Malabar spinach facts

Malabar spinach is cultivated for its edible young shoots that are succulent which is mostly used as a vegetable or as pot herb in soup or stews. It is eaten fried in oil, boiled or as a salad. The fruits are used in China for dyeing purposes. The juice is used as cosmetic, ink and to color foods. Young leaves are used as laxative, as a treatment for sores whereas the juice of red fruit if used as eye drops helps to cure conjunctivitis. They are also planted as ornamental plants. Leaves, matured fruit, young stem and roots are the edible part of this plant. Leaves and stem are used in culinary dishes in the Southern parts of India.

Name Malabar spinach
Scientific Name Basella alba
Native Tropical Southern Asia which was originated from Srilanka or India, Indonesia.
Common/English Name Malabar spinach, Ceylon spinach, Indian spinach, Vine spinach, East-Indian spinach, Climbing spinach, Cyclone spinach, Chinese spinach  and Alugbati
Name in Other Languages Hindi: lalbachlu;
Bengali: Puishak,
Oriya: Poi saga,
Kannada: Basalesoppu,
Konkani: Valchibhaji,
Tamil: KodippasaLi,
Telugu: Bachhali,
Marathi: Mayalu;
Tulu: Basale,
Filipino: Alugbati;
Portuguese: Bertalha;
Sinhalese: VelNiviti,
Vietnamese: Mồngtơi;
India: Poi;
Sanskrit: Upodika;
Filipino: grana;
Chinese: shan tsoi;
Japanese: tsuru murasa kai;
Indonesian: jingga;
Malay: gondola,
Laotian: Phakkang;
Vietnamese: mông toi;
Thai: phalpang
Plant Growth Habit Succulent, branched, twining herbaceous, perennial
Growing Climate Warm
Soil Fertile, moist and well-drained
Plant Size Length: nine meters
Stem Purplish or green, Thickness: 2-3 cm
Leaf shape and size Fleshy, ovate or heart-shaped, glossy; Length: 3-9 cm, Width: 4- 8 cm
Leaf color Dark green
Edible parts of the plants
  • Young leaves are consumed raw as a green salad.
  • It is also boiled or steamed, boiled or cooked like spinach.
  • Because of the mucilagenous nature, it can also be used to thicken soups and stews.
Flower White or pink, globular; Length: 4 millimeters
Fruit shape & size Fleshy, stalkless, ovoid or spherical, Length: 5-6 mm
Fruit color Deep purple
Seed Black, globose, indehiscent
Major Nutritions (Cooked) Vitamin B9 (Folate) 50 µg (12.50%)
Iron, Fe 0.65 mg (8.13%)
Calcium, Ca 55 mg (5.50%)
Copper, Cu 0.049 mg (5.44%)
Magnesium, Mg 21 mg (5.00%)
Manganese, Mn 0.112 mg (4.87%)
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 0.057 mg (4.38%)
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) 0.047 mg (3.92%)
Vitamin A, RAE 26 µg (3.71%)
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 0.038 mg (2.92%)
Health Benefits
  • Healthy heart
  • Treats depression
  • Prevent dementia
  • Treatment for cancer
  • Utilizes amino acids, iron and vitamin B12
  • Pregnancy
  • Provides energy
Calories in 1 cup (44 gm) Cooked 10 Kcal.
Traditional uses
  • The plant is used as a diuretic, demulcent and an emollient.
  • In Chinese medicine, the whole plant is used to reduce fever and counteract poison.
  • The leaves which are bruised are applied as a poultice for ulcers.
  • The decoction made from leaves possess a laxative properties which is helpful for constipation in children and pregnant women.
  • The juice extracted from the plant is applied as rouge on facial skin and also used as food coloring.
  • The plant is used in Southern India to treat Aphthae.