Heliotropium curassavicum zeylanicum Burm.f.
Heliotropium inconspicuum Dinter ex Vaupel
Heliotropium micranthum Welw.
Heliotropium subulatum (Hochst. ex A.DC.) Vatke
Tournefortia stenoraca Klotzsch
Tournefortia subulata Hochst. ex A.DC.
Heliotropium zeylanicum is an erect or procumbent perennial herb, coarsely branched producing branched stems up to 70cm long from a woody rootstock. The stems can become somewhat woody, especially at the base[
The plant is sometimes harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine. It is often grown as an ornamental[
No specific mention of toxicity has been seen for this species, but many members of this plant family (Boraginaceae) are known to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids. These alkaloids have a cumulative effect upon the body and, unless concentrations in a plant are high, occasional use is generally completely safe. They are derived from amino acids including ornithine. Many pyrrolizidine alkaloids have pronounced hepatic toxicity, but the lungs and other organs may be affected as well. Mutagenic and carcinogenic activities of pyrrolizidine alkaloids have also been reported[
Tropical Africa - throughout the drier areas to S. Africa; through the Arabian Peninsula to India and Pakistan.
]. Dry woodlands and savannahs, open grounds, on sandy riverbanks and on edges of rivers and lakes at elevations up to 2,000 metres[
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
The plant can often become a bad weed of farms in its native area[
Leaves - cooked[
]. The tender leaves are chopped and cooked alone or with other vegetables such as Amaranthus, Bidens or Galinsoga. Coconut milk or pounded groundnuts are then added, and the dish is served with a staple such as rice[
The plant is eaten as a bitter tonic and stimulant in the belief that it has some of the properties of the kola nut, making the lips or the saliva red[
The plant is applied to scorpion-stings on the basis of the shape of the tail-tipped petals resembling a scorpion’s sting[
]. Combined with Indigofera pulchra it is put on sore breasts[
The leaves are prepared into poultices alone or with butter and without heating for treating boils, yaws etc[
The stems are crushed and soaked, then dried and applied to parts affected by yaws[
A cold root-infusion which has stood overnight is taken as a stomachic and laxative[
The leaves and roots are pounded and boiled, the decoction being drunk as a treatment for postpartum diseases in women[
The aerial parts of the plant contain the pyrrolizidine alkaloids subulacine-N-oxide, 7-angeloyl heliotrine, retronecine and heliotrine[
The crude ethanol and hexane extracts have significant in-vitro activity against coxsackie, poliomyelitis and measles viruses[
Seven-angeloyl heliotrine and heliotrine have shown in-vitro activity against poliomyelitis and vesicular stomatitis viruses[
Antitumour activity of several extracts and isolated alkaloids has been confirmed in in-vitro tests on several cancer cell lines including Sarcoma 180, human carcinoma of the nasopharynx and lymphocytic leukaemia[
Extracts, as well as isolated alkaloids, have shown antimicrobial activity in tests with the bacteria Escherichia coli, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus anthracis and Staphylococcus aureus, and the fungi Aspergillus fumigatus, Aspergillus niger, Rhizoctonia phaseoli and Pennicilium chrysogenum[
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