Sambung Nyawa! (sounds a little bit like the Malaysian for “Open Sesame”…)
Also known as Mollucan Spinach, and several other names I cannot pronounce, Sambung Nyawa is one of our recently-acquired plants-in-residence.
In snooping around seed catalogs, websites, and unusual-to-me plant lists, this one never came up. A lot of Malaysian-and-that-area-of-the-world plants unfortunately are completely off my radar because of the language barrier and their unfamiliarity in Western markets.
Sambung Nyawa is known scientifically as Gynura Procumbens. And as of June 5th of this year, we got Gynura Procumbens! (no, we’re not in quarantine with a horrible skin disease, ha)
About the only way we found this plant, and found out ABOUT it, was in researching alternative herbs for conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and other ailments. Its name came up among other plants/herbs, such as Gymnena Sylvestre — plants we have not yet been able to find sources for.
It’s one of those cases where the information in English is scant, but there is a long history of its common use elsewhere, (available in languages I can’t even recognize well enough even to put into a text translator) especially in areas such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, India, Java, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.
Despite that barrier, there’s just enough information to be found in English to pique our interest, and sites of companies researching the medicinal applications and further potential of plants such as Gynura Procumbens/Sambung Nyawa abound.
I found some mentions of this plant/herb in relation to the reduction of blood sugar, and other mentions of its traditional use for reducing hypertension, as well as for the topical treatment of skin disorders.
I suppose this is the perfect place for a mile-long disclaimer about the fact that I’m not a doctor and am not endorsing this plant for any specific use, blah blah blah (meaning in fancy words don’t try it because of me and don’t blame me if you eat it and some body part spontaneously combusts). If I WERE a doctor, I’d be studying this plant, a bigger bankroll, and would have a whopping homestead with a LOT of horses by now, but that’s off topic… In short, do your own research on anything you put on your skin, in your yard, near your pets and children, and especially into your mouth.
That said (whew), I have not spontaneously combusted after trying this herb in ways I believed to be, for myself, safe. But if something does explode into flame, my husband will be writing the next post…ha! (Maybe he’ll include pictures??) Again, off topic (I hope this is not some weird side effect from trying this herb??? Hmmm)
Well, anyway, one of the claims I found was that this plant’s use in reducing blood sugar levels was that its consumption by diabetics produced pleasing results in lowering glucose levels, while in lab tests with rodents, it had no effect whatsoever on non-diabetic rats. This means the possibility exists that this herb, which is simply a “weed” in different areas of the world (like what we call most of our herbs worldwide), adapts to the diabetic person by normalizing the blood sugar without endangering non-diabetic consumers who eat it by lowering theirs at all…non-diabetics are said by some to enjoy the other herbal medicinal benefits of this herb without the danger of having their blood sugar levels manipulated below normal levels.
No wonder research companies are investigating this…
Lest this plant be dismissed as “merely a medicinal,” it’s also used as table food – raw in salad, sauteed lightly like one would spinach, included in soups or anything you would a green, and chopped raw and included in rice dishes. It can also be drunk as a tea, and herbal companies sell the dry herb powder in capsule form. Researchers are more focused on the use of its extract.
That said, let the buyer beware…like I said, it was OUR decision to explore this plant for OUR uses (see disclaimer above again, if in doubt).
Sambung Nyawa/Gynura Procumbens was hard to find anywhere, as far as ordering it. Since I’m not here to endorse particular companies, I’ll keep it at that, but we had to order it from a site outside of this country. We were pretty excited when it arrived! Here’s a pic of the little guys, fresh out of the box…(and next to them, a baby comfrey and Zatar plant. All survived our amateur efforts except the Zatar, may it rest in peace)
Of course, plants of this stature must always be displayed to their best advantage in
the cheapest possible repurposed plastic buckets “scientifically-approved growth containers.”
Here they are a few weeks later, right at home in
Bucketville our transitional garden.
And here is the wild mess these plants became when they learned to survive our gardening inconsistencies, and began to plot how to take over the world…(note the
overgrown weeds we were too freaking lazy to pull before taking this picture stunning biodiversity we allow the plants to co-exist amongst)
In this picture, I had just harvested some gynura leaves as well as our first picking of moringa leaves(another whole post). I wasn’t quite sure what I’d do with them as my first “test,” but I knew I wanted to at least try some in hot water, as a tea or tisane.
The Sambung Nyawa/Gynura Procumbens was easy to harvest…all I had to do was merely pinch off either some leaves or a stalk, and the leaves were firm and fresh on the inside, not woody.
This plant/herb is one that will grow in a number of zones as a perennial, or overwinter in Zones 10-11. We’re on the cusp of Zones 9/10, so we’ll bring it onto the back porch in a more protected area in any weather that looks to dip below the 50s, and likely mulch the daylights out of them during those weeks/months, depending on how our winter goes here. I’m not sure what other zones could do, but possibly they could overwinter in their pots when dormant, in an enclosed garage or other non-freezing space…I’m not sure.
Here it is as I tried it in hot water. The flavor was green and pleasing, and not strong. I drank it with no problems, and then ate the leaves. They tasted better than spinach, lighter and a very slight lemon scent/taste. I’ll be sauteeing them lightly and eating them raw as the days go along, and I’ve tested them in small bits. You know, just to be on the safe side in case of any unknown allergies…
My husband has been eating the leaves raw for some time now, grazing now and then on them, as he does on other plants such as the Herba Buena, Mints, and Aloes. We’ll give no testimonials, but he was very pleased to note that his formerly elevated blood pressure has normalized lately, for whatever reason.
We like the idea of finding supportive herbals, especially ones with a long history of safe use. We’d like to know more about how they work for us, but we’re stepping out cautiously. Nevertheless, we’re pleasantly surprised to find some real treasures…green treasure…that can be grown right in our own garden (or buckets…)
I found a Malaysian site that mentions Sambung Nyawa/Gynura Procumbens as one of several herbs included as forage for organic pastured poultry, so it appears it could have multiple benefits for the homestead, including animals.
What useful plants have you found to be helpful to you and your animals?
I am amazed at the diversity of plants and herbs that exist on this earth…I’m happy some mention is being made of many with traditional uses elsewhere in the world, before they may have been lost to our memory in years to come.
Preserving these is vital to our wellbeing and our health as we see more and more resistant strains of bacteria and diseases that have grown “smart” and “stubborn” due to much of the genetic manipulation modern research has promoted. Hopefully, the gardeners of the world can extend traditional herbs’ survival for the millenia ahead.