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Acalypha indica

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids I
Ordo: Malpighiales

Familia: Euphorbiaceae
Subfamilia: Acalyphoideae
Tribus: Acalypheae
Genus: Acalypha
Species: Acalypha indica

Acalypha indica L., Sp. Pl. 2: 1003 (1753).

Cupamenis indica (L.) Raf., Sylva Tellur.: 67 (1838)
Ricinocarpus indicus (L.) Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 618 (1891).
Acalypha decidua Forssk., Fl. Aegypt.-Arab.: 161 (1775).
Ricinocarpus deciduus (Forssk.) Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 617 (1891).
Acalypha spicata Forssk., Fl. Aegypt.-Arab.: 161 (1775).
Acalypha caroliniana Blanco, Fl. Filip.: 748 (1837), nom. illeg.
Acalypha canescens Benth. in N.Wallich, Numer. List: n.º 7785 (1847), nom. nud.
Acalypha ciliata Benth. in N.Wallich, Numer. List: n.º 7779J (1847), nom. nud.
Acalypha chinensis Benth., Fl. Hongk.: 303 (1861).
Acalypha fimbriata Baill., Recueil Observ. Bot. 1: 272 (1861).
Acalypha bailloniana Müll.Arg., Linnaea 34: 44 (1865).
Ricinocarpus baillonianus (Müll.Arg.) Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 617 (1891).
Acalypha somalium Müll.Arg., Bremen Abh. 7: 27 (1880).
Acalypha somalensis Pax, Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 19: 100 (1894).
Acalypha cupamenii Dragend., Heilpfl.: 380 (1898).


Acalypha indica K.Schum. & Hollr. = Acalypha lanceolata var. lanceolata
Acalypha indica Vell. = Acalypha poiretii Spreng.

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Africa
Regional: West-Central Tropical Africa
Regional: Northeast Tropical Africa
Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Socotra, Somalia, Sudan.
Regional: East Tropical Africa
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda.
Regional: South Tropical Africa
Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Regional: Southern Africa
Botswana, Cape Provinces, Namibia, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Swaziland, Northern Provinces.
Regional: Western Indian Ocean
Chagos Archipelago, Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar, Réunion, Seychelles.
Continental: Asia-Temperate
Regional: Arabian Peninsula
Oman, Saudi Arabia.
Regional: China
Regional: Eastern Asia
Nansei-shoto, Taiwan.
Continental: Asia-Tropical
Regional: Indian Subcontinent
Assam Bangladesh, India, Laccadive Islands, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.
Regional: Indo-China
Andaman Islands, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nicobar Islands, South China Sea, Thailand, Vietnam.
Regional: Malesia
Cocos (Keeling) Islands., Jawa, Lesser Sunda Islands, Malaya, Maluku, Philippines, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Christmas Isle.
Regional: Papuasia
New Guinea.
Continental: Pacific
Regional: Southwestern Pacific
Regional: Northwestern Pacific
Continental: Northern America
Regional: Mexico
Mexico Central, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest.
Continental: Southern America
Regional: Caribbean
Cuba, Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, Windward Islands.
Note: Grey script indicates introduced occurrences.

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Linnaeus, C. 1753. Species Plantarum. Tomus II: 1003. Reference page.


International Plant Names Index. 2017. Acalypha indica. Published online. Accessed: Oct. 20 2017.
Govaerts, R. et al. 2017. Acalypha indica in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2017 Oct. 20. Reference page. 2017. Acalypha indica. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published online. Accessed: 20 Oct. 2017.
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Acalypha indica in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 07-Oct-06.

Vernacular names
Deutsch: Brennkraut, indisches Kupferblatt
English: copperleaf, Indian acalypha, Indian-nettle, three-seeded-mercury
español: hierba de cancer, ricinela
português: alcalifa
தமிழ்: குப்பைமேனி

Acalypha indica (English: Indian Acalypha, Indian Mercury, Indian Copperleaf, Indian Nettle, Three-seeded Mercury) is an herbaceous annual that has catkin-like inflorescences with cup-shaped involucres surrounding the minute flowers. It is mainly known for its root being attractive to domestic cats, and for its various medicinal uses. It occurs throughout the Tropics.[2][3]

Acalypha indica plant
Acalypha indica plant

An erect annual herb that can be easily distinguished by the cup-shaped involucre that surrounds the small flowers in the catkin-like inflorescence.
Inflorescence of Indian acalypha. The male flowers are borne on the upper part of the inflorescence are without bracts. Cup-like bract surround the female flowers. (It doesn't have inflorescence hood)
Inflorescence of Indian acalypha.(Inflorescence hood is visible)

It can grow up to 1.2 m (3.9 ft) tall in favorable circumstances, but is usually smaller. The leaves are broad ovate, 1.2 cm–6.5 cm × 1 cm–4 cm (0.47 in–2.56 in × 0.39 in–1.57 in). The leaf base is rounded to shortly attenuate. The leaf margin is basally 5-nerved and is crenate-serrate with an acute or obtuse apex. The petiole is 1.5–5.5 cm (0.59–2.17 in) long. The flower spikes are axillary, 2.5–6 cm (0.98–2.36 in) long, monoecious, with a rachis terminating in a triradiate hood.
Close up of the inflorescence hood of Indian acalypha

The tiny male flowers are white-green, located on the upper part of the flower spikes, and are ebracteate, minute, and clustered with vermiculiform anthers. The pollens are roughly round and approximately 10–12 microns in diameter.
Pollens of Acalypha indica

