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Las Pinas City, Metro Manila, Philippines


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Malabar Night Shade

Purple Alugbati

Alugbati ( scientific name: Basella rubra Linn., B.alba Linn) in Tagalog; Malabar Night Shade, Ceylon spinach, or Climbing spinach in English; luo kui shu(Chinese); Pui shak in Bengali; Mong to in Vietnamese; Bertalha in Portuguese is one of the most popular indigenous leafy and stew vegetable in the Philippines.  Alugbati or vine spinach is commonly found in South-East Asia and Africa. It can easily grow in gardens without taking too much care. In some provinces it is propagated as a decorative plant. Alugbati are now being sold in supermarkets, market gardens and home gardens. It is usually planted in home gardens using cuttings. For market gardens, seedlings are transplanted 3 weeks after sowing. It grows well under full sunlight in hot, humid climates and in areas lower than 500 m above sea level. There are three common types of alugbati: Basella alba with green stem and oval to almost round leaves; Basella rubra with red stems and green, oval to round leaves and very common in backyard gardens and the third type is a hybrid of the two. 

Alugbati is a great source of vitamins A, B and C, Iron and calcium and a good source of antioxidant. It is also rich in phosphorous, thiamine, riboflavin,  niacin and ascorbic acid.

Alugbati has a mild spinach flavor and slimy when overcooked. It is an excellent thickening agent in soups and stews. The purplish dye from the ripe fruit is used as a food color and as a rouge for the face. The cooked roots are used to treat diarrhea while the leaves are used as a laxative. The flowers are used as antidote for poison while a paste from the root is used as a rubefacient or is applied to reduce local swellings. A paste from the leaves is used externally to treat boils. Leaf juice mixed with butter is soothing and cooling when applied to burns and scalds.  In  Nigeria, alugbati is used for fertility enhancement in women. In Ayurveda, alugbati is used for hemorrhages, skin diseases, sexual weakness, ulcers and as laxative in children and pregnant women. In some studies, ethanolic and petroleum ether extracts of the leaves of alugbati showed maximum effect against E coli. In some studies, the liquid of the plant is effective for acne eruptions and also eases inflammation. According to studies conducted  by the Research Institute  studies, for Tropical Studies (RITM)  onion, garlic and alugbati proved to be the cheapest and effective in killing mosquito larvae. Extracts of the plants by pounding and squeezing through a blender and then put in the water where the larvae live was proven effective mosquito larvicide.