, highly invasive weed in tropics. Especially in wet places like rice fields, near lakes and rivers, where it multiply extremly fast from it's seeds.
The most popular common names of Alternanthera sessilis in english are : Sessile Joyweed, Dwarf Copperleaf, Carpet Weed and Water Amaranth. And here are some of other vernacular names used for this plant in different parts of the world : Brede Chevrette, Magloire (French), Periquito-sessil, Perpetua (Portugal), Rumput Aur, Karemah Bukit, Keremuk, Daun Keremak (Malay), Ponnankanni, Ponnangaani, Ponnanganni Keraai, Ponnannkannikkirai (Tamil), Horngtyang Wu (Taiwanese), Matsyaksi, Matsyaakshi, Matsyagandhaa, Matsyaadini, Minaakshi, Bahli, Gandali, Gartkalambukaa, Vaahlikaa (Ayurvedic names), Machhechhi, Paanachooni (Unani name), Gudari Sag, Garundi (Hindi), Jalajambo (Gujarati), Sanchesak, Salincha Sak, Chanchishak, Haicha (Bengali), Honagonne Soppu, Honugonesoppu (Kannada), Kozuppa, Meenamgani (Malayalam), Kanchari (Marathi), Phakchet (Manipuri), Madsagandha (Oriya), Ponnanganti Koora, Ponnagantikura (Telugu), Mukunuwenna (Sinhalese), Bengroo, Waglon (Pakistan), Daun Tolod (Indonesia), Lian Zi Cao, Bai Hua Zi (Chinese), Tsuru-nogeito (Japanese), Lupo (Panay Island), Bunga-bunga (Tagalog), Abisrana (Illocano), Karitana (Visayan), Mata Kura (Maori), nDatawuli (in Sierra Leone), Tosre, Abanase-abanase (Ghana).
Alternanthera sessilis have quite a few botanical synonyms like : Telanthera amoena, Gomphrena sessilis, Illecebrum sessile, Alternanthera triandra, Alternanthera repens, and Alternanthera denticulata, but nowadays it is hard to find this plant under any of those names.
Alternanthera sessilis is perennial but short living tropical plant, that sometimes appear as an annual. For example in regions with season cold enough to kill it (-1*C), or extremly dry season. It can reach up to 1m in height and well over 1m in width. It is half erect - half creeping or ascending herb. It grows best in rich, moist soil and is even considered to be semi-aquatic (it can grow submerged in water up to 1m deep, but rather periodicly than constantly). But suprisingly it can also grow in very dry conditions. It's leaves can be from 2 to 8 cm long, with shape from wide ovate to lanceoate. There is a red leaf variety of Alternanthera sessilis, which is easily confused with red leafed variety of Alternanthera brasiliana. And variegated forms A. sessilis, with white or yellow lines on the leaves, can also be found in cultivation as an ornamental plants, which are edible just like the green one.
This plant can grow in different types of soil, in different conditions in tropical or subtropical climate regions. But it mostly grow in wet places like swamps, near ponds, margins of rivers, streams, wet meadows and brinks of forests. In drier areas, it can survive short term lack of water, but the less water is in the soil, the slower will be it's growth. So for use as a fresh vegetable, A. sessilis need to have a constant good supply of water, otherwise it's leaves will be small and tough. But even growing with good amount of water but under strong sun, it's leaves will be tough, even though it will grow big. That is why in order to get nice big juicy and crunchy leaves, you need to provide for the plant a good compost soil, a lots of water, half shade and high temperatures. Tops of stems with young leaves, are always more tender and juicy than those older ones, so it is the best to harvest, but it also wilt quite fast. So if there is a long way from the plant to the kitchen, it is better to harvest big long stems or even the whole plant (older tougher leaves are not to good as fresh veggie, but they are still good for cooking). That will keep it fresh for longer time, especially if sticked in water.
Even in warm temperature, and even a very short stem, left in water for longer time. Will rather grow roots and new leaves, than start to wilt and rot. This good survival skills of Alternanthera sessilis, are easily noticible when you are trying to get rid of it from your garden. A tiny broken piece of stem will quickly grow roots near its nodes, when laying on moist ground. And pulled off plants thrown on the compost pile will rather thrive than die under other rotting weeds. That is why in order to avoid thousands of seedlings comming out from every corner of your garden, you better never let this vegetable to flower and spread it's seeds. As it can really easily became obnoxious weed, that will overgrow other small plants is short time.
