Amaranthus hypochondriacus (LINN.)
Love-Lies-Bleeding. Red Cockscomb. Velvet Flower.
The dried bark.
The Amaranths are met with most abundantly in the tropics,
especially in tropical America, but are not plentiful in cold countries.
Many species are widely distributed as pernicious weeds. Their economic
importance is slight, their properties chiefly proteid nutrient. Many
abound in mucilage and sugar and many species are used as pot-herbs, resembling
those of Chenopodiaceae. Many, also, are excellent fodder-plants, though
Their constituents are indefinite; none are poisonous, none possess very
distinct medicinal properties, though many have use in native practice
as alteratives, and as antidotes to snake-bite, etc.
Medicinal Action and Uses
Some species have slightly astringent properties, others are diaphoretics
and diuretics, and a few are tonics and stimulants.
In ancient Greece, the Amaranth was sacred to Ephesian Artemis: it was
supposed to have special healing properties and as a symbol of immortality
was used to decorate images of the gods and tombs. The name, from the
Greek signifying unwithering, was applied to certain plants which from
their lasting for ever, typified immortality.
Some of the species are old favourites as garden flowers, viz., Amaranthus
hypochondriacus, known as Prince's Feather, an Indian annual - with deeply-veined,
lance-shaped leaves, purple on the under side with deep crimson flowers,
densely packed on erect spikes, and A. caudatus (Jacq.) (Love-lies-bleeding),
a native of Africa and Java, a vigorous hardy annual with dark purplish
flowers crowded in handsome drooping spikes.
It is considered astringent and a decoction of the flowers has been administered
in spitting of blood and various haemorrhages and has been said to be so
energetic that it may be used in cases of menorrhagia. With several other
species belonging to the closely allied genus Aeva, natives of India, it
has also been used as an anthelmintic.
A. spinosa (Linn.), A. campestris (Willd.) and many others are used in
India as diuretics. A. oleraceus (Linn.) is used in India in diarrhoea
and menstrual disorders and the young leaves and shoots are also eaten
as a vegetable, similarly to spinach. A. polygonoides, a common garden
weed in India, is also used as a pot-herb and considered so wholesome
that convalescents are ordered it in preference to all other kinds.