Gonostegia hirta, almost equally often called Pouzolzia hirta, is a perrenial undershrub, whose thin stems although stiff and upright when young, are starting to act as vine, crawling or climbing as they grow longer. It grows in mainly moutanious, tropical or subtropical regions of South-East Asia, from Himalaya through China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines to Japan and north of Australia. It is highly esteemed as a leafy vegetable and a root crop by many idigenous comunities, some of which are also using the plant and it's tuberous roots as herbal medicine. But even in countries of it's origin Gonostegia hirta is mainly unknown, and usually only harvested from wild by viligers for their own use. It also never appeared as a herbal remedy in mainstream herbalism of any country. And even though it plays it's modest role in Traditional Chinese Medicine, it seems to have only local popularity as a medicinal herb in China, just like the green dumplings that have it's color thanks to G. hirta content. The whole plant is also used as a fodder.
I think it is a real shame that such an easy to grow and harvest, tasty and healty vegetable, is such unknown and underutilized crop. And one of the evidence for it's total lack of existence in western world of agriculture, herbalism, botany or sheer gardening, is it's lack of common name in english. Few translators have just strugling to translate it's name while translating chinese books, and the effect is bizzare - Polished Glutinous Rice, Glutinous Rice Vine, Glutinousmass. Because of it's close relation to Nettles, similar usefulness, and even taste, I would rather suggest to called it something like - Climbing Nettle or Nettle Vine (but it doesn't sting as Stinging Nettle does).
Here are common names of Gonostegia hirta used in other languages : Nuo Mi Tuan, Nuomiteng, Man Qu Ma (China), Tsurumao, Turu-mao (Japan), Ashok, Chiplay, Memynsleh, Kanchvalya, Thezouts, Oyik, Oik, Oyic, Tukri, Chifaljari, Atenyaa (India) Chirchira, Bala Pata (Bengali), Kurand (Punjabi), Sial Kotahi (Assamese), Sumlouthe (Bodo), Aaichuli, Chiple Ghaans, Chiple Lahari (Nepal), Chol, Gogo (Papua New Guinea), Thuoc doi long, Bo mam long, Bo mam la doi, Un Tho (Vietnam), Taux Eeppid, Taux Ngia, Taux Ngia Poeh (Myanmar).
Gonostegia hirta and Pouzolzia hirta are both almost equaly popular latin names for this plant in current use, but sometimes Memorialis hirta is still contemporarily used in China. It's other botanical synonymes like Pouzolzia quiqenervis, Urtica hirta and Driessenia sinensis, are nowadays out of use.
CULTIVATION AND HARVESTING
Gonostegia hirta is perrenial but short lived tropical plant, that in some sub-tropical regions with cold winters appears as a annual herb. It is low growing groundcover plant, with young stems usually heading upright. But as those stems grow older and longer it will either climb or creep, and they can reach over 2 m lenght. It is therefore a good vegetable to grow in hanging baskets.
This plant belongs to Urticaceae family, and it also has short hairs/stings like it's cousin Stinging Nettle, but unlike SN it is harmless. Only its old leaves have soft stings, that could barely slightly tingle your soft lips, but it usually cannot be sensed by your skin, tongue and mouth. Gonostegia hirta's leaves can be from 4 to 8cm long, and it can be bit obtuse or more lanceolate in shape. This plant can be monoecious or dioecious.
It grows mainly in moutanious regions, in grasslands, edges of forests, thickets and at brinks of riverbeds. Most botanists are saying that G. hirta can be found at high elevations up to 1600m, but I myself have found it to thrive at 2260m height Mount Santo Tomas (near Baguio, the Philippines), and in China it was occasionally noted at 2700m . It grows best in humid conditions in compost soil in half-shade. But can be also found on drier, poor soils and in very sunny places, and those harsh conditions are usually stimulating better growth of its tuberous root part. This plant can be propagated through seeds, cutings or with layering technique, which is very easy, as Gonostegia is quickly growing roots at the nodes, often even without touching the ground.
For consuption of Gonostegia hirta as a fresh vegetable it is the best to pick only tops of the stems. It is very easy, as it usually points up and unlike old taugh stems, young tops are easy to just snap. Plus it is very tender, juicy, and usually immaculately clean, so you don't need to wash it and can eat it straight away. Old leaves are not very taugh but it is bit dry compare to juicy young one. Old leaves are good to be cooked or dried for use as in powdered form or to make infusions. But if you want to harvest whole old stems instead of picking seperate leaves, you might need to use some sharp tool.
The tuberous part of roots of Pouzolzia hirta is usually not bigger than a finger. It can be dig out from the plants that are nearly one year old or older. The best time for it is during the season when the plants growth is slowing down, at begining of winter or dry season.
