NaturHeals - Wild Weeds 5 – Lajjalu – Mimosa Pudica – Touch-Me-Not
The thought of the touch-me-not plant takes me to a nostalgic trip to my childhood summer holidays in Kerala. The mysterious Lajjalu plant had always fascinated me. It was a true delight to see the leaves shut down as soon as I touched them. It was always a competition with cousins to see who could close more leaves of the touch-me-not plant, as we walked through the backyard or a long stretch of road. The curiosity about this plant has always been at the back of my mind. Why did it close itself when touched? But the research to know more about the plant led to some surprising facts, especially its numerous health benefits.
Different Names of Lajjalu
Lajjalu is popularly known as the Touch-Me-Not Plant. The scientific name of the plant is Mimosa Pudica, and it belongs to the Fabaceae family. However, it has different names in different Indian languages. It is known as Lajau and Chui Mui in Hindi, Lajamani in Gujarati, Kallavati and Lajak in Bengali, Lalvant in Punjabi, Lajau in Marathi, Thottalvadi in Malayalam, Nachike Mullu and Nachike Gidda in Kannada, Thotta Chinnugi in Tamil, and Attapatti in Telegu. Some other English names of this plant are shame plant, drowsy plant, sensitive plant, modest plant, humble plant, and disgrace plant.
Ideal Soil and Climate
Lajjalu is a perennial weed that easily grows in low nutrient soil. The plant is native to Caribbean and South and Central America, although it has become a pantropical weed. At present, one can find this weed in all places with temperate climate, including Southern United States, East Asia, South Asia, Micronesia, South Africa, West Africa, and Australia. You can find it in India, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Japan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
The Mimosa Pudica needs lot of sunlight to grow and does not do well in shade and dies in chilly or frosty climate. It requires well drained soil and can grow easily on construction sites, in cropland, and along roads. The best part about this plant is that it does not require too much care. However, it is best to avoid both overwatering and under watering. The Lajjalu plant should be watered only when the top soil becomes dry.
Lajjalu is a multi-branched, long-growing, perennial shrub. The plant is a thorny shrub that grows anywhere between 30-100 cm. The plant has tubular stems with 2 cm long secondary and tertiary branches. The stems grow up to 3-4 mm long and are usually narrow, thorny, slightly bent, and hard. The surface of the stem is a little wrinkled, and the stems are purplish or brown in colour.
The leaves are the highlight of Lajjalu. Hairy and dark green in colour, the leaves are rectangular and have 10-15 leaflets. The linear and jagged leaves close not only when touched but also at night. The flowers of the Lajjalu plant bloom between August and October in India and are usually bright pink in colour. The fruits appear after the flowers bloom and are oblong and flat. The fruits can grow up to the size of 20 mm and contain 1-5 seeds. The seeds of Lajjalu are 2.5-3 mm in diameter and have a smooth surface. The colour of the seeds is thin brown. These seeds can be harvested for propagation.
Apart from the fact that its leaves close when touched, the Mimosa Pudica looks like a regular plant. However, this humble-looking plant is a powerhouse of nutrients that can cure numerous ailments. The leaves of the Mimosa Pudica have the derivatives of 4-0-gallic acid, which explains its periodic movements (when touched and at night). The root of the plant is filled with amino acids, fatty acids, essential oils, glycosides, tannins, flavonoids, phytosterol, alkaloids, and tannins. The leaves of Lajjau are filled with phytochemicals like mimosine, saponins, phenols, alkaloids, quinines, terpenoids, flavonoids, jasmonic acid, betulinic acid, beta-sitosterol, dimethyl ammonium salt, mimopudine, etc.
Lajjalu or Mimosa Pudica is an important herb in Ayurveda. The characteristics of the plant as per Ayurveda are as follows:
- Rasa: Kashaya (astringent)
- Tikta: bitter
- Guna: Laghu (light to digest)
- Vipaka: Katu (converts into a pungent taste)
- Veerya: Sheeta (coolant)
- Karma: Balances kapha-pitta dosha
With all these chemical compounds and characteristics, Lajjalu is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, anti-viral, anti-diabetic, anti-fungal, analgesic, anti-asthmatic, anti-fertility, anti-mumps, and anti-depressant. It also has aphrodisiac and hypolipidemic properties.
