Elephantopus scaber is a small, perennial flowering plant from asteraceae family that is considered to be panatropical. It can be found as a common weed in South Asia and Southeast Asia, from India and Sri Lanka to the Philippines and Indonesia, it is also said to grow wild in Australia, Tropical Africa and also South America. It's close, and very similar relative Elephantopus tomentosus is said to be native to North America, but can be found as a weed in many different tropical regions of the world, and it is generally considered to be the same species with Elephantopus mollis. Because of the the fact that names E. scaber, E. tomentosus and E. mollis are often attached to the plants with the same features, they can be all considered as a synonyms. All the plants, that have been ever put under any of those three names by any respectfull researchers, are showing close resemblance. And even if you dig deeper to try to distinguish those plants and seperate them as those three different species, you will get a headache from reading contraindicting descriptions from different authorities. Plus possibilities of hybridisation, and uotlook characteriscics fluctuations due to differences in environments are significant in those plants. So even though E. scaber is generally described to grow smaller and have more rough leaf surface, from more robust E. tomentosus/mollis with softer, more hairy leaves. Scaber in fertile, humid soil will grow bigger than tomentosus/mollis in dry sandy land, and their leaves will change a lot too (but personally I think that the main key to distinct two types should be leaf shape comparison, as its shape differ a bit). But the good thing is that you don't need to care much about their botanical clasification. Because these three species mentoned here, have been used to cure the same diseases wherever it was found. And resoults of scientific tests are showing that they all share the same bioactive constituents and pharmacological actions.
Elephantopus scaber is the most popular name for these plants, used for translations of many ancient names given to it by many different cultures. It have been recorded as a herbal medicine a centuries ago in China, India, Sri Lanka and many other countries. And many countries (mostly from Southeast Asia) have its contributions to modern scientific research on medicinal properties of this herb, which started in 1970s. Authors of one of those studies, from Burdwan University, West Bengal, India, stated that '' E. scaber is one of such plants which have tremendous reputation in indigenous traditional system of medicine in India, by virtue of which it has drawn the attention and concern of scientists for exploration of its medicinal properties through phytochemical and pharmacological evaluation.'' That is why it have nowadays well proved, effectivenes in treatment of cancer, microbial infections, liver ailments and in wound healing, to name just few.
The most common name in english for Elephantopus scaber is Elephant's Foot, but often it is called more precisely Prickly-leaves Elephant's Foot or Rough-leaved Elephant's Foot. Which is for distinction from Elephantopus tomentosus and Elephantopus mollis that are called Woolly-leaved Elephant's Foot, Hairy Elephant's Foot or Soft Elephant's Foot. E. tomentosus/mollis can be also found under names of Wild Tabacco, False Tabacco or Tabbaco Weed (smoke of it's burning leaves is said to keep bad spirits away from the house) or Wood Mullein.
Here are just some of many other vernacular names of this plant in many other languages : Katoopin (Burmese), Ku Di Dan, Di Dan Cao (Chinese), Pied d'elephant, Lastron Marron (French), Elefanten Fuss (German), Gojihiva, Kharaparnini, Prastarini (Sanskrit), Gobhi, Samduri, Ban-tambakhu, Adhomukha (Hindi), Galjimi (Gujarati), Gojiho, Sahasra Buti (Nepalese), Gojilata, Shamdulum (Bengal), Hastipata, Pathari (Marathi), Anashavadi, Anashovah (Tamil), Mayurachula (Orija), Ethadi, Ath adi (Sinhalese), Teng Khia (in Taiwan), Hustikasaka, Eddupattu (Telugu), Hakkarika, Nayi Nalige (Kannada), Anayatiyan, Aanacchuvati (Malayalam), Gojia lota, Hasti pada, Shamdalan, Gejiashak (in Bangladesh), Dila Dila, Tabatabkohan - E. scaber, Malatabako - E. tomentosus (Tagalog), Kabkabron (Iloko), Tutup Bumi - E. scaber, Litup Bumi - E. tomentosus, Bersih Hitam, Tapak Sulaiman, Tapak Babi, Tapak Lemak (Malaysia), Pepalut (Sabah), Tapak Liman, Talpak Tana (Indonesian), Ya kai nok kum, Domai ru lom (Thailand), Co luoi meo (Vietnam), Khii Fai Nok Khoum (Laos), Tawmonlar, Womis Kwintu - E. mollis (Surinam), Erva de Colegio, Suacacaa, Fumo de Mata - all those three are used specificly for E. mollis in Brasil, Shirobanaigakozorina - E. mollis in Japan.
