INDIAN SPINACH, Basella alba

INDIAN SPINACH

Latin name:        Basella alba

English name:  Ceylon spinach, Indian spinach, Malabar spinach

Sanskrit name: Upodika

Indian name: Poi

Medicinal Parts used: Leaves, Roots

Basella alba is a succulent, branched, smooth, twining herbaceous vine, several meters in length. Stems are purplish or green. Leaves are fleshy, ovate or heart-shaped, 5 to 12 cms long, stalked, tapering to a pointed tip with a cordate base. Spikes are axillary, solitary, 5-29 cm long. Fruit is fleshy, stalkless, ovoid or spherical, 5-6 mm long, and purple when mature.

It is a common market product, a popular leafy and stew vegetable, a good substitute for spinach. The green and purple cultivated varieties are preferable to the wild ones. Both the young shoots and stems are eaten.

Therapeutic use:

  • It is an excellent source of calcium and iron; good source of vitamins A, B, and C, with a high roughage value.
  • A paste of the root is applied to swellings and is also used as a rubefacient.
  • Sap is applied to acne eruptions to reduce inflammation.
  • Decoction of leaves used for its mild laxative effects.
  • Pulped leaves applied to boils and ulcers to hasten suppuration.
  • Sugared juice of leaves useful for catarrhal afflictions.
  • Leaf-juice, mixed with butter, is soothing and cooling when applied to burns and scalds.
  • In Ayurvedic, it is used for hemorrhages, skin diseases, sexual weakness, ulcers and as laxative in children and pregnant women.
  • The plant is febrifuge, its juice is a safe aperient for pregnant women and a decoction has been used to alleviate labour.
  • Astringent – the cooked roots are used in the treatment of diarrhea.
  • The flowers are used as an antidote to poisons.
  • The leaf juice is a demulcent, used in cases of dysentery.
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