Diarrhoea and Dysentery: Both the conditions affect the internal digestive system due to improper eating habits and bacterial infection. Improper digestion leads to Kapha imbalance in the body, which further leads to symptoms of diarrhoea and dysentery like loose stools, vomiting, stomach ache, etc. The kapha-balancing properties of Lajjau make it an effective medicine for these digestive issues. The presence of tannins, alkaloids, and flavonoids helps in improving digestion. Moreover, its anti-microbial properties restrict the growth of bacteria or other microbes that cause these digestive issues.
Piles or Haemorrhoids: Piles, also known as haemorrhoids, is a condition caused mainly due to unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle. When the body is exposed to unhealthy diet over a long period of time, it leads to the imbalance of all the three doshas, which causes low digestive fire, which further leads to constipation. Piles is an uncomfortable condition, where a person experiences pain, itching, and burning. However, piles can be managed with the help of Lajjalu. The consumption of this herb balances the kapha and pitta doshas, while its astringent and coolant nature help in managing the burning sensation and overall discomfort. The haemostatic properties of Lajjalu help in controlling the bleeding, while its anti-inflammatory properties aid in healing the wounds.
Gastric Ulcers: Another digestive issue that can be resolved with the help of Lajjalu is stomach ulcers. Gastric and peptic ulcers are usually caused due to the high secretion of gastric acidity, which eats away the thick mucus layer of the stomach. The flavonoids present in Lajjalu have the ability to neutralize the acidity in the stomach, thus curing as well as preventing the growth of the ulcers. Moreover, the pitta-balancing and cold potency of the herb help in managing the burning sensation caused by the ulcers.
Worm Infestation: Lajjalu has all the properties to cure the problem of worm infestation. The anthelmintic properties of this plant help with the issue of worm infestation. In fact, the seeds of Lajjalu contain mucilaginous gel, which is known for its parasite cleansing abilities. Consuming a decoction made with the seeds of Lajjalu can aid in flushing out all the toxins and parasites, thus cleansing the digestive system. Moreover, the anti-bacterial properties of the plant prevent bacterial build-up in the system.
Diabetes: Impaired or improper digestion can lead to diabetes. Improper digestion leads to imbalance of vatta-kapha doshas in the body, which causes accumulation of toxins, further leading to impaired insulin function. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of Lajjalu ensure proper insulin secretion in the body, which helps in controlling high blood sugar levels. Apart from diabetes, Lajjalu is effective in bringing down high blood pressure as well.
Cuts and Wounds: Traditionally, Lajjalu was used for treating wounds and cuts in the ancient times. The presence of methanolic properties gives the plant wound healing abilities. The anti-inflammatory properties of the plant aid to stop bleeding and also to reduce pain. Apart from healing the wounds, the antioxidant properties of the plant ensure that the wound contracts and closes properly and quickly. It also aids in the production of collagen and new skin cell regeneration. It prevents the risk of infection too.
Snake Poisoning: Another traditional use of Lajjalu is for the treatment of snake bites. The anti-venom property of the plant aids in the treatment of venomous snake bites, including that of King Cobra. Venomous snake bites can lead to severe complications, including death of the person. The consumption of Lajjalu after a snake bite helps in nullifying the venom before it affects the system. Apart from snake bites, this medicinal weed is also used for healing insect bites.
Contraception: Lajjalu has been used as a natural contraceptive for several years by both men and women. As per certain studies, Lajjalu aids as a birth control in women by suppressing the production of FSH, a hormone that is necessary for ovulation. In men, the herb decreases testosterone and sperm count as well. It is also used in treating premature ejaculation. In fact, the aphrodisiac element of the plant helps in improving sexual performance.
Alopecia: Alopecia or excessive hair loss that causes bald patches on the head is caused due to the imbalance of pitta dosha in the body. The imbalance of pitta weakens the hair roots, leading to hair fall. As Lajjalu has pitta balancing properties, it can aid in strengthening the hair roots and preventing excessive hair fall. Moreover, it not only aids in controlling hair fall but also in the development of new hair cells.