If you are planing to storage and use this plant in dried form, for example for medicinal infusion. You should actually look for plants that grow in drier, more sunny places. They contain less water, more bioactive compounds, and get dried easily and properly. Without wilting and decaying effect, that may occur if you will try to dry watery and tender young robust shoots.
It is important to colect this herb from wild only from clean environment, as all Alternanthera species easily accumulate heavy metals from polluted soils.
Even though unknown as such, this plant is perfect for indoor pot cultivation. It grows well and is tasty while in shade, it can survive without water even during your longest holidays (even if it get wilt and drop leaves, it will easily recover after watering). And also unlike many leafy vegetables it is perennial, and will never get bolting like spinach or letuce. Young stems of Alternanthera sessilis can be harvested all year round. So I strongly recommend it for all, especially as a fresh winter leafy veggie for homes in temperate climate regions.
Young, soft leaves and tops of Sesile Joyweed, are very nice as a fresh vegetable. It have mild taste, quite like common spinach, and is good to use on sandwitches and in salads. Young stems as well as older, touhger leaves are good for cooking. It is used in sauces and soups, stir fried, added to omelets, or made as a relish. Alternanthera sessilis plays importand role in Tamil and Lankan cusine, usually called as Ponnanganni Keraai and Mukunuwenna, it is often cooked with dhal, used in curries and even added to pizza.
Cosmetic use of Alternanthera sessilis have a very long tradition, as it was recorded around 3000 years ago in Ayurvedic texts. Charaka, often called '' the father of medicine'', was back then prescribing the whole plant, externally for complexion. And the plant's name in Tamil language - Ponnankanni (Pon aagum kaan nee), translates as '' Your body will get golden luster ''. Regular consumption of Alternanthera sessilis, is belived in Sri Lanka and South India, to bring you beautiful golden skin colour, just as it is said in Europe about eating carrot. And I have no doubt in those claims, as both of those veggies contains a lots of caroten - orange colour organic pigment (In A. sessilis leaves it is covered by green chlorofil, and that is why it dont have a colour like carrot root). And this pigment, provided from diet, is getting stored in human fatty tissues. So the more, and the longer you eat caroten rich vegetables, the more golden-orange colour will be stored under your skin, giving it visual change. Caroten have also good antioxidant activity, so it helps to keep your skin healthy. Ponnankanni leaves contains also a lots of other healthy biochemicals (vitamins A1, B2, C, phytosterols, polyphenols), that acts against infections, inflamations, and nurture and revitalise skin. Both from inside of the body when digested, and cleans your blood. And from the outside, when applied on skin as a poultice (fresh smashed leaves) or in form of liquid extracts (pure squeezed plant juice, decoctions, infusions or other).
In Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, Alternanthera sessilis is used to improves hair growth, it is used to made Thailam - herbal hair oil, also used for skin care. In China the plant is used in herbal formula, thick ointment for hair regrowth. In the document of patent aplication for this formula (based on Traditional Chinese Medicine preperation), it's inventor Zhiuan Tian claimes that : '' If extract of alternanthera sessilis is added into cosmetics, it can prevent lipsotrichia [loss of hair], bring you a shinny and black hair [of course he meant chinese and not blond caucasian] and has a notable efficacy on treating yellow and white hair, pale complexion and dry skin caused by the lack of vitamin and trace element necessary to the body. Due to the fact that it can still promote the generation of melanin of hair thus it has a good efficacy on the treatment of alopecia areata [spot baldness].''
This herb is also used as an ingredient in traditional Kajal or Kohl tipe eyeliner cosmetics.
Alternanthera sessilis is one of the plants with the oldest records of it's medicinal use. It's healing properties was described in India in Ayurvedic texts of Charaka in around 1000BCE, Sushruta around 600BCE, and in 16th century Bhava Prakasha. Nowadays this plant is popular as a vegetable and medicinal herb in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. And it is also known for its health benefits in many other tropical countries around the world, and so are it's related Alternanthera species too. Recently, quite fev scientifical medicinal studies on A. sessilis have been conducted, in India (majority of publications), Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. But even though it's many healing values had been proved, this herb still remain mainly a traditional ayurvedic and folk remedy. Which is probably coused by the fact, that in most of regions of those South Asian countries, this plant is so abundant and widely consumed, that no one would buy there any drugs manufactured from it. And so use of this herb as a cure is mainly ignored by modern medicine money driven world.