Elephantopus scaber is a perennial but short living flowering plant. It is growing wild in many tropical and subtropical regions, at alevations up to around 1500m altitude. It creates rosettes of hairy leaves (from 10 up to around 30cm long) just above the ground, that lay flat, or are more upright if the plant is growing in shade. From those rosettes a flowering stems are rising in summer, often with some leaves on it. The stems are usually shorter than 60cm when it grows under strong sunlight, on open fields, in dry soils and even semi arid conditions. But the plant can be also often found in forests, under strong shade, or wet meadows with rich soil, and in such environment flowering stems are usually (except young plants) more branched and reach even around 1,5m height. Though as I mentioned above, many botanists recognize most of those more robust plants with bigger, softer and more hairy leaves as a different species, called Elephantopus tomentosus or Elephantopus mollis. Some are also saying that E. scaber have always fiolet frowers, and all those similar looking Elephantopus plants with white or pinkish flowers, should be labeld as E. tomentosus or E. mollis.
Elephant's Foot can be easily propagated by seeds, and since both it's roots, leaves and flowers are considered to be a valuable herbal material, the whole plant can be harvested by uprooting during flowering, for drying purposes. But if you don't have seeds gathered, don't want to get rid of your old plants, or just want to use this herb as fresh, you can just pick leaves whenever needed or frowers when it appeares. But remember that the less leaves you will leave on the individual plant, the longer you will need to wait for new ones to grow on it, as you are weakening plant sunlight absorption capacity.
Elephantopus scaber leaf extract was found to be toxic against pests like Red Flour Beetle (Tribolium castaneum), Cotton Stainer (Dysdercus cingulatus) and Maize Weevil (Sitophilus zeamais), therefore it can be used as a natural pesticide against those bugs, and the plant is worth further investigation for its anti-pest potential.
Young bitter leaves of Elephantopus scaber are cooked like spinach or added to salads that are eaten for better health in China. In Malaysia fresh or dried leaves are used to boil in soups. In China leaves and roots are boiled in pork stew, which is eaten every day for 4-5 days, to cure jaundice. In India crushed leaves are mixed with salt and taken with curd for dysentery. Fresh leaves are ingredient in Lei Cha - traditional Hakka herbal dish.
In Siddha medicine (traditional system of medicine in Sri Lanka) the leaves of Elephantopus scaber are used as a thaali (tied around the head) for hair in case of hairfall. In the Philippines juice of pounded leaves is applied on scalp to slow down hair loss. Resoults of Indian studies indicated that hair oil formulation of methanolic extract of Elephantopus scaber rendered significant hair growth promotive effect.
In Indonesia Elephantopus scaber is used in powders for firming the breasts. This herb is also used in many different countries in form of plant decoction wash, fresh pounded roots or leaves poultice, for many different skin infections. It have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and wound healing properties, which makes it a potentially very good herbal skin care creams ingredient.
There is a patented skin whitening agent for external aplication, containing a solvent extract of Elephantopus mollis, which is claimed to have '' a superior effect in lightening and whitening pigmentation after suntans, senile lentigo, freckles, melasma and so forth.'' Resoults of Japanese studies indicated that Elephantopus mollis extract is a usefull depigmanting (regulating melanogenesis), skin-whitening agent.
Elephant's Foot is a herb that is highly esteemed wherever it can be found. It plays importand role in traditional medicine in many of tropical and subtropical regions around the world. It is usually gathered from wild, as it is quite abundant weed (and sometimes even consedered invasive) in most of the places of it's appearance. Dried leaves, roots or whole plants can be found on asian markets, as well as dry or liquid extracts, pills or capsules made from herb of Elephantopus scaber. Elephant's Foot is also a important ingredient in many herbal preparations sold in Asia, but it is hard to find any on the global market.
Elephantopus scaber is the name that can be in found in hundreds of reports about traditional herbalism, as well as in dozens of documents that are records of modern farmakological studies, both of which comes from many countries from different continents. Elephantopus tomentosus and Elephantopus mollis seems to be less famous on international scale, but those names also appeares in many texts about it's reported traditional uses and scientific medicine research resoults. There is well enough sources to see clearly that both traditional claims and fitochemical reports of plants puted under the names of E. tomentosus and E. mollis are no different to those of plants labeled as E. scaber (which name as I mentioned above is often used as a synonym for E. tomentosus/mollis or simply mixed with those more robust genotypes).
Elephantopus scaber contains : germacranolide sesquiterpene lactones (elephantopin, deoxyelephantopin, isodeoxyelephantopin, germacranolide), molephantin, molephantinin, phantomolin, elephantin, alpha-curcumene, beta-amyrin, epifriedelinol, ethyl hexadecanoate, stigmasterol, stigmasteryl, scabertopin, lupeol, dicaffeoyl quinic acids, urosolic acids, stearic acid, fatty acid esters, crepiside E, triterpenes, flavonoids, flavonoid esters, saponins, tannins, cardiac glycosides, alkaloids, quinones, aurones, chalcones and essential oil 0.05% v/w (hexadecanoic acid (42.3%), isopropyl dimethyl tetrahydronaphthalenol (14.1%), beta-sesquiphellandrene (8.3%), octadecadienoic acid (5.5%), phytol (5.2%) and also copaene isopropyl dimethyl hexahydronaphthalene, cyclosativene).
