Also known as the giant dodder, this plant belongs to the Cuscuta group, which supports a genus of about 100 to 170 species. They are parasitic plants and are often found in orange, yellow and red colours. Particularly the giant dodder or the Amar Bel has several medicinal properties. Belonging to the ‘Morning Glory’ family, the plant has intertwined stems and is therefore also referred to as ‘Devil’s Hair’. The plant is touch-sensitive and finds a host almost immediately after germination. In the absence of a host, the plant can wither and die.The giant dodder is a greenish-yellow plant that is leafless with its stems tangled to the host. It draws nutrition from its countless branches and does not contain chlorophyll. For its entire life, the plant never attaches itself to the soil. The fruits and flowers are very small and contain only 3 to 4 seeds. It flowers between April and July in India.
Also found in various regions of Bangladesh, the plant is known to contain several inhibitory compounds of alpha –glucosidase.
It also contains flavonoids such as kaempferol and quercitin besides hydroxycinnamic acid, scoparone, glycosides. The colouring matter contains cuscutin and cuscutalin, which is a lactone and glycosides.
The seeds are comprised of amarbelin, some reducing sugars and a bitter resin.
When grown on the Mangifera indica, it can contain mangiferine. D-mannitol and dulcitol are other compounds that are yielded from the plant besides others.
Several uses of the plant have been identified in traditional medicine such as:
Relieving abdominal gas: Boil the plant and tie the residue to the abdominal region to get relief from excessive abdominal gas
Complaints of the liver, enlarged spleen, flatulence and constipation can be addressed with the decoction of Amar Bel of about 50 ml
For itching and wounds, apply the paste on the affected area. You can also mix some Sunthi and Ghee to the paste
An androgen-driven condition, alopecia can be psychologically distressing. Classified as a predominantly dermatological disorder, alopecia can be readily relieved with Amar Bel. Since the ancient times of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, the extract of the plant has been considered effective in promoting hair growth. A study showed that the ethanolic and petroleum ether extracts of the plant facilitated the proliferation of hair follicles and successfully prevented hair loss.