In Siddha (traditional system of medicine in Sri Lanka) literature Alternanthera sessilis is described as Kaya Kalpa drug, which means that it prevents and cures chronic diseases and rejuvenates the body, and therefore is important part of the diet. Charaka was prescribing the whole plant for promoting memory and inteligence, and externally for complexion, also useing it as an ingredient in rejuvenating tonic. Sushruta was using this herb with Convolvulus pluricaulis and calcinated gold, in formula that he prescribed for children, for promoting their physical development, strenght and intelect. Ayurvedic practitioners describe this herb as bitter, astringent and acrid (but I would say that A. sessilis is mild in all those three qualities), cooling, constipating and febrifuge, useful in vitiated conditions of kapha and pitta.
Alternanthera sessilis in 100g of it's fresh leaves contain 80g water, 11.8 g carbohydrate, 4.7g protein, 2,1g fibre, 0.8g fat, 146mg calcium, 45mg phosphorus, 16.7mg iron, and provide 60 kcal. This plant is also rich in carotene 1926 mcg/100g, chlorophyll A 659.5µg/g and chlorophyll B 261 µg/g, vitamins A and C, and contain ribovlavin, niacin, manganese 87 mg/kg, magnesium 294 mg/kg, sodium 3580 mg/kg, potassium 6240 mg/kg, copper 14.5 mg/kg and zinc 45 mg/kg.
A lots of bioactive chemicals was identified in tissues of Alternanthera sessilis, including : triterpenes alpha-spinasterol, beta-spinasterol, stigmasterol, campesterol, lupeol, beta-sitosterol, oleanolic acid and its derivatives and saturated (aliphatic) esters, ellagic acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, linoeic acid, oleic acid, ricinoleic acid, phenolic acid, ascorbic acid, alpha and beta tocopherols, nonacosane, handianol, saponins, alkaloids, phenolic compounds, polyphenols, flavonols, triterpenoids, tannins, 24-methylenecycloartanol, cycloeucalenol, 5α-stigmasta-7-enol.
A. sessilis has many medicinal actions, it is named as : hepatoprotective, antioxidant, blood puryfing and detoxicating (potent radicals scavenging activity and metal ion chelating activity), anti-inflammatory, febrifuge, galactogogue, antiulcer, hematinic (stimulate formation of new blood cells), anti-anemic, cholagogue, diuretic, ophtalmic, nootropic (intelect and memory enhancing effect), antihyperglicemic, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-allergic (histaminergic - regulate histamine level), wound healing properties, lowering blood temperature, relaxing smooth muscles, in body, in bigger amounts laxative,
Alternanthera sessilis significantly increases blood platelet number, which is very supportive in treatment of thrombocytopenic disorders and dengue hemorrhagic fever, and may help to avoid platelet transfusions.
For medicinal purposes Alternanthera sessilis is usually simply eaten fresh or cooked, but it is also dried and consumed in form of powder, infusion or decoction. It's whole plant is used to treat ailments such as :
- stomach and intestines disorders, indigestion, stomachache, burning sensation, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dysentery, ulcers and inflammations. In Ghana decoction with a little of salt added is taken to stop blood vomiting.
- liver and spleen problems, jaundice, hepatitis, splenomegaly (spleen enlargement), biliousness
- lung diseased, asthma, bronchitis, tight chest, tuberculosis, haemoptysis (coughing up blood)
- kidney and urinary tract infections and inflammations, acute and chronic pyelitis, cystitis, strangury,
- eye diseases, hazy vision, ophtalmia (eyes inflammation). In Tamil Nadu, India, this herb is traditionally used to cure night blindness, leaves are cooked and eaten with normal diet for 20-30 days. Popular sayings from old tamil tradition, is that this plant can bring the clarity of the eyes, to visualize the stars even in broad day light, when it is consumed periodically as mentioned in the traditional literatures. Decoctions of A. sessilis are used as an eyewash.
- infectious diseases, sore throat, cold, fevers, malaria (In Chhattisgarh, India, one cupfull of the whole plant decoction is taken twice a day for three days to cure malaria), carbuncles, leprosy and other obstinate skin diseases. An aqueous extracts of closely related Alternanthera philoxerioides have been proved to inhibit proliferation of the HIV and Haemorrhagical Fever Virus.
- veneral diseases, gonorrhoea, leucorrhea
- to alievate pains, headache, toothache, neuralgia, and also pruritis. In Nigeria this plant is pounded and used against headache and vertigo, and leaf sap is sniffed up the nose to treat neuralgia.
- In Taiwan this herb is used to fight depression, in Bangladesh and other parts of Asia to relieve tiredness, laziness, and sleepiness. In China Alternanthera philoxeroides, which is called Kongxinxian is used for treatment of encephalitis B.
- as antidote to snake bite and scorpion sting. In India and Senegal whole stems with leaves are dried and grounded into powder, that is applied on snakebites.