Elephant's Foot herb is described in Traditional Chinese Medicine system as bitter, acrid and cold, detoxyficating, disinhibiting dampness, clearing heat and cooling blood. In terms used in Western Herbalism it's medicinal actions are described as : anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, liver tonic, nefroprotective, chemoprotective, alterative, vulnerary, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial (effective against both gram positive and gram negative strains), antiprotozal, antitripanasomal, antimalarial, antifungal, anthelmintic, cardiovascular, cardiac tonic, astringent, febrifuge, diuretic, emollient, emmenagogue, abortifacient, antiasthmatic (antihistaminic, anticholinergic and mast cell stabilizing), bechic, analgesic, antidiabetic, hypoglycemic, anticancer (cytotoxic, antineoplastic, antimetastatic), antidiarrhoeal (but laxative in stronger doses), antiemetic, galactogogue, antiplatelet - anti-coagulant, diaphoretic, antiulcer, bone regenerative, antimutagenic and aphrodisiac. Effects of one study on aged rats suggest that ethanolic extract of Elephantopus scaber leaves have memory enhance activity.
Elephant's Foot leaves, roots, flowers or whole plants, are used fresh or dried to prepare decoctions, infusions or pills that are consumed as a remedy for wide range of ailments like :
- mouth and throat infections like sore throat, cough, cold, influenza, pharyngitis, rhinitis, tonsillitis and mouth ulcers. Decoctions are used to protect teeth as a mouthwash. In India the roots of Elephantopus scaber are powdered with pepper and applied to toothache, the root is also used as a tooth brush. Elephantopus mollis extract is an ingredient of dental cream for strengthening and protecting tooth surface (Swissdent Biocare Toothcream).
- lung infections and dysfunctions like respiratory syncytial virus RSV, bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis
- many other kinds of bacterial, viral and fungal infections like skin diseases (boils, scabies, smallpox, fungal skin diseases), conjuctivitis, veneral diseases (gonorrhea, syphilis), fevers (including puerperal fever and fever in children - small pills are made from the root paste and given to suckling children suffering from fever.), also plasmodial infections like malaria and filariasis (round worms). Malays use this herb to treat worm infestation in children. Water extract of Elephantopus scaber's leaves and root, showed potent HIV-1 RT inhibitory action (96.93 % inhibition ratio).
- liver complains like hepatitis, jaundice, hepatopathy, cirrhosis and alcohol induced liver damage
- kidney and urinary tract infections and disorders like kidney and bladder stones, nephritis, dysuria (painful urination), anuria (nonpassage of urine)
- for treatment of many form of cancer - liver, lung, breast, pancreatic, cervical, colorectal, sarcomas, skin papillomas, prostate, nasopharyngeal and leukemia.
- as a cure for menstrual disorders, irregular menses, vaginal discharges, blennorrhoea, leucorrhoea, ametrorrhagia, menorrhagia, dysmenorrhoea, and menstrual derangements due to colds
- inflammatory conditions like arthritis, arthralgia due to wounding, rheumatism and hemorrhoids. In Nigeria Elephantopus mollis is used to treat inflammations of the uterus and ovaries,
- used for increasing urination in water retention related diseases like dropsy and anuria
- in treatment of diabetes, it reduce elevated blood glucose level and normalise insulin level
- used for supporting and speeding up wounds and bone fractures healing processes
- for pain relief in headaches, chest pains
- as a antidote for snake bite and spider bite
- it is also consumed to treat : anemia, beri-beri, goitre, encephalitis B, insomnia and as braintonic
Root decoctions are taken for heart diseases and as a cardiotonic. Root juice (2 teaspoons three times per day) has been consumed to overcome heart and liver troubles. Fresh roots are chewed to treat cough, cold and headache.
Decoctions and infusions of all parts of Elephant's Foot plant, are also used externally for skin wash, and fresh leaves and roots are smashed and applied as a poultice, to treat :
- cuts, wounds and bruises, it works as a desinfecant and speed up healing process, for this purpose also powderized leaves and roots are applied
- skin infections like chicken pox, erysipelas, abscesses, filariasis, measles and eczema
- inflammations of skin and ulcers.. Bruised leaves boiled in coconut oil are applied on ulcers, eczema and gout affected parts of body.
- root paste has been used externally as anti-venom. The root is ground and massage from the snake bite place toward down. In Sri Lanka Elephantopus tomentosus is used for cobra and viper bites.