The leaves or whole tops of Gonostegia hirta are eaten raw or cooked. Fresh, young leaves and stems are tender, bit crispy, has muscilagous sap and mild, very pleasant taste, which makes it to combine well with literarily any food. Old leaves can be bit tough and have tiny stinging hairs, that can cause harmless tingling if touched with lips, but it usually cant be felt in mouth or on tongue. It is not as god for use in salads or sandwitches as tender young leaves, but it is still good for cooking, for example in soups. In Himalayan regions of India, young leaves and stems of G. hirta are given to small children and lactating mothers to improve appetite and lactation, and for elders as a good energy source. It is very nutritious, rich in vitamins and minerals, and highly caloric compared to other leafy vegetables.
The tuberous roots of this plant are eaten raw, cooked or roasted. It is also dried, powderized and mixed with wheat and maize flours to make traditionall chapatti in Uttaranchal, India.
In some regions of China the stems and leaves of Gonostegia hirta are used in form of paste or powder to make traditional green dumplings.
In Assam and western Himalaya region of India, the tuberous roots of Gonostegia hirta are mashed into pasted and used for hair wash, as a shampoo and hair tonic, that remove dandruff and prevent hair fall. The leaves are sometimes used in the same way.
Gonostegia hirta is a 'neverheardof' herb not only in the western world, but also in mainstream herbalism of countries of South-East Asia in which it grows. It's medicinal uses are only scarcely recorded in China by Traditional Chinese Medicine scholars and practitioners, and by ethnobotanists reserching indigenous healing traditions in Nepal, Punjab, Himalayan regions of India and Assam. And fitopharmacological studies on that plant are even more scarce.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine Gonostegia hirta is called Nuo Mi Tuan, and is described as cooling, depurative, febrifuge, diuretic, invigorating spleen, reducing swelling, dissipating stasis and arresting bleeding.
It is used fresh or sundired. Decoction are made from the whole plant with roots (10-30g dried or double if fresh), and are used to treat pyogenic infections, boils, carbuncle, abscesses (mammary abscesses), acute mastitis, coughing up blood, hematemesis, hemorrhages caused by trauma, dysentery, dyspepsia, malnutritional stagnation and infantile malnutrition, abdominal cramps in females (algomenorrhea), leukorrhea, edema, difficulty in urination, scrofula, injuries from falls, bone dislocations and fractures.
It is also used in combinations with other herbs in many Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas, like for cleansing blood, removing heat, treating chronic appendicitis or improving chemicotherapy digestive tract reaction.
In Himalayan regions of India, tender leaves of Gonostegia hirta are given to breastfeeding mothers to improve lactation and to small children to improve appetite, and to elders to restore energy. The roots are eaten to ease constipation and expell the worms, and mashed it is plaster on place of broken bones. The root juice is taken for constipation and burning sensation during urination.
In Punjab if the leaves are not available then the roots of the plant are pounded into paste which is applied and tied over abscesses with a muslin cloth to drain them.
In Assam, the leaves or roots paste is applied on bone fractures, cuts, wounds and bruises. Leaf and stem are used as lactagogue. The leaves are eaten to cure severe cough and sore throat, crushed leaves are applied on insects stings, ulcers, ringworm, and other skin diseases. An infusions of the whole plant are given to chilrden suffering atrophy and indigestion. Leaf extract is used in the treatment of cancer .
In Nepal, dislocated bone is treated with Ampelocissus rugosa and Gonostegia hirta, paste of whole plant made from equal amount of A. rugosa and G. hirta is applied as a plaster supported by wood to
set the dislocated bone. Juice of the root, about 6 teaspoons at interval of 4 hours, is given to treat typhoid. Paste of root is applied to relieve muscular swellings.
The whole plant of Gonostegia hirta contain : gums and muscilages, phenolics, tannins, phlobatannins, reducing sugars, carbohydrates, alkaloids, flavonoids (isorhamnetin, kaempferol, quercetin and their derivatives), glycosides, saponins, terpenoids (friedelin, epifriedelanol, β-amyrin, α-amyrin, lupeol, oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, ) and sterols (β-sitosterol, stigmasterol). Also α-tocopherol (type of vitamin E - 43.2 mg/100 g), vitamin C (22.6 mg/100 g) and vitamin A (22.1 mg/100 g).
Its leaves are rich in iron (21.99ppm - parts per million), zinc (9,571ppm), molybdenum (5.400ppm), magnesium (3.266ppm), manganese (3.00ppm) and copper (0.487ppm). The total energy value of the leaves of Gonostegia hirta is 258.69 kcal/100g, which makes it highly caloric leafy vegetable suitable for the treatment of obesity. It contain : carbohydrates (48.35%), crude fiber (17.6%), crude proteins (14.3%) and crude lipids (0.98%).
The tuberous roots of Gonostegia hirta are rich in nutrients such as crude protein, carbohydrate and crude fiber. It contain β-carotene, vitamin C, phenolics, tannins and are rich in minerals : sodium, potassium, calcium, sulfur, phosphorus, iron, manganese, copper and zinc.
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