Polyscias fruticosa and it's closely related species like Polyscias scutellaria, Polyscias guilfoylei and Polyscias paniculata, are tropical, perrenial shrubs. Even though their leaves looks very different, all those species share the same other plant structure characteristics and the same grow habits. And they all comes from regions from South India threw Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia to Polynesia. But nowadays those plants, and especially their many cultivars, with varigated or fancy shape-distorted leaves are grown all around the world. They are popular as an ornamental plants in tropical gardens, and in cold winter countries they are common house plants, often shaped as a bonsai. Yet they are another example of the plants famous worldwide for their beauty, while their possesed culinary and medicinal values are mostly never heard of. Only in some regions of Southeast Asia those Polyscias species are commonly used as vegetables and spices. And people use their knowledge about those plants medicinal uses, which has long tradition.
It is especially valued in Vietnam, where Polyscias fruticosa's root is often used as a Ginseng substitute (both contain similar triterpenoid saponins), and is included in National Vietnamese Pharmacopoeia. And where big scale plantations has been established to produce this herbal drug. In fact those Polyscias species are so closely related to Panax ginseng (latin name of Ginseng), that they all posses botanical synonymes of Panax or Northopanax. In recent years there have been some interest in scientific world about medicinal qualities of those Polyscias species, which resoulted in quite a few pharmacological and medical studies. In effect in Russia production of artificially, laboratory grown Polyscias filicifolia tissue cells has been started, and the product is sold as a dietary supplement called Vitagmal (marketed as tonic, antistress, adaptogenic and immunomodulatory specific). In Vietnam capsules with P. fruticosa root powder are sold, but it is still more common to use simply dried and sliced roots to make decoctions to drink as a treatment for dysentery, headaches, urinary stones, inflammations and to boost immunity and stamina. P. fruticosa and closely related Polyscias species leaves are eaten fresh or boiled as a vegetable or just added as a spice. It's taste is combination of the tastes of Ginseng, Parsley and Celery.
There are hundreds of ornamental cultivars of those shruby Polyscias species, with high diversity of colours and shapes of leaves, and new onece are still emerging. Which just makes worst it's arleady highly debatable botanical clasification. Many of those plants have been given tens of different scientific names by different botanics. And even though most of it is out of use today. Those botanical names that have become popular and main ones, are often used intercharchebly, so the distinction line between those Polyscias species is very flexible. Here is my opinion on that :
English common names : Ming Aralia (it is sometomes also called simply Aralia, which is very misleading since Aralia is the name for plants of different genus, used mainly for Aralia racemosa species), Ming Tree, Parsley Panax, Cut-leaved Panax, India Polyscias.
Other vernacular names : Dinh Lang, Cay Goi Ca (Vietnam), Danidani(Fiji), Dinhlang (India), Kuku Garuda, Pokok Teh (Malaysia), Puding, Kedongdong Laut, Kedongdong Petedhan, Bombu, Tjakar Kutjung, Gurabati, Dewu Papua (Indonesia), Papua, Bani, Makan (Philippines), Loan-lak-taen, Kalon-letthe, Khrut thot man, Khrut phak chi, Khrut thot man, Khrut bait het, Lep khrut fai (Thailand), Toem Bo Lyam (Cambodia), Taiwan Momiji (Japan), Lian Wang Cha (Taiwan), Nan yang shen (China), Arvore-da-felicidade-femea (Portugese).
Some of it's many botanical synonymes : Nortopanax fruticosum, Panax fruticosus, Aralia deleauana, Aralia fruticosa, Aralia tripinnata, Nothopanax fruticosus, Panax aureus, Panax diffusus, Tieghemopanax fruticosus.
It is often considered to be just variety of Polyscias fruticosa, although it's leaf shape is significantly different. It's other botanical synonymes are : Polyscias cumingiana, Aralia filicifolia, Aralia spectabilis, Nothopanax ornatus, Panax ornatus.
Common names ; Fern Leaf Aralia, (English), Golden Prince Panax, Yellow Angelica (English for yellow leaf variety), Xian Ye Nan Yang Shen (Chinese), Khrut i-pae (Thailand), Iriduki'Imetchale (Papua New Guinea).
Common names : Dinner-plate Aralia, Shield Aralia, Cup-leaved Aralia, Saucer Leaf, Shell Leaf.
