sobota, 9 czerwca 2018

Elatostama lineolatum and other Elatostema species - Rainforest Spinach

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      PLANT PROFILE     

   Elatostema is a genus of small herbaceous perennials, that comprises of at least 200 species, and is distributed in tropical and subtropical parts Asia, Australia, Africa and New Zealand. Most of the species can be found in Southeast Asia, and many of it still hasn't been described in botanical literature. And as for those that already was, there is still lots of problems with it's proper classification. There is quite a mess with naming, some species has been given many different botanical names in different regions, and some scientific latin names are attached mistakenly to plants from few different Elatostema species.
  Elatostema lineolatum is one of the most widely distributed species in this genus. It can be found in Nepal, Bhutan, Assam, China, Taiwan and the Philippines. It is commonly eaten as a leafy vegetable in Nepal and Bhutan, where bundles of whole stems are often sold on local markets. In some regions of Japan Elatostema umbellatum and few other closely related Elatostema species, are used as vegetables and sometimes it's whole stems are sold in bundles.
   E. lineolatum, E umellatum and other closely related Elatostema species are also used as wild vegetables in other countries like India, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia, but rather only by some indigenous communities and foragers. In Australia Elatostema reticulatum is called Rainforest Spinach by foragers, and I really like this name, that I think can be used for all Elatostema species that are eaten. Although only some species has been recorded for it's utilisation as food, I strongly suspect that in fact all Elatostema species can be eaten. And since I haven't found any information about a single Elatostema species to be poisonous or cause any side effects if eaten. I am taking it as a green light to try eat any species from this genus I can possibly find.
  It is sad that Elatostema is such underutilized as a vegetable, even in most of the regions where it grows wild in abundance. And except for a few Elatostema species like Elatostema rugosum and Elatostema repens grown as a ornamental plants, those plants are almost entirely unknown outside countries of it's origin. And I never heard about any Elatostema cultivation as a crop, even on uncommercial scale, despite the fact that it tastes very good and can grow in conditions that other vegetables can't.
  Just like Elatostema species are not popular as a edible plant it is not popular as a medicinal herb. But there records of it's uses as a folk medicine from different countries (mostly from tropical Asia), and even few scientific researches has been made on phytopharmacology of those plants.
   The reason why Elatostema species are so little known even in most of the regions where it is growing wild in abundance, might be it's accessibility. Elatostemas likes deep, impassable, dark, dense, wet jungle. I myself found this plant just after two years spent already in the Philippines, north of Luzon Island, where some Elatostema species are very common, but only in depths of hardly accessible jungle. It was after very hard attempts to explore jungle in mountainous Cordillera region, that I realized that fighting for every step forward, with dense bushes tangled with lianas is taking to much time. And instead I decided to jump into a highway that I saw. This highway, the only clean way among wilderness of robust plants was .... a dead river bed. That's right, in the Philippines where during rainy season many rivers are wide, deep and has fierce current, most of the same rivers disappears entirely or changes into barely dripping, tiny streams, after few months of dry season. That leaves a nice, sometimes pretty wide corridor, very easy to pass threw compare to dense unbridled jungle. Although the more mountainous the area is, the more jumping or climbing the stones exercise you will get (depends on if you are going down the dead river bed or up). And you will always find a great plants diversity on the edges of river bed, and that's where I saw my first Elatostema plant ever.


