Balsamona pinto Vand.
Cuphea balsamona Cham. & Schltdl.
Cuphea divaricata Pohl ex Koehne
Cuphea pinto Koehne
Lythrum carthagenense acq.
Parsonsia balsamona (Cham. & Schltdl.) Standl.
Parsonsia pinto (Vand.) A.Heller
Cuphea carthagenensis is an erect to sprawling, more or less annual plant, though it often becomes more or less woody at the base and can persist for more than 12 months. Usually much-branched, it can grow up to 50cm tall[
The plant is commonly harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine. It is sometimes cultivated for medicinal use and is also sold in local markets[
]. This is one of several species in this genus that have been identified as potential commercial seedcrops in the temperate zone, being grown for their oil which is rich in medium-length fatty acids. It is unlikely to become a useful crop in the tropics because of the abundance of other oil crops such as the coconut (Cocos nucifera). The plant is often grown as an ornamental, especially in tropical and subtropical climates.
The plant is grown as an ornamental and has often escaped from cultivation - it is classed as a weed in many tropical and subtropical areas and is deemed invasive. In Indonesia, for example, it dominates corn (Zea Mays) plantings and is considered one of the worst ten weeds. On Vanuatu, it is a serious pest of coconut (Cocos nucifera) groves and in pasture. It is also a weed of taro (Colocasia esculenta) in Fiji[
S. America - Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, north to the Guianas and Ecuador; Caribbean; C. America - Panama to southern Mexico
Mostly found in moist or wet soil, meadows, thickets, open banks, sandbars along streams, often a weed around dwellings or in waste and cultivated ground; at elevations up to 1,800 metres[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
Cuphea carthagenensis is a plant of the tropical regions of central N. America, but is said to be suitable for cultivation as an annual in parts of the temperate zone. Continental areas with hot summers, and Mediterranean regions have been specifically mentioned, the most important factors are the length of the growing season and the amount of summer heat required to ripen the crop.
Prefers a light to medium soil texture, which can be free, impeded or seasonally waterlogged. It can grow in acidic, neutral or alkaline soils[
Cuphea has only been investigated as a potential commercial crop for a few years, and still has the characteristics of a
wild plant. Those characteristics that differ from cultivated plants are its propensity to seed shatter, its indeterminate flowering nature, and its overall stickiness. If these wild traits can be overcome, Cuphea's chemistry, coupled with the annual and therefore renewable nature of the plant, certainly can make it a new crop for the temperate zone[
This species is self-fertile[
This is a very common and variable weedy plant almost throughout Central America except at high elevations[
An oil obtained from the seeds has the potential to be used in foods[
The plant has a wide range of traditional medicinal uses, being known as sete-sangrias. It is most commonly employed in Brazil, but it is also used in other countries, including Nicaragua[
The leaves and aerial parts of the plant are used traditionally to treat a wide range of disorders. They are said to be anticholesterolemic, cardiac, diuretic, hypotensive, and laxative. They ae used in the treatment of conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, circulation problems, anaemia, fever, inflammation, stomach aches, kidney stones, vaginal infection, weakness, worm parasites, diarrhoea, intestinal infection, syphilis and varicose veins[
]. The astringent plant decoction is taken as a general remedy, and is also used as a remedy for malaria[
An infusion of the leaves is used to treat colds and chills[
The stem and leaves are macerated in rum and then rubbed onto sprains[
Due to its widespread use in traditional medicine it has gained attention for modern clinical uses, particularly for cardiovascular disease. Clinical tests have shown that it is effective in reducing plasma cholesterol, and in eliciting vasodilation. This is likely a result of the species containing quercetin-3-sulfate, which when metabolized to quercetin has a vasodilator effect. Pre-clinical data indicate a potential role in the treatment of hyperlipidemia[
Tests have shown that extracts of the plant have antiviral activity. The extracts have also shown activity against gram negative and gram-positive bacteria, and has also produced anti-anxiety effects in mice[
Cuphea carthagenensis can tolerate some extreme conditions. In Hawaii, for example, it has been found in strip mined bauxitic soils whilst, in Florida, it has colonized reclaimed phosphate mines[
In the US it has been suggested to plant Cuphea in rotation with corn and soybeans every three years. If grown this way Cuphea can help disrupt the life cycle of corn rootworms - pests that account for more pesticide use on US row crops than any other insect. (Corn rootworms can cost up to $1billion per annum in control and yield losses)[
The seeds, although small, are a potential commercial crop for their oil. The oil is a good source of medium length fatty acids - these oils are usually obtained from tropical sources such as palm and coconut oils. This species is particularly rich in capric acid (81.4%)[
Industrial oils made from these acids are valuable commodities as they have the potential to replace others made from imported palm kernel and coconut oil. Lauric acid, for example, is used in foods, mostly as vegetable shortenings, as a defoaming agent and a booster for soaps and detergents[
Medium chain length fatty acids (e.g. Lauric and myristic) are used in detergents and health and beauty products. Statistics show that 71,000 tonnes of lauric acid oils were processed during 1991 in the EC; they originated from Copra (i.e. Coconut) and Palm kernel[
Cuphea oil has been used as an alternative to coconut oil in soaps, detergents and other products[
Seed - can be sown in situ[
]. Germination usually takes a few weeks because of the hard seed coat.