Boerhavia diffusa

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Boerhavia diffusa
Boerhaavia diffusa.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Nyctaginaceae
Genus: Boerhavia
B. diffusa
Binomial name
Boerhavia diffusa

Boerhavia diffusa is a species of flowering plant in the four o'clock family which is commonly known as punarnava (meaning that which rejuvenates or renews the body in Ayurveda),[2] red spiderling,[1] spreading hogweed,[1] or tarvine.[1] It is taken in herbal medicine for pain relief and other uses. The leaves of Boerhavia  diffusa are often used as a green vegetable in many parts of India.


A small bird with tiny sticky fruit stuck below the eye
Fruit of B. diffusa stuck to face of juvenile sooty tern

Boerhavia diffusa is widely dispersed, occurring throughout India, the Pacific, and southern United States. Flowers are small, around 5 mm in diameter. Pollens are round, roughly 65 microns in diameter.


This wide range is explained by its small fruit, which are very sticky and grow a few inches off the ground, ideally placed to latch on to small migratory birds as they walk by.[3]

Traditional Uses[edit]

Having anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties, Boerhavia diffusa (Punarnava) is said to be a good cure for Amavata (a disease in which reduction of Vata Dosha and accumulation of Ama take place in joint(s), and simulates rheumatoid arthritis (RA)). The root acts as an anticonvulsant, analgesic, laxative medication that when rubbed in honey can be locally applied for cataract, chronic conjunctivitis and blepharitis. Useful for curing heart diseases, anemia and edema (or oedema), Punarnava is an effective remedy that reduces swelling and foul smell in skin disorders. Apart from the root, Punarnava’s leaves are also consumed as a vegetarian dish to reduce oedema.

As an Ayurvedic medicine, this herb is said to cure disorders like intestinal colic, kidney disorders, cough, hemorrhoids, skin diseases, alcoholism, insomnia, eye diseases, asthama and jaundice.[4]


A true and accurate accounting of the native range of Boerhavia diffusa has not been determined. However, it is very widespread, and has become naturalized in many places. It is believed[1] to be a native plant to the following places in 7h:

  • Africa

Botswana; Egypt; Ghana; Kenya; Liberia; Malawi; Mozambique; Namibia; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa (Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape provinces); Swaziland; Tanzania; Togo; Uganda; Zambia; and Zimbabwe.

  • Asia

Burma; Cambodia; (Pakistan Punjab kpk sindbalochistan Kashmirgilgit Baltistan) (Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces) India;Bangladesh; Indonesia; Japan (Ryukyu Islands); Laos; Malaysia; Nepal; the Philippines; southern Taiwan; Thailand; and Vietnam. Also, on the Arabian Peninsula: Oman; Saudi Arabia; and the United Arab Emirates; and Yemen (Socotra).

  • North America

Mexico; and the U.S. (in the states of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina).

  • Caribbean

Anguilla; the Bahamas; the Cayman Islands; Cuba; Dominica; Grenada; Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti); Jamaica; Montserrat; the Netherlands Antilles (Saba); Puerto Rico; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; and both the British and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

  • South America

Argentina; Belize; Bolivia; Chile; Costa Rica; Ecuador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Suriname; Uruguay; and Venezuela.

  • South Pacific

Fiji; and New Caledonia.

Economic importance[edit]

B. diffusa is widely used as a green leafy vegetable in many Asian and African countries. B. diffusa can be used as a fodder for livestock, but has the potential for contaminating seed stocks, and may harbor pathogens for certain crops, such as eggplants.[1]


Boeravinones G and H are two rotenoids isolated from B. diffusa.[5] A quinolone alkaloid, lunamarine, isolated from B. diffusa[6] has shown some in vitro anticancer,[7] antiestrogenic,[8] immunomodulatory,[9] and anti-amoebic activity (particularly against Entamoeba histolytica).[10] The plant contains a protein called BDP-30, presumably a ribosome-inactivating protein.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Boerhavia diffusa was originally described and published in Species Plantarum 1:3. 1753. "Boerhavia diffusa". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved March 14, 2013.
  2. ^ Bhowmik Debjit; Kumar K. P. Sampath; Srivastava Shweta; Paswan Shravan; Sankar Amit; Dutta Dutta (2012). "Traditional Indian Herbs: Punarnava and Its Medicinal Importance" (PDF). Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry. 1 (1): 52–57.
  3. ^ Sherwin Carlquist (2008). "Dispersal to Islands". Plant Discorveries : Sherwin Carlquist. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  4. ^ Debjit Bhowmik, K.P. Sampath Kumar, Shweta Srivastava, Shravan Paswan, Amit Sankar, Dutta Dutta. "Traditional Indian Herbs Punarnava and Its Medicinal Importance" (PDF). Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry – via Pharmacognosy.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Ahmed-Belkacem, A; MacAlou, S; Borrelli, F; Capasso, R; Fattorusso, E; Taglialatela-Scafati, O; Di Pietro, A (2007). "Nonprenylated rotenoids, a new class of potent breast cancer resistance protein inhibitors". Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 50 (8): 1933–8. doi:10.1021/jm061450q. PMID 17341062.
  6. ^ "Punarnavine". Comparative Toxicogenomics Database. Salisbury Cove, Maine: Mount Desert Island Biological Lab. March 6, 2013. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  7. ^ Manu K.A.; Kuttan G. (2009). "Punarnavine induces apoptosis in B16F-10 melanoma cells by inhibiting NF-kappaB signaling". Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. 10 (6): 1031–1037. PMID 20192578.
  8. ^ Sreeja S.; Sreeja S. (2009). "An in vitro study on antiproliferative and antiestrogenic effects of Boerhaavia diffusa L. extracts". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 126 (2): 221–225. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2009.08.041. PMID 19723573.
  9. ^ Manu K.A.; Kuttan G. (2009). "Immunomodulatory activities of Punarnavine, an alkaloid from Boerhaavia diffusa". Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology. 31 (3): 377–387. doi:10.1080/08923970802702036. PMID 19555203.
  10. ^ Sohni YR.; Kaimal P.; Bhatt RM. (Jan 1995). "The antiamoebic effect of a crude drug formulation of herbal extracts against Entamoeba histolytica in vitro and in vivo". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 45 (1): 43–52. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(94)01194-5.
  11. ^ Shalini Srivastava; HN Verma; Aparana Srivastava; Vivek Prasad (2015). "BDP-30, a systemic resistance inducer from Boerhaavia diffusa L., suppresses TMV infection, and displays homology with ribosome-inactivating proteins". Journal of Biosciences. 40 (1): 125–135. doi:10.1007/s12038-014-9494-0.

External links[edit]