Commelina spp.


Commelina diffusa (Honohono)

PLANT NAME: Commelina diffusa N. L. Burm.

SIMILARLY USED SPECIES: C. diffusa, C. communis, C. africana, C. angustifolia, C. bengalensis, C. benghalensis, C. cayennensis, C. coelestis, C. elegans, C. erecta, C. forsskalei, C. nudiflora L., C. nudiflora, C. obliqua, C. polygama, C. rumphii, C. salicifolia, C. suffruticosa, C. virginica, Aneilema nudiflora

COMMON NAMES: Honohono, mäkolokolo [Hawai’i]; wandering jew, day flower [USA]; ya zhi cao [China]; ban kane [Nepal] mau’utoga [Samoa]; french weed [West Indies]; watergrass [Trinidad]; zeb gwa [Dominica]; curage [Guadaloupe]; codillo (Spanish); tsuyu kusa (dewy herb) [Japan]; kabocola [Fiji].

NOMENCLATURE: The plant is named after three Dutch botanists named Commelijn. One petal of the flower was said to be for Jan Commelijn (1629-1692), another for his nephew Caspar Commelijn (1667-1731), and the third petal was for one of their relatives who died before achieving fame. That’s why we don’t know his name.

FAMILY: Commelinaceae.

CATEGORY: Herbs that clear heat and fire.

PROPERTIES: Sweet, bitter, cool.


TOXICITY: There is one reference to Commelina forsskalei as being toxic, [http: / / / cgi-bin / duke /] but other than that I could no other evidence for any toxicity within this genus. As far as I know C. forsskalei does not grow in Hawai’i.


PREPARATION OF MEDICINE: Infused, decocted, juiced, steamed.

DOSAGE: 1-2 oz. of fresh herb in decoction; or crushed for topical use.

STATUS IN HAWAI’I: Alien. High pest factor.

MERIDIAN AFFINITIES: Bladder, liver, lung, and stomach.

WESTERN FUNCTIONS REPORTED: Abortifacient (C. diffusa; C. coelestis); anti-inflammatory; anti-swelling; antibacterial; antibiotic; antipyretic; antitussive; astringent; bactericidal; demulcent [China]; depurative [Hawaii, Japan, Trinidad]; detoxifying; diuretic [China, Fiji, Haiti]; emennagogue [India]; emetic (C. nudiflora) [Samoa]; emmoliant; expectorant; febrifuge; hemostat; laxative [Samoa]; lenitive [China]; refrigerant; styptic [Hawaiʻi]; tonic [Egypt].

1) Cools the blood and stops bleeding.
2) Clears heat, quells fire.
3) Expels wind dampness, reduces swelling and inflammation.
4) Clears the lungs and opens the chest.
5) Clears lower burner damp heat.

Honohono Common Medicinal Uses
  • Urinary tract infections as a tea infused or short decoction
  • Cough with sticky phlegm as a tea infused or short decoction
  • Irritated eyes sap topical
  • Stop bleeding sap topical
  • To moisten a poultice
Honohono Cross Cultural Medicinal Uses


  • Red inflamed eyes [Hawai’i (sap topical)].


  • Bleeding [China, Mexico]; heart problems [Japan, South Africa]; hypertension [China].


  • Irritated tissue [Hawai’i (sap topical), Seminole]; itching; rash [Fiji]; dermatitis [Latin America];
  • Burns.


  • Abdominal obstructions [China]; diarrhea (decocted) [China, Japan]; diarrhea [China]; enteritis [China (acute), Latin America]; hemorrhoids (topical and internal) [China, Mexico]; stomach problems [Egypt]; aid to digestion [Fiji].


  • Conjunctivitis; eye problems (juice topical) [China, Egypt, Fiji, Hawai’i, Latin America, Zanzibar]; ophthalmia [Africa, China]; juice of stem used to remove dirt and grit from the eyes [Hawai’i].
  • Headache.
  • Laryngitis [China]; sore throats, acute tonsillitis, pharyngitis (gargled juice or decoction) [China].
  • Otitis media [China, India].
  • Nosebleed.
  • In Hawai’i the stem sap is used to remove dirt from the eye, and to soothe inflamed eyes. I have used it numerous times for my own eye problems includinga turpentine splash in the eye.


  • Ascites [China].


  • Abscess, boils (topical & internal) [China, India, Malaya, Trinidad]; fever (decocted) [China, Haiti, Trinidad]; leprosy [Nepal]; malaria [China, South America]; to prevent infection [China].


  • Insect and snake bites (topical) [China, India].
  • Juice dripped into cuts to stop bleeding [Fiji, Hawai’i, Samoa].
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (acute) [China];
  • Swelling [Ghana, Japan]; spasms [Haiti].
  • Broken bones [Fiji].
  • Cramps.


  • Tumor [Indochina, Mexico].


  • Malaria [China, Latin America].


  • Mumps [China].


  • “The evil eye” [Bolivia].
  • Nervous conditions [Dominican Republic, Haiti, South Africa].


  • Inflammed uterus; painful menses [India. Latin America]; abnormal uterine bleeding [Mexico].
  • Vaginal discharge [Latin America].
  • Infertility [Paraguay, South Africa (C. benghalensis)].
  • Gonorrhea [China, Latin America]; groin “problems” [Egypt, Ghana].
  • Post partum discomfort [Mexico].


  • Common cold, cough, influenza [Carribean, China, Trinidad].
  • Coughing up blood [Carribean, China, mexico]; tuberculosis (infused) [Acoma, Laguna, Mexico].
  • Specific for cough with sticky phlegm.


  • Bladder infection [China, Trinidad], painful or difficult urination [China].
  • Edema [China]; kidney ailments [Latin America].
  • A punahele (favorite) for cystitis with painful urination.


  • Food for livestock [Carribean, Hawai’i, India]; infusion used as aphrodesiac for livestock (C. dianthifolia) [Navaho].


  • Snakebite, bug bites [China].
  • Weight loss from chronic disease.
  • Hansen’s disease (leprosy).
  • Lymph swelling.

USE AS FOOD: Use the tips fresh in salads or as a vegetable (cooked 10 minutes) [Universal]; famine food; pot herb eaten in spring [China].

OTHER USES: Blue flower as a dye.

Honohono Local Combinations

Painful urination or dry cough: With Hibiscus tiliaceus (hau) inner bark or flowers.

For respiratory infection decocted with Taraxacum spp. (dandelion) and Morus alba (mulberry) [China].

HABITAT: Likes it wet n’ shady, up to 3600′



RESEARCH: Antitussive [Tang 1994].

  • There are 170 species of Commelina.
  • The Japanese reportedly use Commelina flowers for making a kind of paper called Awobana.
  • A favorite for moistening poultices. (Vodka will also work)
  • Honohono (Commelina spp.) is a good example of the Hawaiian herbal description of “puhi” (literally “eel”), which means “slippery.” A great remedy where mucous membranes are inflamed or there is eye irritation. Works on that dry hacking cough.

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