(Last Updated on : 05/12/2013)
Amaranthaceae has an erect stem or stems that trail along the ground without putting down roots. The plant is an annual or perennial herb with spreading branches. The stem can be usually up to one metre tall and often with a woody base. The stems are angular, ribbed, pubescent, simple or branched from the base and are often tinted with reddish-purple. The leaves are thick, ovate-elliptic or obovate-rounded and the shape of the leaves varies from four to twelve centimeters in length and about eight centimeters in width. The leaves are densely covered with short matted woolly hairs. The flowers of Amaranthaceae are greenish white in colour and are blossomed in abundance in axillary or terminal spikes up to seventy-five centemetres long, the bracts are membraneous and persistent. The fruits of this plant are membranous, oblong and are enclosed in the hardened perianth. The seeds are sub-cylindrical in shape, truncate at the apex, rounded at the base and are reddish brown in colour. The flowers generally blossom during November to January in central Indian deciduous forest areas.
Amaranthaceae is known as 'apang' and 'chirchiti' in West Bengal. In Sanskrit it is named as 'apamarga', 'apa-margah' and 'kharamanjari'. The denizens of Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Orissa call it by the name of 'safed aghedo', 'nagarasi', and 'apamaranga' respectively. Amaranthaceae is pantropical in distribution. The plant is basically observed in plenty pastures or meadows, wastelands and roadsides throughout India as a weed.
Considering the medicinal value of amaranthaceae, it is hugely in demand and is vastly used in ayurveda and sometimes in modern pharmaceutical products. Amaranthaceae is regarded as acrid, astringent, pectoral and diuretic. The dried plant is used as a laxative, and is hugely in demand for the treatment of gonorrhoea and colic. An extraction of the entire plant is diuretic. It is also useful for the treatment of renal dropsy; in large doses, however, it acts as an ecbolic.
In diseases like ophthalmia and dysentery the juice of amaranthaceae is reckoned useful. At an early stage of diarrhoea and dysentery the powdered leaves with honey is considered as useful. Among the people of the Bhavnagar District in Gujarat, the leaf juice is used as an eardrop to relieve ear pain .In Uttar Pradesh the Gonds apply the ash of the whole plant to the whole body before bathing as a treatment for jaundice. The Rabaris in the Barda Hills of Gujarat use the dried root powder as a treatment of night blindness.
To treat and bring relieve to the people bitten by poisonous insects, bees and wasps, a paste of the leaves is applied. The people of Karnataka uses crushed betel leaves with the paste of the amaranthaceae leaves as a remedy for rheumatic pain. The paste is used not only to cure the pains but is also applied externally to promote healing of cracked skin on the feet. Apart from these, the mixture of amaranthaceae leaves with the leaf paste of Abutilon indicum (Malvaceae) and Azadirachta indica (Meliaceae); it is used externally to cure ulcers. The astringent roots are applied to injuries as a haemostatic and their paste is applied to clear opacity of the cornea Root infusions are given as a mild astringent for treating bowel complaints.
To relieve diarrhoea a decoction of the roots is used and an aqueous extract is considered as useful for the treatment of bladder stones. To get relief from cough a pinch of the powdered root mixed with an equal amount of black pepper is taken with honey. The mixture of the powder and honey is reckoned as curative and is taken internally to relieve haemorrhoids. The Bondo tribals in Southern Orissa often take the powder mixed with water to restore consciousness in epileptic conditions. The rural people of Gujarat take the root for any menstrual problem and alleviate childbirth. The tribal women of Bastar in Madhya Pradesh a paste made from the roots with buttermilk is taken internally as an contraceptive drug. For the treatment of fever, the pounded roots, mixed with those of Diospyvos melanoxylon (Ebenaceae) and water are used among the tribals of Southern Bihar.
The entire Amaranthaceae plant is of high medicinal value, and apart from the stem, root and leaves the flowers are also used for various treatment. The grinded flowers are mixed with curd and sugar for the remedy of menorrhagia. Rabies is cured by the usage of the flower-tops. The Santhalis in Southern Bihar take the powdered seeds to treat haemorrhoids and the powdered seed soaked in buttermilk is used as a curative medicine for biliousness. The seeds are also considered as an expectorant and emetic. Rubbed with rice water, the seeds are given to relieve bleeding piles.