Along with the above mentioned ones, Lajjalu acts as a cure for several other diseases, some of which are as follows:
- The hormone balancing properties of Lajjalu help in lessening excessive menstrual bleeding.
- Its anti-inflammatory properties aid in relieving the pain and inflammation caused by joint pain and arthritis.
- The pitta dosha balancing properties help in curing headaches and even migraine.
- The flavonoids in Lajjalu is the reason for its microbial activity, which can help in suppressing the parasite that causes malaria.
- Lajjalu has been a popular herb in treating anxiety and depression. It also helps in improving memory.
- The antioxidants in Lajjalu can protect you from free radicals that are responsible for several health problems and even premature ageing.
- Lajjalu is effective in treating toothache and gum infection. It also helps in enhancing dental hygiene.
Some other health issues that can be cured with the help of Lajjalu include bone fractures, insomnia, uterine prolapse, jaundice, itching, sagging breasts, glandular swelling, and asthma.
Uses of Lajjalu
The entire plant of Lajjalu, including its roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and seeds, are used to make medicines for treating the above mentioned diseases. This herb is available in the form of juice, extract, decoction, powder, paste, and tablets. It is available in the form of oils and shampoos as well. It can be used both internally and externally.
- The decoction of the Lajjalu plant is used for treating diabetes, diarrhoea, and bleeding piles, while the decoction of the plant root is beneficial for urinary complaints, renal stones, and asthma.
- The paste and juice of this plant is used to stop bleeding on fresh wounds. It is also effective in treating itching, including scabies.
- Uterine prolapse is treated using paste of Lajjalu used as a poultice. The paste of this medicinal weed is used for treating bone fractures and in curing joint pain and arthritis.
- The decoction of this herb mixed with honey helps in relieving menorrhagia, i.e. excessive menstrual bleeding.
- The paste of the leaves along with honey can help in treating stomach ache and intestinal worms. Moreover, the paste of the leaves consumed with boiled water can aid in curing insomnia, stress, and anxiety.
- For dental treatment and oral hygiene, you need to gargle using the decoction.
- Applying coconut oil mixed with the paste of Lajjau leaves would help with alopecia or hair loss. You can also buy shampoos and other hair products with this herb for preventing excessive hair loss.
- The leaves of Lajjau mixed with unrefined sesame oil is also an effective way of getting rid of different types of aches and pains.
There are not many side effects of Lajjalu, especially if you take the dosage as suggested by your doctor. It usually does not interact with other medicines. However, over intake of the herb can cause stomach problems and other issues. As it has anti-fertility properties, you must avoid taking the herb if you are trying to conceive. Likewise, pregnant women and lactating mothers should also avoid taking this herb. People suffering from scanty periods and constipation should also not consume Lajjalu.
Planting and Harvesting
Seed propagation is the best method to cultivate Lajjalu plants to be used for making different types of medicines. The ideal time to sow the seeds is during the summer months, i.e. April and May. However, before you sow the seeds, it is important to prepare them by soaking them in water for 24 hours. Meanwhile, you can prepare the soil by mixing 2-parts peat moss, 1-part sand or perlite, and 2-parts loam. This type of soil would provide good drainage.
When the seeds are ready for sowing, they should be planted at the depth of around 1/8 inches. It is also important to plant the seeds 15 inches apart. For each plant, you must sow at least 3 seeds. Once this is done, you must irrigate the soil and cover it with a clear plastic sheet. The soil should be covered until the seeds germinate, and you can see the saplings. Ensure that the seeds receive full-sunny to partially-shady environment.
The seeds of Lajjalu germinate rapidly (around 1 week) in high temperatures, i.e. above 70oF. The plant reaches fully maturity in a few months, i.e. generally at the size of 2.5 feet. October is a good time to harvest the plants, as Lajjalu may not do well in the winter season, especially in chilly climate.
With so many health benefits, Lajjalu is a weed that is high in demand. Jaivik Farms is an organization that is in lookout for farmers who are ready to cultivate and harvest medicinal weeds, including Lajjalu, in an organic way. If we find interested parties, we are ready to provide the necessary training and support to cultivate, grow, and harvest Lajjalu, in the condition that no herbicides or pesticides are used on the weed or any other crops in the surrounding land.