   Elatostema species are tropical and subtropical, perennial, herbaceous, half succulent undershrubs, that grows is moist, shady places. Most of Elatostema species has very similar look and grow habit to Elatostema lineolatum. E. lineolatum has thick, succulent stems, that grows upright to around 50cm, and after that usually fell on the ground and get more branchy. So the main stem quickly after touching soil is starting to grow roost from stems nodes, and as rotten fallen leaves creates cover for it and quickly become a compost soil (which those plants loves), that stem is becoming more like rhizome. And the young side stems growing out of it starts growing upright, just to repeat the process. That makes easy it's propagation threw stem/rhizome cutting or layering.
   Elatostema species usually creates whole colonies of dense groundcover, in moist, forests, jungles, near rivers, ponds, on shady mountains slopes (found even at elevations around 2000m). Sometimes it can be found growing on barely any soil, on rocks or tree trunks (especially Elatostema tomentosa which stems usually grows only around 20cm high, and the leaves are around 4cm long, compared to around 10cm long leaves to E. lineolatum). Some of Elatostema species like Elatostema repens, entirely crawl on the ground, or rocks or climb on tree trunks.
   Elatostema plants like shade and can be found even in strongly shaded areas, or in places where significant sunlight is accessible only for short time of the day. However New Zealand species Elatostema rugosa can grow in more sun exposed places, and the more sun it gets the more red coloured it young leaves will be.
  Thanks to accumulation of water in it's stems E. lineolatum can withstand seasonal droughts. Even if it will get extreme and long period, drying to death all above ground parts, the plants ground cowered stems might survive and regrow soon after first rains. Elatostema plants likes high temperatures and don't tolerate frosts. It's flowers are mainly green clusters, resembling more fruits than classic flowers, and the plants can be monoeicious or dioeicious.
  Elatostemas can be generally harvested at any time of year, but according to seasons of particular region, there might by limited period of availability of newly grown, tender stems with young leaves, and those are the best. It is the best to pick the whole shoots, young stems with leaves, as they will stay fresh for longer, plus is much easier. But you can also pick separate leaves leaving the stems, so the plants will be stronger to grow new one soon. Make sure to wash it well, as due to it's habitat it is often stained with mud particles, has some bugs underneath its leaves or other dirt.


   Elatostema lineolatum fresh young leaves and stems are crispy and juicy, it's juice is quite mucilaginous, and it has a mild taste and very nice rootbeer-like aroma. The stems has stronger aroma and are more mucilaginous than separate leaves itself. In Bhutan it is called Dumroo, it is available all year round, and during winter months it is highly in demand, being one of most popular plants used in vegetable soup. Locals eat Dumroo soup to relief body pains. Young shoots and leaves are valued as delicacy vegetable eaten as a appetizer, and specialty dish eaten during religious ceremonies is made by cutting it into pieces and cooking with chili, onion, cheese and sometimes meat. In Indian state of Nagaland it is called Jothu Gazo, and the leaves and tender stems are boiled with rice and other vegetables and sometimes meat, to make Galho dish. It can be stir-fried or pickled too.
Elatostema lineolatum whole aerial part is rich source of calcium (765.00mg/100g), magnesium (760mg/100g), and manganese (82.5mg/100g), and contains other minerals : iron (94.5mg/100g), phosphorus (80mg/100g), zinc (27.5mg/100g), copper (2.0mg/100g), cobalt (2.0mg/100g). It consists mainly of crude protein (24.15%), crude fiber (15.4%), total free amino-acids (5.25%), total soluble protein (5.05%), crude lipid (2.2%) and total sugars (2%).

   In Japan Elatostema laetevirens (called Aomizu) and Elatostema umbellatum var. majus (Akamizu) sprout, leaves, stems and fruits are commonly eaten as a wild vegetable. It is both eaten in tempura and boiled and has distinctive aroma described as fresh, floral and green. Also Elatostema involucratum (Uwabamisou) shoots, leaves and rhizomes are eaten fresh, boiled or marinated.
  Elatostema umbellatum is also reportedly eaten in Malaysia.

  Elatostema reticulatum is called Rainforest Spinach in Australia and it's succulent young stems and leafy tips are eaten by foragers. It is said to be best when cooked, and the taste is very pleasant and reminds beans. It can be stir-fried chopped with onions, and used in many other ways that leafy vegetables are.

  Elatostema platyphyllum stems and leaves has been reported to be eaten in Nepal (it's local name is Sano Gangleto), Bhutan (Dambru), and Nagaland (Mechijakem) and Sikkim (Gagleto) states of India, where the shoots are also used for pickle.

