Medicinal benefits of a wild plant

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Sâm Ä‘ất helps reduce inflammation, temperature, pain, asthma, male impotence, and diabetes, says herbalist Quoc Trung

Sâm Ä‘ất (ruellia tuberosa), also known as cây quả nổ, sâm tanh tách, tứ lỵ hoa, tiêu khát thảo and tam tiêu thảo, has several aliases in English as well - minnie root, fever root, snapdragon root and sheep potato.

It is a species of flowering plant in the acanthaceae family. It originated in Central America but is found now in many tropical countries in South and Southeast Asia. It was brought to Vietnam in or around about 1909.

Now it is a wild plant in many parts of Vietnam. It is also called Popping Pod, Duppy Gun and Cracker Plant because children like to play with the dry pods that pop when rubbed with water.

It reaches an average height of about 25cm in moist and shady environments. Its roots are bigger in the middle where it is shaped somewhat like a diamond.

The stem of the plant contains several amino acids including leucine, tyrosine, valine and glicine while the roots contain substances like hentriacontane, lupeol, sitosterol, stigmasterol and campesterol.

All parts of the plant are used to treat different sicknesses, but its leaves and roots are used the most, fresh or dried.

Traditional medicine doctor Vu Quoc Trung says sâm Ä‘ất is diuretic, laxative and can help clear the sputum; but a large quantity of the herb may cause nausea and induce a lot of perspiration.

Vietnamese people have traditionally soaked its roots in rice wine for a long time before consuming the alcohol. They use its leaves to cook soup and consume it for cooling the body, especially the liver.

According to Trung, sâm Ä‘ất also helps reduce inflammation, temperature, pain, asthma, male impotence and diabetes. It can also help reduce gas in the digestive system, and ease related stomachaches.

Its roots are used to treat stomachache, toothache, cold, heat in the liver, hypertension, urinary tract infections and diabetes.

Traditionally, people also powder the roots (after removing all moisture by heating them up in a pan) and use it to cure ulcers in the stomach and duodenum. They also make tea with the roots to treat kidney stones and urinary tract infections.

Sâm Ä‘ất is used to treat type-1 diabetes. Also, when soaked in the water, sâm Ä‘ất pops and produces a glue-like substance which is used to apply on pimples and cuts on the skin.

To treat type-2 diabetes (not insulin-dependent), people use 75g of fresh sâm Ä‘ất (or 25g dry) to make tea and drink every day.

For hypertension, 12 fresh flowers of ruellia tuberosa (fresh or dry) are boiled in about a liter of water to make tea and consumed every day.

For inflammation in the urinary tract or kidneys, 75-112g of the whole stem (fresh) or 25-38g of dry ruellia tuberosa is boiled to make tea. Then, 20g of the plant powder is mixed with this tea to drink before breakfast in the morning.

It should be noted that only the fruit of ruellia tuberosa L. has been studied in the treatment of diabetes. Other similar plants, including ruellia repens L., herba ruelliae repentis, ruellia macrosiphon kurz, herba ruelliae macrosiphonis, ruellia patula jacq, folium et radix ruelliae patulae, ruellia poilanei R. ben and folium pararuelliae, have not been studied.

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