Dinh Lang Dia (Vietnam), Krut kra thong (Thailand), Daun mangkok, Mamanukan, Godong Mangkokan, Lanida, Ndalido, Ndari, Ranido, Daun koin, Daun papeda, Daun koin, Mangkok, Memangkokan, Goma matari, Sawoko, Rau paroro (Indonesia), Daun Mangkuk, Pokok Puding Mangkok, Semangkok, Daun belangkas (Malaysia), Danidani, Levu (Fiji), Ndosir, Umroki (Vanatu Islands), Yuan ye nan yang shen (China), Kapaie, Kaope pa (Cook Islands), Tagitagi (Samoa Island), Platito (Philippines).
Some of it's many botanical synonymes ; Panax scutellarioides, Nothopanax scutellarius, Aralia cochleata, Aralia rotunda, Aralia rotundifolia, Crasulla scutellaria, Hedera cochleata, Paratropia latifolia.
It is often conidered to be the same species with Polyscias scutellaria, but actual P. scutellaria has got single leaves, while actual P. balfouriana has leaves compound of 3 or 5 leaflets.
Common names : Balfour Aralia, Balfour Polyscias (English), Baglio, Aralia de Balfour (French), Aralia Redonda, Arvore da Felicidade, Aralia Cortina (Portugese), Aralia Balfour (Spanish), Fiederaralie (German), Khrut nok, Khrut ngon kai, Khrut bai ma tum, Khrut thong kham (Thailand)
Botanical synonymes : Polyscias pinnata, Aralia balfouriana.
Geranium Leaf Aralia, Guilfoyle Polyscias, Parsley Aralia (English), Dalidali (Fiji), Khrut bai yai, Khrut yai (Thailand), Tapak Kucing (Malaysia), Kadondong Lalap (Indonesia), Tagi-tagi(Samoa), Angelica (Sierra Leone). Yin bian nan yang shen (China).
Botanical synonymes : Northopanax guilfoylei, Panax guilfoylei, Aralia guilfoylei, Aralia maculata, Aralia monstrosa, Panax victoriae.
Polyscias paniculata is often included as a type of Polyscias guilfoylei, yet I think that it's leaves shape is so distinct that it deserve its own species name.
Common names : Rose Leaf Aralia, Roseleaf Aralia, Wild Coffee Panax, False Coffee (English), Arvore-da-felicidade, Aralia-cortina, Arvore-da-felicidade-macho (Portugese), Kapaie, Kaope Pa (Cook Islands).
Botanical synonyms : Panax paniculatus, Botryopanax ayresii, Gastonia paniculata, Gilibertia paniculata, Grotefendia cuneata, Panax ayresii, Polyscias ayresii.
CULTIVATION AND HARVESTING
All the Polyscias species that I have listed above are tropical perennial, evergreen shrubs. It all can reach around 5m height, and its stems grow straight upright, making whole bush quite veritical. Except for the leaf shape it all grows alike, but Polyscias paniculata is generally more robust than for example Parsley-leaved Polyscias guilfoylei, although they all grow rather slow. This grow habit is one of the reasons for it to have reputation of low maintenance plants. Which alongside with their beauty made them worldwide famous as a house plants and tropical garden plants.
It all can grow in full sun or full shade but light shaded places are best for it. Under strong sunlight sometimes leaves become bleak or yellowish. But don't get confused as there are varieties with all-year yellow leaves, like for example famous Polyscias filicifolia 'Golden Prince'. And there are lots of different cultivars with variegated yellow-green or white-green leaves. And some (mostly P. guilfoylei varieties) has leaves shapes so shredded or distorted, that it might looks like if driven by some diseases or pests. But Polyscias is generally resistant to pests and diseases, but mites and scales can attack it. And so it is to seasonal droughts, so even if your Polyscias plants will drop all it's leaves, don't throw it away but give some water and time to recover.
It grows best in rich compost soil, that is well watered but well drained. The roots start to rot easily if there is some water gathered at the bottom of it's pot, or some water retention in place where it grows in garden. Shrubby Polyscias can tolerate almost any type of soil, from acidic to slightly alkaline, and a salt spray. It can grow with very little nutrients in soil or in very small pot for long time, which inhibit it's growth but will not affect the plants health. And that is why it is often turned into bonsai. It is not feeling well in low temperatures and any frost can kill it. It's flowers are very tiny, inefective, but appear if form of sometimes big, but anatractive stems with clusters, it is followed by small black berries (I don't have any information about it's edibility, but I'm guessing that Polyscias paniculata gained its common name False Coffee and Wild Coffee Panax not just because of similarity of it's leaves to those of Coffee plant and it's stimulating effect).