- to increase the production of milk in nursing mothers
- to treat post natal complaints, puerperal fever, prolapsus ani, fistulas ani
- to supress carcinogenesis and as a protective agent against cancer
- in Pakistan, this herb is consumed to improve male sexual potency. In Bangladesh, it is used to treat low sperm count.
- it is also used for treatment of anemia, diabetes, hypertension, piles, blood disorders and against worm infection
Alternanthera sessilis is also often applied externaly :
- fresh pounded lesves are applied as poultice on : boils, ulcers, sprains, burns, eczema, acne, erisipelas, acute conjunctivitis, fungal infections, inflammations. A paste is used to draw out any spines or other objects from the body and to cure hernia.
- leaves can also be used as a plaster on wounds and skin diseases
- decoctions are used as wash for wounds and juice is squeezed from leaves directly on wounds.
- medicated lotions are also made from A. sessilis for treatment of beri-beri and fever,
- oil macerations for infected wounds was made from A. sessilis since 16 century in India. Ponnanganni Thailam oil is very famous in Tamil Nadu, it is used for hair and skin care, and to treat excessive body heat and headaches one experiences during hot summer months. It is also added to baths for relaxing body and eyes.
- the plant is also dried, powdered and used as styptic on wounds.
- In Sierra Leone decoction from leaves and stems is used to bathe children, and '' a handful of the decoction is also given orally before every bath '', in order to give them strenght.
Alternanthera repens which is quite closely related to A. sessilis, is used in Ghana '' as an enema for abdominal pains in pregnant women; together with certain ingredients, it is abortifacient.'' . S. O. Olagbende – Dada and A. S. Peters have wrote in the document of their study called '' Abortifacient effect of Alternanthera repens in female albino rats '', that: '' Alternanthera repens is one of the plants reported as being used by traditional birth attendants to ease child delivery and procure abortion. Two extracts of the plant were studied in pregnant albino rats at different stages of pregnancy. Result of the studies shows the extracts used possess abortifacient effects particularly towards term thereby attesting to the use as labour aid. ''
In Kenia Alternanthera sessilis is used in veterinary medicine. Crude extract of A. sessilis showed larvicidal effect on mosquito larves.
ALTERNANTHERA BRASILIANA (syn. Alternanthera dentata) - RED LEAFED VARIETY
ALTERNANTHERA REPENS (syn. Alternanthera pungens) - VARIEGATED VARIETY
'' Vegetables '' - G. J. H. Grubben, PROTA 2004
'' Medicinal Plants of the Asia Pacific: Drugs for the Future ? '' - Christophe Wiart, World Scientific 2006
'' Indian Herbal Remedies '' - C, P. Khare, Springer Science & Business Media 2011
'' Indian Medicinal Plants '' - C. P. Khare, Springer Science & Business Media 2008
'' Medicinal Plants and Traditional Medicine in Sierra Leone '' - Dr. Cyrus Macfoy, iUniverse 2013
'' Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeial Plant Drugs '' - C. P. Khare, CRC Press 2015
'' Encyclopedic Reference of Traditional Chinese Medicine '' - Yang Xinrong, Springer Science & Business Media 2003
'' Medicinal Plants of the Philippines '' - Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing, Katha Publishing 1978
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IN VITRO ANTIOXIDANT AND FREE RADICAL SCAVENGING ACTIVITY OF ALTERNANTHERA SESSILIS - Archana Borah, R. N. S. Yadav and B. G. Unni
'' Some Medicinal Plant Species of Asamagbe Stream Bank Vegetation, Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria '' - Ibadan J.O. Ariwaodo, E.C. Chukwuma and K.A. Adeniji
'' Extraction and degradation of chlorophyll a and b from Alternanthera sessilis '' - M.A.M. Jinasena, A.D.U.S. Amarasinghe , B.M.W.P.K. Amarasinghe and M.A.B. Prashantha
'' GC-Ms Analysis of Aqueous Leaf Extract of Alternantera Sessilis '' - K.S Leela Vinodh, B. Senthil Kumar, Department of Zoology, Thiruvalluvar University, Serkkadu, Vellore-632 001, Tamil Nadu, India
'' Antimicrobial and wound healing activities of leaves of Alternanthera sessilis Linn '' - Sunil S. Jalalpure, Nitin Agrawal, M.B. Patil, R. Chimkode, Ashish Tripathi
SCREENING THE INVITRO ANTHELMINTIC ACTIVITY OF ALTERNANTHERA SESSILIS LEAVES Vennila V and Nivetha R