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Evolvulus alsinoides (L.) L. 1762
pronounced: ee-VOLV-yoo-luss al-SEEN-oy-deez
(Convolvulaceae — the morning glory family)
common names: Dwarf Morning Glory, Sankhapushpi
The Latin word evolvulus means ‘unrolled’, i.e., non-twining; and alsinoides is from the Greek αλσινη (alsiné), a name used by Theophrastus and Dioscorides for a plant variously thought to be chickweed (Stellaria media or Stellaria nemorum) or lich-wort (Parietaria lusitanica), and -οειδες (-oides), resembling.
Dwarf Morning Glory is found in all Australian states except for Victoria and Tasmania. It grows in sandy plains to rocky outcrops, often in grassy and Eucalyptus and Acacia woodland, widespread but not usually common. It is native to the Americas, but widely naturalized elsewhere, especially in India, where it is also cultivated for medicinal use.
This is a little perennial herb with a small woody and branched rootstock. The roots are 15–30 cm long, 1–1.5 cm in diameter, and greenish-white in colour. The branches of the plant are annual, numerous, more than 30 cm long, often prostrate, slender and wiry with long hairs. The leaves are small (3–30 mm long, 2–5 mm wide), entire, elliptic to oblong, obtuse, apiculate, the base acute and densely hairy. The petiole is minute, or nearly absent. Bracts are linear and persistent. The flowers are mostly solitary in upper axils. The corolla, 7–9 mm in diameter, is blue and broadly infundibuliform; the calyx is 4-lobed, lanceolate, with the tip acute; the peduncle is long and axillary. The capsule is globose and 4-valved, 3–4 mm in diameter; there are 4 glabrous seeds.
Drugs commonly used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia often have undesirable side effects. In recent years some natural substances and plant extracts have been used, including an extract from Evolvulus alsinoides. Many of these have produced fewer side effects and much the same effectiveness as the other drugs.
Evolvulus alsinoides is a very important plant in the traditional medicines of East Asia. In Ayurveda it is used as a brain tonic in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. In other traditional Indian medicines the whole herb is used in a decoction with cumin and milk in treating fevers, nervous debility, loss of memory, and syphilis. A decoction of the drug with Ocimum tenuiflorum (Sacred Basil) is administered in fever accompanied by indigestion or diarrhœa, and also for malarial fever. The root is used by the Santals for intermittent childhood fever. The leaves are made into cigarettes and smoked in cases of chronic bronchitis and asthma. An oil extracted from the plant is used to promote hair growth. In Sri Lanka, a roots and stem extract is used to treat dysentery and depression. Mohammedan physicians use the plant to strengthen the brain and memory. It is used in the Philippines for certain bowel irregularities. Infusions of roots, stalks and leaves are all used in Nigeria as a stomachic. In Kenya sores are treated by the application of powdered leaves, and in Tanganyika the pounded leaves are put on to enlarged glands in the neck. The plant is used to treat depression in parts of Kenya. This herb is still, in many places, a preferred method for reducing symptoms associated with anxiety, panic attacks, nervousness and insomnia, and for improving memory and concentration.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken at Hawkings Point 2011, Picnic Bay 2013
Page last updated 4th December 2016