Those plants are easy to propagate threw woody stems cuttings or layering. All parts of Polyscias plants can be gathered all year round, thick old roots and trunks are cut in slices after harvesting, to make it dry easier.
Essential oil from Polyscias fruticosa was found to have pesticidal action on some house insect pests like flies. ants, mosquitoes, dog fleas, head lice, and cockroaches. Polyscias plants also acts as molluscicide.
Leaves, young shoots and roots of Polyscias fruticosa and it's closely related species mentioned above, can be eaten raw or cooked. It is sometimes called Parsley Panax, and i think that this name is depicting it's culinary nature very well, although I would say even that it is Celery Pasley Panax. Panax relate to Panax ginseng - latin name of Ginseng, which taste is strongly evident in Polyscias fruticosa and related Polyscias species, just as the taste of Celery and Parsley. It makes a good condiment as it aid digestion, it can also be added to soups or stews.
Javanese and Malaysians use leaves of Polyscias fruticosum as a condiment and herb to flovour meat and fish. In Thailand the young leaves and shoots are eaten raw with lap, lu, koi and dipped in flour batter for deep frying to be eaten with namphrik. In Melanesian islands P. filicifolia leaves are boiled and eaten with salt, pepper and butter.
All parts of those plants including stems, can be used dried or fresh to make a bitter, revitalizing and stimulating tea.
Polyscias fruticosa, Polyscias scutellaria, Polyscias guilfoylei and closely related species have long traditions of medicinal use in Southeast Asia and Polynesia. But nowadays even in those regions most of the people know those plants only as an ornamental plants, and never heard of their culinary uses and health benefits. Only in Vietnam it seems to have significant popularity as a medicinal herb. Polyscias fruticosa is called there - Dinh Lang, and is grown on many plantations, mostly for it's roots considered to be Ginseng substitute (P.f. root is sometimes called Ginseng of the Poor due to the fact that it is significantly cheaper than Panax Ginseng root, while showing comparable adaptogenic and mind and body stimulation activity, thanks to the presence of the similar chemical compounds). P. fruticosa is sold in form of root powder capsules, sometimes in formulas with other herbs that stimulate mind and body. But it is still mostly popular in traditional form of dried root slices.
It is interesting that among quite a few pharmacological and medicinal studies on those shrubby Polyscias species, that was conducted in countries as different as Vietnam, India, the Philippines, Ghana, Egipt and France, some was made Poland and Russia. Both of those countries have climate not suitable for Polyscias plantations, due to cold winters. But their studies on Polyscias filicifolia resoulted in establishing the plant's tissue cells labolatory multiplicantion production line in Russia. To sell it in extract form as a tonic, antistress, immunity enhancing food suplement - Vitagmal. Which according to producer is helping to prevent pregnancy complications, infertility and recurrent miscarriage, among having many other health benefits, and they also sell it in version made for children.
Leaves of P. fruticosa, P. scutellaria, P. guilfoylei and closely related shrubby Polyscias species contain several triterpenoid saponins, bisdesmosidic saponins, polyscisaponins (Polysciosides A-H), oleanolic acid and oleanolic acid derivatives, sterols, glycosides including cyanogenetic glycosides, oleanolic glycosides and triterpenic glycosides, calcium oxalate, peroxydase, amygdalin, alkaloids, tannins and flavonoids.
It also contains phosphate, iron, fats, proteins, gums, vitamins A, B1 and C. and volatile oils (0.32%), that contain sesquiterpenes (b-elemene, n-elemene, a-bergamotene, u-bergamotene, germacrene-D, (E)gM-bisabolene, 3-bourbonene, 3-CUbebene, a-farnesene, p-farnesene and a-humulene) and sesquiterpenoid alcohols.
The root is rich in saponins and also contains polyacetylenes, falcarinol and heptadeca derivatives.
Internally this herb is taken as a general tonic, to prevent fatigue, increase immunity, boost stamina, enhance brain functions, relief stress, and also :
- It is used for the treatment of ischemia and inflammation and to increase blood flow in the brain.
