Cleome gynandra, commonly known by several names such as spider plant, African cabbage, cat’s whiskers etc is a green leafy vegetable that is found growing all over the tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. It is a common food source for poor people belonging to the rural areas of Africa, where the leaves of this plant are cooked and eaten. Although considered as a weed, spider plant is highly nutritious with plenty of vitamins and other nutrients and hence can be added to a healthy and balanced diet.
Nutritional value of Spider plant
The leaves of spider plant are quite bitter but are an excellent source of phenolic compounds, vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin C and minerals like calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium zinc, copper and iron. It also contains certain amounts of fiber, carbohydrates, and protein. The seeds of Cleome gynandra contain fatty acids including palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid and linoleic acid. They also contain good amounts of various essential amino acids like glutamic acid, arginine, leucine, valine, glycine, proline etc. The presence of flavonoids such as rutin, luteolin, quercetin, hesperidin etc in spider plant is considered to be responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Medicinal uses and health benefits of spider plant
Traditional medicine in different countries all over the world uses spider plant for treating many diseases and ailments. It is also used in several culinary systems because of its outstanding nutritional and health benefitting properties.
Antioxidant effects of spider plant
The formation of free radicals in your body can lead to many diseases such as diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis etc. Antioxidants are compounds that can fight off these free radicals and protect your cells from oxidative damage. Studies conducted on rats reveal that the leaf extract of spider plant shows potent antioxidant properties. The antioxidant action of this plant can be attributed to the presence of important trace elements and biologically active ingredients.
Skin benefits of spider plant
Spider plant is a rich source of antioxidants that helps in keeping your skin glowing and young. These antioxidants protect your skin from oxidative stress thus preventing signs of aging such as wrinkles, fine lines and dark spots. Spider plant helps in keeping your skin nourished and hydrated and also helps in maintaining the pH balance. The various active elements in this plant show anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties that help in preventing acne and other infections.
Hair benefits of spider plant
Just as in the case of the skin, spider plant also helps in moisturizing and nourishing your hair, thus preventing dandruff and dry scalp. It also helps in strengthening your hair and makes it look healthy and lustrous.
Spider plant shows anti-cancer properties
The anti-cancer effects of methanol extract of spider plant against Ehrlich Ascites Carcinoma was studied in Swiss albino mice. The results showed that the extract helped in significantly reducing the volume and weight of the tumor. It also increased the lifespan of the mice having Ehrlich Ascites Carcinoma. The hemoglobin levels and the count of red blood cells, white blood cells, and lymphocytes were restored to normal level in mice treated with the methanol extract of spider plant. From this result it can be confirmed that the extract shows powerful dose dependent anti-cancer properties.
Spider plant for diabetes
The leaves and roots of spider plant are used in some parts of India as an anti-diabetic remedy. It has been found that this plant has the ability to lower blood sugar levels. The anti-diabetic action of spider plant may be due to the presence of the antioxidant phenolic compounds in it.
Spider plant lowers high blood pressure
Spider plant contains high levels of potassium that helps in lowering high blood pressure by neutralizing the negative effects of sodium. Moreover, it also contains several antioxidant compounds that contribute to the blood pressure lowering effect. Methylripariochromene A is a compound in spider plant that has been found to lower systolic pressure in rats.
Spider plant for kidney disorders
Spider plant is known to provide a protective effect on the kidneys. According to several clinical studies, an herbal tea made from the leaves of this plant is considered to be effective in preventing the occurrence of kidney stones. Spider plant is also used as a remedy in the treatment of urinary tract infections, bladder stones and chronic kidney infections.
Other medicinal uses of Cleome gynandra
The seeds and leaves of Cleome gynandra have been used effectively in traditional medicine in many parts of the world. The leaves have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and hence are used in treating the inflammation and pain associated with arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. The sap from the leaves is used to treat headaches due to its analgesic effects. It is also considered to be useful in curing recurrent malaria. The sap obtained by pounding the young leaves of spider plant is administered into ears, eyes and nostrils to reduce earache and to treat epilepsy.
The crushed leaves are also used as a vesicant and rubefacient to treat different kinds of pains such as headache, rheumatism, etc. The leaves are either applied as a poultice or rubbed on to the pain affected area. Topical application of the crushed leaves on boils can help in preventing the formation of pus. The seeds are helpful in reducing cough. Applying a mixture of the seeds and oil on the scalp is found to be effective in getting rid of head lice.
An infusion or decoction made from the roots or leaves of spider plant finds use in treating constipation and abdominal pain. It is also beneficial in treating anemia, relieving chest pain, in eliminating intestinal worms and in treating conjunctivitis. This infusion is also used in some places to ease childbirth and to prevent loss of blood. The seeds and leaves have anthelmintic properties and helps in getting rid of intestinal worms such as round worms.
Studies indicate that the leaves of Cleome gynandra are more nutritious than most of the other leafy vegetables. The young shoots or tender leaves of this plant are boiled and eaten as a stew, side dish or tasty relish. The oil extracted from the seeds of the plant is somewhat similar to mustard oil and does not need any kind of refining before it is used. The seed cake or residue obtained after the extraction process is used for animal fodder. Since spider plant is easy to grow and can be cultivated in arid conditions, it could be a great source of food for not only the rural population but for everyone. Considering all the various medicinal uses of this plant, it can become a promising remedy and drug for many diseases in the future years.Image Credits: ISpot