Amaranthus viridus – Amaranthus spinosus



Amaranthus spp. (Pakai)

PLANT NAME: Amaranthus spp.

SIMILARLY USED SPECIES: A. blitus; A. caudatus; A. dubius; A. edulis; A. hibridus; A. hypochondriacus; A. viridus. Please note that for all practical purposes, A. viridus can be used as a substitiute for A. spinosus. A lot easier on the hands, too, as A. viridus has no spines.

COMMON NAMES: Pakai (Amaranthus spp.), pakai kükü (A. spinosus)[Hawai'i]; zhi xian, tz’u hsien-ts’ai, [China]; tanduliyah [India] ban lunde [Nepal]; amaranth, spiny amaranth (A. spinosus), red cockscomb, love-lies-bleeding, pigweed [USA]; chiori con espinas [Bolivia]; khichka jat’aqo [Quechua]; mullu keerai, neer keerai, tanduliuyah [India]; gansam lodut, surindi [Borneo]; ntungu [Tanzania].

NOMENCLATURE: Amaranthus is from the Greek “amarantos” which means “unfading,” a reference to the persisting color of certain amaranth flowers. Or…. the name Amara means “bitter.” Take your pick. Spinosus means “spiny,” as does kükü.

FAMILY: Amaranthaceae.

CATEGORY: Herbs that stop bleeding~.

PROPERTIES: Sweet and bland tasting, astringent, cool

PLANT PART USED: Aerial parts.

TOXICITY: Amaranthus retroflexus (not known to grow in Hawai’i) is reportedly nephrotoxic to large domestic animals [Oladosu 1979], although not to rabbits [Schamber 1985]. In China, the roots are said to be mildly toxic and overdose can cause dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

CAUTIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS: Never treat bleeding without first determining its cause.

Not in menstruation or pregnancy. Caution with osteoporosis or calcium imbalances~ [Larsen 2003]. See Use As Food above. The genus has been reported to cause dermatitis and photosensitivity. The pollen has been reported to cause keratitis of the eye.

PREPARATION OF MEDICINE: Usually decocted or poulticed.

DOSAGE: 10 grams in formula, 30 – 60 grams as a single herb. Up to 300 grams of the fresh root is used in China for duodenal and gastric ulcers. (I would not consider using such a dose).

STATUS IN HAWAI’I: Alien bad boy.

WESTERN FUNCTIONS REPORTED: Antiemetic; anti-inflammatory; astringent; blood purifier; carminative; diaphoretic; diuretic; emmenagogue; emollient; expectorant; febrifuge; galactogogue; hemostatic; improves digestion; lactogogue; laxative; mucilaginous; promotes appetite; purgative; sudorific.

TRADITIONAL CHINESE ENERGETIC FUNCTIONS (~ = extrapolated):

1)    Clears heat and poison

2)    Improves digestion

3)    Stops bleeding

OTHER ENERGETIC FUNCTIONS: Benefits pitta and kapha.

Pakai Common Medicinal Uses

  • Excessive menstruation
  • GI bleeding

Pakai Cross-Cultural Medicinal Uses

BITES & STINGS

  • Insect bites [Philippines (leaves)]; scorpion sting [India (root)]; snakebite (root internal) [Ghana, India, Philippines].

CARDIOVASCULAR

  • Mild internal bleeding [China, India].
  • Hemophilia [India].

 

DERMATOLOGICAL

  • Topical for eczema (leaves & root) [China, India, Nepal, Philippines]; psoriasis [Philippines (leaves)].
  • Rashes [Philippines (leaves)].
  • Sunburn [Philippines (leaves)].
  • Burns (leaves poulticed) [Nepal, Philippines].

 

DIGESTIVE

  • Enteritis, dysentery [Borneo, China]; mild diarrhea [USA].
  • Gastric or duodenal ulcer [China].
  • Indigestion [India]; nausea [India].
  • Enema [Ghana].
  • Hemorrhoids [China, Ghana, India].

 

HEAD AND THROAT

  • Nose bleeds (topical).
  • Mouth ulcers (topical).
  • Toothache [India (root chewed with salt)].

 

HEPATIC

  • Gall bladder inflammation, gall stones [China].

 

INFECTION

  • Topical for boils, abscesses (leaves or root poulticed) [China, India, Nepal]; foot sores (stem decocted, topical) [India].
  • Fever [China, Philippines].

 

MUSCULOSKELETAL / TRAUMA

  • Broken bones (seeds poulticed)
  • Bruises [Malaysia (leaves poulticed)]; wounds (topical)

 

ONCOLOGY

  • Tumors (poulticed) [Mauritius, Java, South East Asia].
  • Uterine tumor [Cambodia].

 

PEDIATRIC

  • Colic (root) [India, Nepal].
  • Laxative for children [Nepal (leaves and roots boiled)].

 

PSYCHOSPIRITUAL

  • The Lodha of West Bengal, India, reportedly make a hallucinogenic smoking powder from the root of A. spinosus. (Sounds like “banana peels”)
  • Ceremonial medicine in “Green Corn Medicine” [Cherokee].

 

REPRODUCTIVE

  • Excess menstrual bleeding (leaves, roots) [Cherokee, India, Nepal]; abnormal uterine bleeding.
  • Edema during pregnancy [India (young leaves internal)].
  • Vaginal discharge (topical),
  • Gonorrhea, genital discharge [India, Nepal].

 

RESPIRATORY

  • Cough, coughing up blood [India (seed)],
  • Bronchitis [Malaya]; wheezing [Malaya].

 

URINARY

  • Edema (in bath or leaves as a vegetable) [Ghana, India].
  • Bladder infections [India].