  Also Elatostema sessile, Elatostema cuneatum and Elatostema dissectum young leaves are mentioned in literature to be used as vegetables. And as for all those Elatostema species that has never been mentioned in any source of information as edible, I don't wont to dare you, but I would try it. Because not only none of Elatostema spicies has ever been recorded as poisonous. But also it is hard to find any plant species from the whole family of Urticaceae, that Elatostema genus belongs to, that would cause adverse effects if ingested. In fact most of Urticaceae plants can be eaten and many of them has serious health benefits.

Except for my favourite Elatostema lineolatum I had a chance so far to taste :
   Elatostema spinulosum - leaves tastes just like those of E. lineolatum, but has even more of that pleasant rootbeer-like aroma, though its leaves and stems are not as juicy and has quite rough surface.
   Elatostema tomentosa - it's leaves and stems are even less juicy than those of E. spinulosum, not to mention that it's stems are pubescent and leaves a bit too, but it has the same rootbeer-like aroma.
   Elatostema banahaense - it's leaves and stems are pretty juicy and crunchy, but has no aroma that species mentioned above has.
   Elatostema repens -  stems and leaves are juicy and crunchy, but the aroma is barely noticeable in it.
All of those five mentioned Elatostemas species, stems and leaves are quite mucilaginous, which means that it is highly nutritious.


   There is very little information about any medicinal uses of any of Elatostema species. But some records can be found about knowledge of it's health benefits and uses in traditional medicine of China, Taiwan, Japan, Bhutan, Assam, Malaysia, or Papua New Guinea. There is only very few scientific studies that has been done on phytochemistry and pharmacological properties of few different Elatostema species. The studies has been conducted in such different countries as China, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Japan and New Zealand. Which is showing that there is a chance that at least in countries where Elatostema plants are common in wild, some of it's species might have gain some serious interest of more herbalists, and get wider popularity as a folk remedies and maybe even official drugs in future.

  Underneath I put all the information that I have managed to fined about traditional medicinal uses and phytochemistry and pharmacology of Elatostema species. Although scarce, it is showing big potential of those plants. It is also showing the pattern of repeated the same or similar uses of different Elatostema species reported from different countries. Therefore it can be assumed that most of Elatostema species, just as they are similar to each other in outlook structure, posses similar health benefits even if never recorded.
   For example, as I know from my own experience, Elatostema lineolatum, Elatostema spinulosum, Elatostema tomentosa, Elatostema banahaense and even Elatostema repens, that looks quite different and has different growth habit. All those five species leaves and stems has mucilaginous juices, which means it has demulcent action and so can be eaten to soothe dried, sore throat, stomach ulcers, or be applied mashed as a poultice on skin burns or to soothe skin irritation.

  Elatostema lineolatum (called Jothu Gazo in Nagaland; Solunche/Jyan/ Gariyangei/Ching Sougri in Manipur; Himbu, Tang-nap in India; Dumroo in Bhutan; Leng Chi Cao in Taiwan; Xia Ye Lou Ti Cao in China) - The plant is anti-inflammatory and alleviates pain. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the whole plant is used to clear heat and remove dampness, activate blood, unblock the meridian, promote urination and disperse swelling. It is used for bacterial dysentery, rheumatism and arthritis. It is applied externally for boils and pyogenic infections, and also to ease the pain from cat bites. In Taiwan the mashed stems and leaves are used to cover knife cuts and fighting injuries. In Assam people say that the plant paste applied on wounds works like a miracle. Bhutanese believes that the plant has many medicinal properties and builds immunity. During winter months they eat vegetable soup with E. lineolatum as a main ingredient, which is said to relief body pains (probably rheumatic kind of pains coused by cold, damp and windy weather during winter months).
   Elatostema lineolatum whole aerial part is rich source of calcium (765.00mg/100g), magnesium (760mg/100g), and manganese (82.5mg/100g), and contains other minerals : iron (94.5mg/100g), phosphorus (80mg/100g), zinc (27.5mg/100g), copper (2.0mg/100g), cobalt (2.0mg/100g). It consists mainly of crude protein (24.15%), crude fiber (15.4%), total free amino-acids (5.25%), total soluble protein (5.05%), crude lipid (2.2%) and total sugars (2%).

