Alternanthera sessilis is commonly known as 'sanchi' in Bengali, Gio- jihra in Sanskrit and 'ponnagannikkirai' in Tamil Nadu. Alternanthera sessilis is widely distributed throughout the Old World tropics. In India it is found as a weed across a range of open site conditions. It is found hugely in moister habitats, throughout the warmer parts of the country to an altitude of 1200 metre in the Himalayas. Often the plant is widely cultivated for its edible young shoots and leaves.
The whole plant of Alternanthera sessilis is one of three sources of the Ayurvedic drug Lonika, which is used to treat wounds, flatulence, cough, bronchitis and diabetes. This plant is also reckoned as an important ingredient of several compounds of Ayurvedic preparations. The people of Bihar reportedly use the plant to treat night blindness. A poultice of the herb is reportedly useful to promote the healing of boils. The leaves and stems of this herb are used as galactagogue and febrifuge. The fresh and immature shoots and leaves are considered useful for relieving indigestion and are eaten as a cooked vegetable or in soups. To cure inflamed wounds the roots are applied externally. Among the Santhalis and Paharia in eastern Bihar, an extract of the roots, crushed with the bark of Alstonia scholaris (Apocynaceae), is taken with cow's milk for the treatment of spermatorrhoea.