- plant paste is used for menorrhagia and tetanus
- root paste is aplied as poultice for pneumonia, it is also known to be useful through external application in reducing fever
- for abdominal pains poultice of the plant is applied externaly, pasted root is applied on forehead to relieve headache,
Kani tribes in Kerala, South India use E. scaber as a remedy for blood clotting and circulatory system problems. Hakka people in Malaysia drink juice squeezed from fresh leaves of E. scaber or tea from dried or fresh leaves with dates, as a remedy for heat stroke.
In her book '' Jamu, the Ancient Indonesian Art of Healing '', Susan-Jane Beers wrote that '' The root of tapak liman (Elephantopus scaber; prickly-leaved elephant's foot) is a remedy for boils, while chemical components in the leaves are useful for treating chronic diarrhoea and fever. However, it is better known as an aphrodisiac and is used in powders for firming the breasts, which allows it to fall into both medical and beauty treatment categories.'' In India and Bangladesh flowers of Elephantopus scaber are particularly valued as a tonic and aphrodisiac, but the whole herb is also mentioned to posses that quality. E. scaber is one of the ingredients in Thai herbal capsules Kmalg Chgag Sar for enhancing male sexual potency and treatment of infertility in men. Fresh root of this plant is employed for treating spermatorrhea.
In the past this herb was used frequently by Malayan midwives as oxytocic uterotonic and myometrial contraction stimulant. Decoctions are used to promote contraction of the uterus after delivery, as an aid to hasten the delivery of placenta, and to prevent post-partum haemorrhage, inflammations and puerperal infections. In Tamil Nadu, India, roots of E. scaber are used to induce abortion. Elephantopus scaber should not be used during pregnancy, and for safety should be only given at low concentration to children.
All those photos that I had put above, are of the plants that I would listed as Elephantopus tomentosus/mollis type, while under I put images of those plants that I consider to be oryginal Elephantopus scaber type.
'' Nature's Medicine, A Collection of Medicinal Plants from Malaysia's Rainforests '' - Dr. Abdul Ghani Hussain, Dr. Khatijah Hussin, Prof. Dr. Normah Mohd Noor, Landskap Malaysia 2015
'' A Guide to Medicinal Plants: An Illustrated, Scientific and Medicinal Approach '' - Koh Hwee Ling, Chua Tung Kian, Tan Chay Hoon, World Scientific Publishing 2009
'' Issues in Pharmacology, Pharmacy, Drug Research, and Drug Innovations, 2011 Edition '' - ScholarlyEditions 2012
'' Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants '' - L. D. Kapoor, CRC Press 2000
'' Jamu, the Ancient Indonesian Art of Healing '' - Susan-Jane Beers, Tuttle Publishing 2001
'' Botanical Pesticides in Agriculture '' - Anand Prakash, Jagadiswari Rao, CRC Press 1996
'' Medicinal Plants of the Philippines '' - Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing, Katha Publishing 1978
'' Primitive Tribes in Contemporary India '' - Sarit Kumar Chaudhuri, Sucheta Sen Chaudhuri, Mittal Publications 2005
'' CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants '' - Umberto Quattrocchi, CRC Press 2016
'' A Reference Guide to Medicinal Plants '' - J. K. Crellin, Jane Phillpot, Duke University Press 1990
'' A Textbook of Medicinal Plants from Nigeria '' - Tolu Odugbemi, Tolu Odugbemi 2008
'' Tapak Liman (Elephantopus scaber L.) As Immunostimulant and Its Effect on Lymphocyte Differentation in Mice BALB/C '' - Marmi Kelik, Faculty of Language and Science, University of Wijaya Kusuma Surabaya
'' Antibacterial and antifungal activities of Elephantopus scaber Linn. '' - Sachin M. Hiradeve, Vinod D. Rangari, Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Guru Ghasidas Vishwavidyalaya, Koni, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, India- 495001
''A REVIEW OF ANTICANCER POTENTIAL OF ELEPHANTOPUS SCABER AND ITS PHYTOCONSTITUENTS'' - Rupali Dutta Roy, Md. Shahadat Hossan, Mohammed Rahmatullah* Department of Pharmacy, University of Development Alternative, Lalmatia, Dhaka-1207 Bangladesh
'' Elephantopus Species: Traditional Uses, Pharmacological Actions and Chemical Composition.'' Abubakar Kabiru (Corresponding author) Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Usmanu Danfodiyo University. P.M.B 2346, Sokoto, Nigeria
B. S. Geetha, P. G. Latha, P. Remani. Amelioration of Cisplatin-Induced Toxicity in Normal Mice by Plant Based Antitumor Drug, Elephantopus scaber L., Asian Journal of Ethnopharmacology and Medicinal Foods, 01 (01), 2015; 20- 24