Basella alba Linn.
Basella lucida Linn.
Basella cordifolia Lam.
Local names: Alugbati (Bis.); arogbati (Bik.); dundula (Sul.); grana (Tag.); ilaibakir (Ilk.); libato (Tag.); Malabar nightshade (Eng.); Lo k?uei (Chinese.).
Alugbati is found in settled areas, in hedges, old cultivated areas, etc., throughout the Philippines. It is certainly not a native of the Archipelago but is of prehistoric introduction. It occurs also in tropical Asia, Africa and Malaya, often cultivated.
This is a succulent, branched, smooth, twining, herbaceous vine, reaching a length of several meters. The stems are green or purplish. The leaves are somewhat fleshy, ovate or heart-shaped, 5 to 12 centimeters in length, stalked, tapering to a pointed tip, and cordate at the base. The spikes are axillary, solitary, and 5 to 29 centimeters in length. The flowers are pink, and about 4 millimeters long. The fruit is fleshy, stalkless, ovoid or nearly spherical, 5 to 6 millimeters in length, and purple when mature.
Alugbati is a very common and popular leafy vegetable, which is much used in stews and, which makes good substitute for spinach. The cultivated varieties, both the green and the purple, are superior to the wild ones. It is cultivated extensively by Chinese gardeners and is on sale in Manila markets throughout the year. The young shoots, including both the leaves and the stems are eaten.
The plant is mucilaginous when cooked. Mara????reports that it is an excellent source of calcium and iron and that it has the high roughage value characteristic of leafy vegetables. According to Hermano and Hermano and Sepulveda, it is a good source of vitamin A and an excellent one of vitamins B and C.
Read reports that the leaves contain saponin, vitamins A3 and B3; and the fruit, mucilage and iron.
According to Guerrero the roots are employed as a rubefacient, and as a poultice to reduce local swellings; the sap is used to anoint any part of the body affected by acne in order to diminish the irritation. According to Nadkarni, and Kirtikar and Basu, its action is demulcent and diuretic. Stuart adds that it is emollient.
In India Nadkarni reports that it makes a wholesome and a most easily digested spinach and acts as a mild laxative. The leaves are reduced to a pulp and applied to boils, ulcers and abscesses to hasten suppuration. The juice of the leaves, together with sugar candy, is useful in catarrhal affections of children. It is administered with much benefit in gonorrhea and balanitis. The leaf-juice, thoroughly rubbed and mixed with butter, is a soothing and cooling application for burns and scalds. The mucilaginous liquid obtained from the leaves and tender stalks of this plant is a popular remedy for habitual headaches. Stuart states that the fruit is used as rouge for the cheeks and lips of ladies, and also as a dye. De Grosourdy says that in the Antilles the leaves are considered good maturatives as cataplasm. A decoction of the leaves is a good laxative for pregnant women and children.
Photo courtesy of www.stuartxchange.org