  Elatostema umbellatum  (Lou Ti Cao in China) - eaten as a vegetable was found to have high antioxidant activities, it is rich in phenolic compounds and contains kaempferol glycosides and caffeic acid. In China leaves poultice is applied for abdominal disorders.
 Elatostema umbellatum var. majus (Akamizu in Japan) - yields 0.0018% of essential oils, it's main constituents are phytol, linoleic acid, palmitic acid, methyl salicilate, neophytadiene, the most strongly aroma-active compounds of this plant are (2E)-hexenal, (3Z)-hexenol, 1-octen-3-ol, 4-vinyl-o-guiacol.

   Elatostema involucratum (Chi Che Shi Zhe in China), some authors consider it to be synonym for Elatostema umbellatum var. majus - in Traditional Chinese Medicine it is described as bitter and slightly cold, working on large intestine, liver and spleen and detoxifying. It is used for dysentery, high fever, convulsions, jaundice, rheumatism, edema, amenorrhea, sores, mumps, herpes zoster, snake bites, bruises, fractures and embolism.

 Elatostema stewardii (Lu Shan Lou Ti Cao in China) - in Traditional Chinese Medicine this herb is described as bitter and slightly cold and detoxifying. It is used for dysentery, high fever, convulsions, jaundice, rheumatism, edema, amenorrhea, sores, mumps, herpes zoster, snake bites, bruises, fractures embolism. The leaves poultice is applied for abdominal disorders. The extraction of the polysaccharides from Elatostema stewardii led to yield of polysaccharides of 13.86 % and 14.06 %.

 Elatostema platyphyllum synonyms Elatostema platyphylloides, Elatostema platyphylla, (Dambru in Bhutan; Sano gangleto in Nepal; Gagleto in Sikkim, Hoj Ao in Arunachal Pradesh, Mechijakem in Nagaland, also Dambrumchoem, Samselbee, Tang-nap-sau, Tangnap in India; Quan Ye Lou Ti Cao in China) - the whole plant clear heat and drain dampness, promote urination and disperse swelling. In Taiwan the leaf decoction is taken to treat venomous snake bites, and mashed leaves are used to cover wounds. In India fresh root-stem juice is used to stop vomiting. Fresh leaves paste mixed with cow's milk is given to children to kill intestinal worms and ringworms.

  Elatostema duyunense - is widely used as traditional Chinese medicine to treat rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid complaints, fracture, anasarca and dysuria. The herb consist of flavonoids and its glycosides, triterpenoids, steroids, fatty acids, alkanes and polysaccharides. It's essential oils consist mainly on limonene (8.71%), mushroom alcohol (7.89), beta-ionone (4.56), geranylacetone (4.43), phenylethyl alcohol (4.13), quinoline (3.85), geraniol (3.1), linalool (2.83), nerol (2.73) and thymol (2.28), it also contain borneol, naphthalene, methyl salicylate, terpineol, citronellol, citral, copaene, hexadecane, plant ketone and other.

  Elatostema rugosum (Parataniwha, New Zealand Begonia in New Zealand) - the plants red leaves contains anthocyanins, and in tests has shown to be on average 14 times more effective at scavenging DPPH radicals than E. rugosum green leaves, and had substantially greater antioxidant activities, it also contains other flavonoids and the hydroxycinnamic acids.

  Elatostema laetevirens (Aomizu in Japan) - major components it's essential oil (yields 0.0016%) are phytol, neophytadiene, y-himachalene, ethyl acetate, hexahydrofarnesyl acetone, the most strongly aroma-active compounds of E. laetivirens are (2E)-hexenal, (2E,4E)-nonadienal, heptanal, linalol, 4-vinyl-o-guiacol.

