Amaranthus spinosus

Spiny amaranth, prickly amaranth, thorny amaranth

Description: summer annual

Place of origin: South and Central America

Urban habitat: drought-tolerant, common on disturbed sites, roadsides, sidewalk and foundation cracks, waste dumps.

Ecological function: disturbance-adapted colonizer of bare ground; absorbs nitrogen in soil.

History: Although native to the American continent, Amaranthus spinosus can now be found on most continents. Various parts of the plant have been used for medicinal purposes: externally, to treat ulcerated mouths, vaginal discharges, nosebleeds, and wounds. Taken internally, it has been used for treatment of internal bleeding, diarrhea, excessive menstrual bleeding, and for snake bites. The seed has been used as a poultice for broken bones and a paste of the root used for treatment of menorrhagia, gonorrhea, eczema, and colic. In Nepal, a juice of the root is used to treat fevers, urinary problems, diarrhea, and dysentery. Parts of the plant and its roots are used in Southeast Asia as treatment for a variety of ailments, including gonorrhea, breathing problems, eczema, earache, and used as a diuretic. In India, it has been used to induce abortion. Yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant. Its leaves are edible raw or cooked and is consumed in parts of Africa, especially during periods of drought.