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Basella alba - L.

Common Name Malabar Spinach, Indian Spinach, Ceylon spinach,
Family Basellaceae
USDA hardiness 9-11
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Moist places in hedges to elevations of about 500 metres in Nepal[272].
Range A widely cultivated plant, its original range uncertain but was possibly Africa.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Basella alba Malabar Spinach, Indian Spinach, Ceylon spinach,

Basella alba Malabar Spinach, Indian Spinach, Ceylon spinach,


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Malabar Spinach or Indian Spinach, Basella alba, is an annual or perennial climbing herb with red or green vines and leaves. The leaves are thick, fleshy, pointed at the tip, and arranged alternately along the vine. Flowers are white, pink, or red in short spikes and are located in the leaf axils. The fruits are round and soft, and can be red, white, or black in colour. The seeds are round and black. The roots are cooked and used against diarrhoea. Paste of the root is used as a rubefacient while paste of leaves is used externally as treatment for boils and sores. The leaves and stems are cooked as well and eaten for their laxative properties. Leaf juice is used to treat catarrh in Nepal. It is also a demulcent, diuretic, and febrifuge. The flowers are used as an antidote to poisons. The whole plant is a febrifuge and its juice is reportedly safe for pregnant women. In fact, during labour, decoction of the plant can be used to ease pain and discomfort. The red juice of the fruit is used as eye drops against conjunctivitis. Not only does the Indian spinach exhibit various medicinal properties, it also provides food through its edible plant parts. It is considered as a leaf vegetable. The leaves and stem tips are edible either raw or cooked. Infusion of the leaves is a tea substitute. Fruit sap is used as a food colouring in pastries and sweets.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Basella alba is an evergreen Perennial Climber growing to 9 m (29ft 6in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. It is in flower from May to September, and the seeds ripen from July to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


B. cordifolia. B. rubra.

Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Shoots
Edible Uses: Colouring  Tea

Leaves and stem tips - raw or cooked[200]. A pleasant mild spinach flavour[206], the leaves can be used as a spinach or added to salads[183]. Do not overcook the leaves or they will become slimy[206]. The mucilaginous qualities of the plant make it an excellent thickening agent in soups, stews etc where it can be used as a substitute for okra, Abelmoschatus esculentus[206]. A nutritional analysis of the leaves is available[218]. An infusion of the leaves is a tea substitute[183]. The purplish sap from the fruit is used as a food colouring in pastries and sweets. The colour is enhanced by adding some lemon juice[183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Leaves (Dry weight)
  • 275 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 20g; Fat: 3.5g; Carbohydrate: 54g; Fibre: 9g; Ash: 19g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 3000mg; Phosphorus: 0mg; Iron: 0mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 50mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.7mg; Riboflavin (B2): 1.8mg; Niacin: 7.5mg; B6: 0mg; C: 1200mg;
  • Reference: [ ]
  • Notes:

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antidote  Aperient  Astringent  Demulcent  Diuretic  Dysentery  Febrifuge  Laxative  

The roots are astringent. They are cooked and used in the treatment of diarrhoea[ 206 , 264 ]. A paste of the root is applied to swellings and is also used as a rubefacient[ 272 ]. The leaves and stems are cooked and eaten for their laxative properties[ 206 , 264 ]. The leaf juice is a demulcent, used in cases of dysentery[ 218 ]. It is also diuretic, febrifuge and laxative[ 218 ]. The leaf juice is used in Nepal to treat catarrh[ 272 ]. A paste of the leaves is applied externally to treat boils and sores[ 272 , 299 ]. The flowers are used as an antidote to poisons[ 218 ]. The plant is febrifuge, its juice is a safe aperient for pregnant women and a decoction has been used to alleviate labour[ 218 ]. The red juice of the fruit is used as eye drops to treat conjunctivitis[ 299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


A red dye is obtained from the juice of the fruits[206]. It has been used as a rouge and also as a dye for official seals[218]. Agroforestry Uses: The plant can be grown on living stakes, usually on a fence or on a hedge[ 617 ]. Other Uses A red dye is obtained from the juice of the fruits[ 206 ]. It has been used as a rouge, an ink, for colouring foods and also as a dye for official seals[ 218 , 299 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Requires a well-drained moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter and a warm sunny sheltered position[200]. Prefers a sandy loam[206]. Tolerates fairly poor soils but does much better in rich soils[206]. Tolerates high rainfall[206]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.3 to 7. A frost-tender perennial, it is not hardy outdoors in Britain but can be grown as a spring-sown annual[200]. A fast growing plant, capable of producing a crop within 70 days from seed in a warm climate[200, 264], though it requires a minimum daytime temperature of 15°c if it is to keep growing vigorously so it seldom does well outdoors in Britain[264]. It does tolerate low light levels plus night temperatures occasionally falling below 10°c, and so can do well in a cold greenhouse[206]. Plants do not flower if the length of daylight is more than 13 hours per day[200]. Widely cultivated for its edible leaves in the tropics[200], there are some named varieties[183]. It is an excellent hot weather substitute for spinach[183]. Some authorities recognize three different species, B. alba, B. rubra and B. cordifolia[206], they are all treated here as being part of one species[K]. Production: It is 4-6 weeks until the first harvest. It grows reasonably well on poor soils and is fairly resistant to pest and disease. Leaves will only store for one day at 20-30°C. Yields of 40 kg of leaves from a 10 metre square bed is possible over 75 days. Leaves are plucked from the vine.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Easy from seed or cuttings.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Other Names: Adwera, Alogbati, Alugbati, Ama, Aworoke, Ban-poi, Basle soppu, Boroboro, Busum-muru, Ceylon spinach, Chakai, Chan Cai, Chan-Choi, Chunlueng, Delega, Enderema, Gendola, Inderema, Inika, Kattupasali, Kurakura, Libato, Luo kui, Maghi, Maifrai, Malabar nightshade, Mayal, Mndele, Mong toi, Mong toi, Myal-ki-bhaji, Ndelema, Ndera, Pabang, Pak plang, Pasali-Kirai, Phak plang, Po deng chaai, Poaya, Poi sag, Poi, Pui-shak, Remayong, Ronga pui sak, Ronga puroi sak, Saan choi, Shan ts'oi, She eje, Shoro, Sufed-bachla-ki-bhaji, Suped-bachla, Tsuru-murasaki, Vine spinach.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Africa, Algeria, Angola, Asia, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canary Islands, Central Africa, Central African Republic, CAR, China, Congo, Cook Islands, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, East Africa, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Ghana, Guiana, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, India, Indonesia, Indochina, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Laos, Lesser Antilles, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Africa, North America, Northeastern India, Pacific, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Sao Tome, SE Asia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Southern Africa, South America, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Suriname, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tasmania, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, USA, Vanuatu, Vietnam, West Africa, West Indie.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Anredera cordifoliaMadeira Vine, Heartleaf madeiravinePerennial Climber9.0 8-11 FLMHSNM201
Ullucus tuberosusOllucoPerennial0.3 8-10  LMNM300

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

Jon Booth   Sun Dec 8 11:20:54 2002

Superb salad greens & keeps a long time in refrigeration. Grows slowly in high PH soils.

elika   Tue Mar 4 2008

can we make a watercolor out of basella alba? what are the procedure and the chemical composition? tnx

Bamidele o.   Wed Jul 22 2009

is it not used to treat hemophilia?

   Jan 14 2012 12:00AM

Pulped leaves applied to boils and ulcers to hasten suppuration. Sugared juice of leaves useful for catarrhal afflictions. Leaf-juice, mixed with butter, is soothing and colling when applied to burns and scalds.

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