30 October 2016 | Herb Garden | Gynostemma pentaphyllum | Flueggea virosa
In September, I visited a herb garden in the western part of Singapore in which I had written a few posts based on the herbs seen at that visit. The first one being the Elephant / Horse Grass shared on 2 October. Subsequently, I wrote two more posts in the last 2 weeks on Green Shrimp Plant (16 October) and Perilla frutescens (23 October). Pictures of 2 other plants, Flueggea virosa (Common Bushweed) and Gynostemma pentaphyllum (Jiaogulan), added to my plant pictorial database were also resulted from that trip.
Though originated from China, Gynostemma pentaphyllum had found its way to the western hemisphere and became relatively popular there in the field of alternative medicine. It has been claimed to be an Immortality or Miracle Herb. Not surprisingly, there are several YouTube video produced in the west that shared the miraculous properties of this herb. Apparently, it is similar to ginseng in term of properties and have tones of claimed health benefits. The herb is sold in plant nursery here but is not available in the wild. It leaves are very similar to that of Cayratia japonica, a relatively uncommon climber found in the wild. However, they are not from the same family; Gynostemma pentaphyllum belongs to the cucumber family while Cayratia japonica is from the grape family.
Compare to Gynostemma pentaphyllum, Flueggea virosa was listed in the Singapore Flora Checklist published in 2009. Although I was aware of the existence of both plants from books years back, I had not seen the live specimen until this visit to the herb garden. A common name of Flueggea virosa in Chinese is White Rice Tree (白饭树), probably originated from the whitish fruits that resembled cooked white rice. A very recent report from a group of Taiwanese researchers found that the plant contained compounds that had anti-hepatitis C virus properties. Hepatitis C virus infection may result in the inflammation of the liver and eventually cause the liver to lose its function. Many of you may recall the unusual hepatitis C outbreak that took place in the Singapore General Hospital last year.
Another rare shrub seen was Catunaregam spinosa. There were several other interesting herbs that I did not manage to get any good pictures because I was there in the early part of the afternoon where there was too much bright reflection making the pictures over exposed.