 

OTHER MEDICINAL USES

  • Burningsensations, “heat in the body” [India (seed)].
  • Inflammation [Java].
  • “Poisonous affections” [India].

USE AS FOOD: High in protein and calcium. It is used as a food crop by the Aztec Indians of Mexico, as a spinach substitute in Australia, and as a vegetable in China. The seeds can be boiled into a hot cereal. Cook for at least an hour.

The young shoots make a very tasty potherb or in salads. While high in calcium, however, Amaranth that also contains large amounts of oxalates may actually inhibit calcium absorption [Larsen 2003]. Because it may absorb nitrates from the soil and form oxalate crystals in the leaves, only organic pakai should be used [Elpel 2000].

OTHER USES: In Swaziland the ash of whole plant used as a snuff, sometimes alone and sometimes with tobacco.

A red dye made from Pakai kuku is used to color food and medicine. A green and yellow dye can be made from the whole plant.

Pakai Local Combinations

Bleeding: add Erigeron canadensis (fleabane), Eclipta prostrata (han lian cao), and Capsella rubella (shepherds purse).

CROSS-CULTURAL COMBINATIONS:

Warning: These traditional combinations are offered for informational purposes only and not recommended for use. Ingredients may be irritating, toxic, or both.

Hemorrhoidal bleeding, dysentery, enteritis: Decocted with Eclipta prostrata (han lian cao) & Pteris ensiformis. [China]

Juvenile vomiting or colic: With Lavendula officinalis (lavender) or Matricaria camomilla (chamomile)

Post partum: Stem pulp with castor oil [India].

To cause abortion: With Carica papaya (hë’ï), Tamarindus indica, Plumbago zeylanica (‘ilie’e) & Capsicum annum (nïoi) [India].

RANGE: Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Southern Africa. Native to tropical Americas. Accidentally brought into Hawai’i in 1900.

HABITAT: Found in the sun almost everywhere in Hawai’i

GATHERING: Use the young ones… or use gloves. When gathering as food, take the young shoots. Can cause hay fever.

PROPAGATION & CULTIVATION: Don’t. Seeds are dispersed by water & have long viability.

RESEARCH:

  • The essential oil of Amaranth spp. lowers cholesterol in hamsters and the seeds of Amaranthus esculantus lowers cholesterol in rats [Berger 2003; Chaturvedi 1993].
  • A. caudatus and A. paniculatus seeds are antioxidant [Klimczak 2002].

NOTES ‘N QUOTES

The redder the stem, the stronger the effects.” – - Michael Moore

  • The family amaranthaceae includes more than 900 species in 60 genera.
  • Most Amaranths photosynthesize using a different method than some other plants. Called the “C4 carbon-fixation pathway,” it is a mechanism best suited for sunny areas.
  • A. spinosus and A. viridus are used almost interchangeably, with A. viridus preferred as it has no spines.
  • Astringent for the mucous membranes

Up to 66% of weed species are said to be edible. While “edible” and “digestible” may not always be the samething, young A. viridus and A. spinosus are definitely both.

 

REFERENCES:

Berger A, Gremaud G, et al. 2003. Cholesterol-lowering properties of amaranth grain and oil in hamsters. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. Feb;73(1):39-47.

 

Chaturvedi A, Sarojini G, Devi NL. 1993. Hypocholesterolemic effect of amaranth seeds (Amaranthus esculantus). Plant Foods Hum Nutr. Jul;44(1):63-70.

 

Chevallier, Andrew. 1996. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. New York: DK Publishing Inc.

 

Cribb, Alan Bridson, and Joan Winifred Cribb. 1986. Wild Medicine in Australia. Sydney, Australia: Fontana Books.

 

De Lucca, Manuel, Jaime Zalles. 1992. Flora Medicinal Boliviana: Diccionario Enciclopedico. La Paz, Bolivia: Editorial Los Amigos Del Libro.

 

Elpel, Thomas J. 2000. Botany in a Day. 4th ed. Pony, MT.: HOPS Press.

 

Haselwood, E.L. and G. G. Motter, eds. 1983. Handbook of Hawaiian Weeds. 2nd ed. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

 

Larsen T, Thilsted SH, et al. 2003. The leafy vegetable amaranth (Amaranthus gangeticus) is a potent inhibitor of calcium availability and retention in rice-based diets. Br J Nutr. Sep;90(3):521-7.

 

Klimczak I, Malecka M, et al. 2002. Antioxidant activity of ethanolic extracts of amaranth seeds. Nahrung. Jun;46(3):184-6.

 

Moerman, Daniel E. 1986. Medicinal Plants of Native America. Volumes 1 & 2. Ann Arbor, MI.: University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology.

 

Neal, Marie C. 1965. In Gardens of Hawai’i. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press

 

Oladosu LA, Case AA. 1979. Large animal hepatotoxic and nephrotoxic plants. Vet Hum Toxicol. Oct;21(5):363-5.

 

Schamber GJ, Misek AR. 1985 Amaranthus retroflexus (redroot pigweed): inability to cause renal toxicosis in rabbits. Am J Vet Res. Jan;46(1):266-7

 

ONLINE REFERENCES:

http://bicn.com/wei/resources/nerp/wrs/ch3.htm

http://www.borneofocus.com/vaic/R&D/article1.htm

http://www.borneofocus.com/vaic/R&D/article18.htm

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http://www.ethnobotany.com/seeds/Seed_a-e.html

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http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:BOixxY1zZFg:www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPS/Pgrfa/pdf/tanzania.pdf+Amaranthus+spinosus+medicine&hl=en

http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Amaranthus+spinosus

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http://www.mssrf.org/fris9809/fris1014.html

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http://www.mssrf.org/fris9809/planti52.html

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http://www.soton.ac.uk/~icuc/tambib/tam-u-e2.htm