- Roots or leaf decotions are drunk to ease headaches, neuralgia and joint pain.
- The plants decoctions or boiled leaves are taken as a diuretic in treatment of kidneys proplems, especially in cases of stones and dysuria. In the Philippines the leaves are dipped in boiling water and applied hot to the region opposite the bladder to induce urination.
- The roots induce sweatings and all parts of those plants are taken to treat fevers. Roots decoctions are not only drunk but also used for sweat inducincing inhalations. In Papua New Guinea leaves of Polyscias filicifolia are eaten fresh to cure malaria.
- The plants decoctions are used to treat many gastric maladies like dyspepsia, flatulence, diarrhoea and dysentery. Tests results have shown that both leaf and root extracts posses anti gastrointestinal ulcer activity similar to that of a ginseng.
- In Vanatu Islands the leaves are heated and eaten, or leaf or stem bark juice or decoctions are drunk by women after childbirth, to help expel the placental fragments and protect from post-partum infections. The leaves are reputed to be used in treatment which faciliate childbirth.
- Leaf decoctions or infusions are also drunk as treatment for colds, sinusitis, hypertension, haemoptysis and to stimulate blood circulation, fight inflammations and promote wound healing, it is also helpful in anemia and poisonings.
- In the Western Pacific, macerated bark is used for treatment of ciguatera poisoning (Ciguatera is a specific type of food poisoning caused by consumption of tropical fish, that contain toxins from particular algae it feed on).
Those Polyscias species are also often used externally :
- Powder made from leaves is applied on a wound to stop swelling and inflammation. It can be also added to ointments. Crushed fresh parts of the plants are applied as a antiseptic poultice on wounds and ulcers.
- Polyscias pounded leaf paste is also applied on skin affected with diseases, like scabies and ringworm. The bark is applied as a cold poultice on syphilitic sores.
- Crushed fresh parts of the plants are applied externally as a poultice for neuralgia and rheumatism
- The roots and twigs are used to clean gums, teeth and mouth ulcers. Juice from bark is taken as a remedy for thrush and an ulcerated tongue or throat. The juice is also used to relief toothache, and crushed leaves are applied in place of aching tooth or gums.
- Crushed leaves are used in treatment of earache in Fiji.
- In Malaysia pounded leaves are formed into an elongated mass and inserted in rectum for night to treat hemorrhoids. Decoctions of leaves are also drunk to treat hemorrhoids.
- In Indonesia, leaf juice mixed with coconut oil and tumeric applied over breast engorgement. The herb poultice is reputed to stimulate milk flow.
- In Indonesia, coconut oil with leaf juice of P. scutellaria is gently massaged to the scalp to promote hair growth. The plant's hair growth activity was proven in tests, as it showed hastening of hair growth in male rats.
- This herb have aslo aplication as a deodorant
Basicly there is no contraindications for use of those Polyscias species, or side effects, unless individual person is sensitive to it. However long term constant use and lack of moderation in Polycsias consumption, probably can cause similar effects to prolonged overuse of Ginseng (including heart palpitations). Consumption of big quantity of Polyscias might cause diarrhoea. Because of it's stimulating effect, this herb can cause insomnia if taken shortly before a sleep time.
Only very small doses can be given to children. There is report about - '' a two-year-old who was seen chewing the leaves turned red and ran a fever, had a dry mouth and dilated pupils, had difficulty standing, and exhibited what are only called "peculiar" movements.''
