References

Ding Z, etal. (2000) Planta Med 66(4): 386-388. Mukherjee PK, etal. (1997) J Ethnopharmacol 56(1): 77-80. Yuan AX, etal. (1987) Chung Yao Tung Pao 12(1): 36-37.

Warning: Irritant and possibly allergenic properties have been ascribed to saponins in members of Caryophyllaceae. The toxic effects of this herb are unknown and its consumption is therefore hazardous.

124 Division MAGNOLIOPHYTA Polycarpaea corymbosa Lamk.

[From Greek, polus = many, karpos = fruit and korumbos = cluster]

Synonymy: Achyranthes corymbosa L.

Common names: Old man's cap; pai t'ou weng; baigu ding (Chinese); pak thowyoong (Malay); bhisatta (Sanskrit); nilaisedachi (Tamil).

Physical description: It is a herb native to Africa which grows to a height of 45 cm. It is found throughout the tropics and subtropics, mostly on open, often moist, sandy soils, less often in grassy places on mountain slopes; from sea level to 1200 m. The stems are corymbose and slender, and the young ones are woolly. Leaves: simple, 8 mm-2 cm long, narrow linear and mucronate. The stipules are lanceolate, acute and single-nerved. The flowers are numerous and small, and arranged in dense, much branched, terminal cymes forming flat-topped heads. The pedicels of the flowers are woolly, and the bracts are 3 mm long, silvery-white, and bristle. The sepals are lanceolate, acute, 2 mm-4 mm long, scarious, membranous, hyaline, silvery-white, and much longer than both the petals and capsules. The petals are milky white or reddish, and broadly ovate. The andrecium consists of 5 stamens which are shorter than the petals. The gynecium comprises of a short style. The fruits are brown and ovoid capsules containing 5-13 glossy, flat and brown obscurely reticulate seeds which are 0.3mm-0.5mm in diameter (Fig. 75).

Warning: Caution must be taken as the toxic effects of this plant are unknown.

Uses: The inflorescences of Polycarpaea corymbosa Lamk. are sold in the Chinese pharmacies of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia as an emollient and as astringent drugs. In India, Polycarpaea corymbosa Lamk. is used to treat strangury, urinary stones, inflammation, swollen parts and ulcers. Its ashes mixed with pepper is used to heal boils and ulcers (Ayurveda). Its pounded leaves are applied to boils and inflamed parts. The therapeutic potential of Polycarpaea corymbosa Lamk. remains unexplored.

Fig. 75. Polycarpaea corymbosa Lamk.

Synonymy: Vaccaria pyramidata Medic., Saponaria perfoliata Roxb., Gypsophila vaccaria.

Common names: Cow herb, cow cockle, soapwort, perfoliate soapwort; gafis (Arabic); wangpu liu hsing (Chinese); bie de vache, copatte, saponaire a vache (French); cetino (Italian); vuong bat lieu hank (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnamese).

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