Botanical Name: Tithonia diversifolia
Species: T. diversifolia
Synonyms: Mirasolia diversifolia Hemsl
Common Name: Mexican Sunflower
Habitat : Tithonia diversifolia is native to Central America – Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, Mexico. It grows on damp thickets or dry, brushy slopes, at elevations from 200 – 2,300 metres in Guatemala.
Tithonia diversifolia is 2–3 m (6.6–9.8 ft) in height with upright and sometimes ligneous stalks in the form of woody shrubs. The large, showy flowers are yellow to orange colored and 5–15 cm wide and 10–30 cm long. Leaves are sub-ovate, serrate, acute, 10 to 40 cm long, simply or mostly 3-7 lobed, somewhat glandular, and slightly grayish beneath. The seeds are achenes, 4-angled, and 5mm long. The seeds are spread by wind. The leaves of the plant alternate in sides they grow on, which is where the plant gets the name diversifolia. This is accompanied by flowers which are yellow in colour and range from 6–13 cm in length. It can grow throughout the year and its seeds are spread through way of wind, water, and animals.
A plant of the tropics and subtropics, it can also be grown as a summer annual in temperate areas. It the tropics it can be found at elevations from 200 – 2,300 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 – 31°c, but can tolerate 12 – 38°c. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 – 2,000mm, but tolerates 700 – 2,500mm.
Succeeds in any well-drained, moderately fertile soil in a sunny position. Plants are moderately drought-resistant.
Commonly grown as an ornamental, the plant has escaped from cultivation and become a weed in many areas of the tropics and subtropics.
The plant can flower and produce seed all year round.
Propagation: Through seeds.
Various studies have been carried out into the medicinal properties of this plant:-
A methanol extract of the dried leaves reduced pain levels and inhibited oedema and granuloma, confirming the plants traditional use in the treatment of painful inflammatory conditions.
The leaves contain sesquiterpene lactones, including tagitinin ,which possess insecticidal properties. A study showed it possessed antimicrobial activity, active against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, suggesting that the leaves can be used in treating gastrointestinal infections, skin diseases and urinary tract infections.
An 80% ethanol extract of the leaves showed reduction of blood glucose levels 3 weeks after a single oral dose, also significantly lowering plasma insulin, decreasing blood glucose in an insulin tolerance test. The results suggest it may be useful in the treatment of type2 diabetes.
Aqueous and methanolic extracts of the plant had 50% and 74% clearing of malarial parasites respectively, compared to 100% for chloroquine. It was more effective when administered at the onset of the infection, suggesting a time-dependency of the anti-malarial effects.
A 70% methanol extract showed a dose- and time-dependent toxic effect on the kidney and liver toxicity. Although reversible, it raises concern over the safety of the use of the plant extract against malaria.The leaves contain a bitter essential oil.
A decoction of the leaves is sometimes used in the treatment of malaria. An infusion of leaves is used in the treatment of constipation, stomach pains, indigestion, sore throat and liver pains. The leaves should be ground into small pieces, mixed with water, and then drunk.
Leaf extracts are used externally for the treatment of wounds and haematomas.
The plant is used for soil improvement and has a positive effect on crop yields. Yields of maize, kale, French beans, tomatoes and Napier grass all increased when they were planted with this species. Planted as a living fence.
A bitter, essential oil is extracted from the leaves. It has a repellent activity on the mosquito Anapholes gambiae, and a smaller, but still significant, action on other species of mosquito. Sesquiterpene lactones, such as tagitinin, found in the leaves have been shown to possess insecticidal properties.
An ethanol extraction of the leaves has been shown to be an effective fungicide in treating pathogenic fungi on the cultivated plant Jatropha curcas.
The stems are used as fuel.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.