There are reported cases of skin alergic reactions like inflammations, rush and swellings, caused by skin's contact with sap of those shrubby Polyscias species, or even by brushing against its leaves
'' Fijian Medicinal Plants '' - RC Cambie, J Ash, Csiro Publishing 1994
'' Mansfeld's Encyclopedia of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops '' - Peter Hanelt, Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, Springer Science & Business Media 2001
'' Medicinal Plants of the Philippines '' - dr. Eduardo Quisumbing, Katha Publishing 1978
'' Poisonous Plants and Animals of Florida and the Caribbean '' - David W. Nellis, Pineapple Press Inc 1997
'' Handbook on Philippine Medicinal Plants, volume IV '' - Ludivina S. de Padua, Juan V. Panacho, University of the Philippines Los Banos College 1989
'' Tropical Shrubs '' - Horace F. Clay, James C. Hubbard, University of Hawaii Press, 1987
ASSESSMENT OF CYTOTOXIC AND GENOTOXIC ACTIVITY OF ALCOHOL EXTRACT OF POLYSCIAS FILICIFOLIA SHOOT, LEAF, CELL BIOMASS OF SUSPENSION CULTURE AND SAPONIN FRACTION - JADWIGA MARCZEWSKA, EWA KARWICKA, JANINA DROZD, ELŻBIETA ANUSZEWSKA, ANITA ŚLIWIŃSKA, ALEKSANDER NOSOV and OLGA OLSZOWSKA
Anti-inflammatory and safety assessment of Polyscias fruticosa (L.) Harms (Araliaceae) leaf extract in ovalbumin-induced asthma - George Asumeng Koffuor, Alex Boye, Jones Ofori-Amoah, Samuel Kyei, Samuel Abokyi, Raymond Appiah Nyarko, Ruth Naalukyem Bangfu
Evaluating Muco-suppressant, Anti-tussive and Safety Profile of Polyscias fruticosa (L.) Harms (Araliaceae) in Asthma Management - George Asumeng Koffuor, Alex Boye, Jones Ofori-Amoah, Samuel Kyei, Cyrille Kablan Nouoma and Agyemang Prempeh Debrah
α-Amylase and α-Glucosidase Inhibitory Saponins from Polyscias fruticosa Leave - Tran Thi Hong Hanh, Nguyen Hai Dang, and Nguyen Tien Dat
A PHARMACOGNOSTIC REPORT ON THE LEAF AND ROOT OF
POLYSCIAS FRUTICOSA (L.) HARMS - BENSITA MARY BERNARD NILANI PAKIANATHAN, R. VENKATASWAMY And MADHU C. DIVAKAR
THE LEAF VOLATILE OIL OF NOTHOPANAX FRUTICOSUM (L.) MIQ. - LUZ OLIVEROS-BELARDO , ROGER M. SMITH, LINDA COLLINS and ROBERT MINAROS
STUDIES ON THE ADAPTOGENIC AND ANTIBACTERIAL PROPERTIES OF POLYSCIAS FRUCTICOSA (L) HARMS - M.B. BENSITA, P.NILANI, S. SANDHYA M
Maternity and medicinal plants in Vanuatu I. The cycle of reproduction - G. Bourdy and A. Walter
DIURETIC ACTIVITY OF POLYSCIAS FRUTICOSA (L.) HARMS - R. Varadharajan and D. Rajalingam
TRITERPENOID SAPONINS FROM POLYSCIAS SCUTELLARIA - S. PAPHASSARANG, J. RAYNAUD, M. LUSSIGNOL
TRITERPENIC GLYCOSIDES FROM POLYSCIAS SCUTELLARIA - S. PAPHASSARANG, J. RAYNAUD, M. LUSSIGNOL and M. BECCH
A New Oleanolic Glycoside from Polyscias scutellaria - S. Paphassarang, J. Raynaud, M. Lussignol, P. Cabalion
Studies on wound healing property of Polyscias scutellaria leaf saponins - M.C. Divakar, S. Lakshmi Devi, P. Senthil Kumar and S.B. Rao
Traditional remedies used in the Western Pacific for the treatment of ciguatera poisoning - G. Bourdy, P. Cabalion, P. Amade and D. Laurent
Evaluation of antiulcer activity of root and leaf extract of Polyscias balfouriana var.marginata - Sandhya S., Vinod K.R., Madhu Diwakar C. and Nema Rajesh Kumar
Ethnobotanical study of herbal medicine in Ranggawulung Urban Forest, Subang District, West Java, Indonesia
Flavonoid content and antioxidant activity of vegetables from Indonesia - Nuri Andarwulan, Ratna Batari, Diny Agustini Sandrasari, Bradley Bolling, Hanny Wijaya
Saponins isolated from Polyscias guilfoylei F. Araliaceae. - Elgindi MR, Abd alkhalik SM, Melek FR, Hassan MA, and Abdelaziz HS
An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants used in the eastern highlands of Papua New Guinea - Ronald Y Jorim, Seva Korape, Wauwa Legu, Michael Koch, Louis R Barrows, Teatulohi K Matainahoand Prem P Rai