Eliopia riparia Raf.
Eliopia serrata Raf.
Heliophytum indicum (L.) DC.
Heliotropium cordifolium Moench
Heliotropium foetidum Salisb.
Heliotropium horminifolium Mill.
Tiaridium indicum (L.) Lehm.
Common Name: Indian Heliotrope
Flowering plant in Narsapur, Andhra Pradesh, India.
Photograph by: J.M.Garg
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Indian heliotrope is an erect, usually much-branched, annual to perennial plant growing up to 1.5 metres tall. The stems are usually woody at the base[
The plant is often harvested from the wild and used locally for its medicinal virtues.
The plant contains the pyrrolizidine alkaloids indicine, indicine-N-oxide, acetyl-indicine, indicinine, heleurine, heliotrine, supinine, supinidine and lindelofidine. Safe in small doses, if consumed regularly or in large quantities they have been shown to have a cumulative toxic effect upon the liver[
S. America - Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru.
Sunny localities, on waste land, in periodically desiccating pools and ditches and anthropogenic habitats, at elevations generally below 800 metres[
]. It is widely considered a weed of fields and pastures[
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Originally from S. America, the plant has spread and become naturalized through much of the tropics and subtropics[
Plants can flower all year round[
The leaves are, on rare occasions, used as a vegetable[
]. This could be unwise - see the notes above on toxicity[
The plant has been widely used for centuries to treat warts, inflammations and tumours. Throughout tropical Africa it is used as an analgesic to ease rheumatic pain, as a diuretic and to treat numerous skin problems including yaws, urticaria, scabies, ulcers, eczema and impetigo[
]. Throughout the Continent, there is a wide variation in the plant parts that are used, and also in methods of preparation and administration[
A decoction of the whole plant is used to treat thrush, diarrhoea, diabetes, venereal diseases and frequent excretion of urine[
]. The whole plant is boiled and the beverage used as a remedy for heat rash[
]. It is boiled with Desmodium sp. (ironweed) in a decoction that is used as a purgative of the reproductive system to function as a 'cleanout' for men and women[
An infusion of the plant is used as an eye-lotion and to clean ulcers[
The leaves are haemostatic, stomachic[
]. An infusion is used as a remedy for asthma, ulcers, dysentery, bronchitis, red eyes, boils etc[
]. The leaf juice is used to treat and soothe the pain of conjunctivitis[
]. Mixed with coconut oil and a small amount of salt, the leaves are administered to children as a remedy for colds, grippe and coughing[
]. The leaves are boiled with Mikania micrantha for treating upset stomachs[
The powdered leaves are used to treat infected gums[
]. A poultice made from the leaves is applied to rheumatic limbs, to wounds and insect bites[
The flowers are emmenagogue in small doses and abortifacient in large[
]. They are used to control menstrual blood loss; yaws; skin ulcers[
The plant contains the hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids heliotrine and lasiocarpine. The major alkaloid, indicine, shows antitumor activity[
The whole plant is buried and, after the fleshy tissue has rotted away, the remaining fibre is used to make false hair for women[
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