AmaranthsBotanical Name: Amaranthus hypochondriacus (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Amaranthaceae
Synonyms: Love-Lies-Bleeding. Red Cockscomb. Velvet Flower.
Habitat: 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 not cultivated.
Constituents: 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.
Medical 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.