Saturday, June 28, 2014

Two Amazing Asian Plants for the Herbalist

During this spring's local Orchid Show, I didn't just buy an orchid. I bought two intriguing plants for herbologists/herbalists that are grown extensively in SE Asia. They are growing in pots on my sand dune right now. I'm not growing them outside of pots until I know how quickly they spread, as they are not native plants and I don't want them growing wild.

The first, Murdannia loriformis, is known as both Angel Grass and Beijing Grass. It is a prolific shade grower, and my small mother plant now has 5 daughter plants!
Murdannia loriformis, "Angel Grass", MR, 2014
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is interested in Murdannia.
In an NIH study, M. loriformis inhibited colon cancer. The leaves provide antioxidants and seem to modulate the immune system. In Asia, the leaves are used to counter the undesirable side effects of chemotherapy. In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), chemotherapy is considered very hot and yang, while Murdannia is considered cold and yin, so it helps to balance the body during chemo.

As far as growing it, it is a grass and in filtered sun and plenty of water with rich soil, it grows very fast. You can break up the clumps and repot individually, or grow it like a spider plant- when stems with root nodes appear, place it in a new pot. You can cut the stem immediately, or keep it attached to the mother plant until it roots. The only pest I've noted on this grass is scale insect. But it seems very hardy to scale, so if you spot a few on the plant, it's not a tragedy.

The next plant is Gynura procumbens, aka Longevity Spinach or Cholesterol Spinach:
Gynura procumbens, MR 2014
It's grown extensively in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. This woody-stemmed, wide-leaved plant also prefers filtered sun and plenty of water. It is showing promise in lab research to be an anti-HSV (herpes simplex virus) agent, and is used in Asia to lower bad cholesterol levels in the blood and ease hypertension. In TCM, G. procumbens is also considered to have cool, yin energy. The leaves are eaten in salads or as a lettuce replacement in sandwiches. I haven't seen any pests annoy it, and it seems very happy in Zones 9-11.

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