The green female flowers are located lower on the spikes, and are subtended by 3–7 mm (0.12–0.28 in) long suborbicular-cuneiform, many-nerved, toothed bracts that are foliaceous. The ovary is hispid, 3-lobed. Styles are 3, each 2-fid. Capsules are hispid, 3-valved and concealed by a bract. The stem is striate (longitudinally ribbed) and pubescent. The fruit is 1.5–2 mm (0.059–0.079 in), 3-lobed, tuberculate and pubescent.[1][4][5]

It grows in disturbed places such as waste lands, road sides, crevices in walls. It also grows in rocky hillsides, forest edges and river banks. It prefers moist and shaded places.[1] It grows from sea-level up to 1350 m altitude.[3]
Geographic distribution

Acalypha indica occurs widely throughout the Old World tropics. In Africa, it occurs in Nigeria in West Africa and further widely throughout tropical Africa and the Indian Ocean islands. It also occurs in India, South East Asia, Yemen, and Oceania. It has been introduced to the New World Tropics.[3]
Effect on domestic cats
Cat plays with Acalypha indica

Throughout the area where the plant grows, it is widely known for its effect on domestic cats, which react very strongly and favorably to the root of the plant. In this regard it is very similar to catnip, but the effect is much more pronounced. For this reason it is called kuppaimeni/குப்பைமேனி in Tamil, puchamayakki/പൂച്ചമയക്കി in Malayalam, biralhanchi/biralkanduni (বিড়াল হাঁচি/বিড়ালকান্দুনি) in Bengali, and pokok kucing galak (excited cat tree) in Malay and kuppameniya (කුප්පමේනියා) in Sinhala.
Traditional uses

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The plant has many traditional medicinal uses. In Madagascar, the crushed plant is used for skin parasites. In Mauritius, the sap of crushed leaves mixed with salt, or a decoction of plant, is used for scabies and other skin problems. In the Seychelles and Réunion, a root infusion or decoction is taken for asthma, and also to clean the liver and kidneys. The root decoction is also taken for intestinal worms and stomach ache. The leaf sap is taken as an emetic. An infusion together with the roots of Tylophora indica is taken in Réunion as an emetic in the case of poisoning. A leaf infusion is also taken as a purgative and vermifuge in Réunion and Madagascar. In East Africa sap of the leaves is used for eye infections. Leaf powder is used for maggot-infested wounds. Acalypha indica is listed in the Pharmacopoeia of India as an expectorant to treat asthma and pneumonia. It was formerly listed in the British Pharmacopoeia.[3]

This plant is held in high esteem in traditional Tamil Siddha medicine as it is believed to rejuvenate the body.[6][unreliable source?] The plant has also been eaten as a vegetable in Africa and India, but care needs when eating it since it contains several alkaloids as well as hydrocyanic acid.[3]

Analysis of the shoots yielded per 100 g edible portion: water 80 g, energy 269 kJ (64 kcal), protein 6.7 g, fat 1.4 g, carbohydrate 6 g, fiber 2.3 g, Ca 667 mg, P 99 mg, Fe 17 mg and ascorbic acid 147 mg.[3]
Chemical constituents

The arial parts contain a cyanogenic glycoside called acalyphin (a 3-cyanopyridone derivative) as well as flavonoids, such as kaempferol glycosides mauritianin, clitorin, nicotiflorin, and biorobin. Tannins, β-sitosterol, acalyphamide, aurantiamide, succinimide, and flindersin (a pyranoquinolinone alkaloid) have also been isolated.[3]

The chemicals that attract cats are the iridoid compounds isodihydronepetalactone and isoiridomyrmecin.[7]
Medicinal effects and uses

This section needs more medical references for verification or relies too heavily on primary sources. Please review the contents of the section and add the appropriate references if you can. Unsourced or poorly sourced material may be challenged and removed.
Find sources: "Acalypha indica" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (January 2018)

Rod of Asclepius2.svg

Some of the chemical compounds in Acalypha indica cause dark chocolate-brown discoloration of blood, and gastrointestinal irritation in rabbits. Ingestion of Acalypha indica may lead to hemolysis in people suffering from glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency. Acalyphin is used as a substitute for ipecacuanha, a vermifuge, expectorant and emetic.[3] Acalypha indica leaves are used in the traditional medicine of India as a jaundice remedy.[8]

Acalypha indica L. Indian Acalypha, on India Biodiversity Portal. Accessed 31.07.2017.
Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (2008). Plant Resources of Tropical Africa 11(1). Medicinal plants 1. PROTA Foundation, Wageningen, Netherlands.
"Acalypha indica". PROTA4U. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
Acalypha indica; Overview Indian Copperleaf, on Encyclopedia of Life. Accessed 31.07.2017.
Acalypha indica, Indian Mercury, on Guamology. Accessed 31.07.2017.
Dr. J. Raamachandran, Herbs of Siddha Medicines: The First 3D Book on Herbs
Scaffidi, Adrian; Algar, Dave; Bohman, Björn; Ghisalberti, Emilio L; Flematti, Gavin (2016). "Identification of the Cat Attractants Isodihydronepetalactone and Isoiridomyrmecin from Acalypha indica" (PDF). Australian Journal of Chemistry. 69 (2): 169. doi:10.1071/CH15476.
Tewari, D; Mocan, A; Parvanov, E. D; Sah, A. N; Nabavi, S. M; Huminiecki, L; Ma, Z. F; Lee, Y. Y; Horbańczuk, J. O; Atanasov, A. G (2017). "Ethnopharmacological Approaches for Therapy of Jaundice: Part I". Frontiers in Pharmacology. 8: 518. doi:10.3389/fphar.2017.00518. PMC 5559545. PMID 28860989.

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