  Elatostema papilosum (Shilajhar, Elya in Bangladesh; Wei Jing Lou Ti Cao in China) - in Bangladesh the plant has widely been used by local traditional medicine practitioners against various diseases, including hysteria and abdominal pain. The leaves has showed strong antioxidant action and anticholinesterase potential in tests, which makes this herb potential to provide an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

  Elatostema repens synonyms Polychroa repens, Pellionia daveauana, Pellionia repens; vernacular names: Isek Naga Bukit, Sisek Tenggiling, Sisek Keli (Malaysia), Tai Das, Sam Das (Vietnam), Trailing Watermelon Begonia (English) - in Malaysia the plant is applied as a poultice to swellings, boils, dislocated bones and abdominal disorders. A decoction is drunk to treat rheumatism and infectious diseases.

  Elatostema sessile, Sisek Tenggiling, Cheng Man (Malaysia), Chaulu (India), Gaglato (Nepali)  -  the leaves are taken for gastric disorder in Sikkim state of India. In Malaysia, pounded leaves are used as a poultice to treat severe abdominal disorders. Plant paste is applied for boils, pimples and blisters in Nepal.

  Elatostema parasiticum -  the ethanolic extract of the aerial part of this plant has showed antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger and Microsporum gypseum.

  Elatostema calcareumTapun Ayuyu (Guam), Tupu-n-Ayuyu, Nengkano’Ayuyu (Northern Mariana Islands) - in Guam both the leaf and stem are collected, the plant is used for it's moisturizing qualities, and is as a ingredient in all-purpose herbal combination decoction. In Northern Mariana Islands the leaves are used for pain, body aches, headaches and fever.

 Elatostema beccarii (Wamplenmpla in Vanatu) - the leaves are squeezed and the juice drunk to faciliate birth.

 Elatostema macrophyllum (Naghulu Nu in Vanatu) - as contraceptive one handful of leaves is squeezed with some water, and one glass of that aqueous extract is drunk.

 Elatostema strigosum (Sisik naga in North Sumatra, Indonesia) - the plant is used to treat asthma, fever, gastrointestinal disorders, hypertension and injuries.

 Elatostema banahaense - in the Philippines the plant is used against itch and scabies.

 Elatostema cyrtandrifolium (Rui Chi Lou Ti Cao in China) - reported to act as sedative.

 Elatostema integrifolium ( Quan Yuan Lou Ti Cao in China) - leaves poultice is applied on abdominal disorders.

 Elatostema schizocephalum ( Lie Xu Lou Ti Cao in Chin) - reported to act as analgesic.

 Elatostema obtusum - is ingreadient in Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal composition for chronic pancreatitis treatment, the whole plant is considered as detoxifying.

 Elatostema oblongifolium - is ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal composition medicine for treating children spastic cerebral palsy.

 Elatostema sp. called Kaskas-bhirs in Papua New Guinea - whole plant decoction is used topically for scabies.

Elatostema sp. called Moin Kukuri in Papua New Guinea - whole plant is chewed fresh for fever, headache and joint pain.

  In Peninsular Malaysia, leaves of unidentified Elatostema species are reputedly used to make a
poultice for application to the head of women in labour. In the Moluccas, the leaves of some Elatostema are applied to the forehead to treat headache, pounded leaves are used as an embrocation in children suffering from severe cough, and the plants are applied in a cooling wash for the head, sometimes also to promote hair growth. In Papua New Guinea, Elatostema sp. leaves are used internally to arrest diarrhoea.

                                     ELATOSTEMA LINEOLATUM

                                     ELATOSTEMA SPINULOSUM

                                     ELATOSTEMA BANAHAENSE

                                     ELATOSTEMA TOMENTOSA

                                     ELATOSTEMA REPENS


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