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potaki - Basella rubra Linn.

potaki :

potaki  : Basella rubra Linn. Basella  rubra belongs to  the family  Basellaceae, and  commonly  known as  malabar spinach, indian spinach, ceylon spinach and vine spinach.  It was used to treat large number of human ailments as mentioned in Charaka Samhita, and Sushruta Samhita. It has been found to be a good source of calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. In Ayurveda, the plant has shown immense potential  in  androgenic,  antiulcer,  antioxidant,  cytotoxic,  antibacterial  activity,  anti-inflammatory, central nervous system  (CNS) depressant activity,  nephroprotective and wound healing properties etc.


The plant is native to India and, in the rest of the world, is known as Malabar spinach or red vine spinach, though it does not belong to the spinach family.

Taxonomical Classification

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Streptophyta
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Family: Chenopodiaceae
Genus: Basella
Species: Basella rubra

Allied species:

The synonyms of species are B. rubra and B. cordifolia.


Sanskrit: potaki, potaka, matsya, kali, sutungika, putika, vashalakkirai, shivappu, vashalakkirai
English: Indian spinach
Hindi: phooi
Telugu: bacchali
Bengali: pui shak
Marathi: mayalu
Oriya: poi saaga
Gujarathi: poi ni bhaji
Tamil: vaslakkirai , Basalakkirai or Kodip Pasali
Malayalam: vashala cheera
Kannada: basale soppu
Sindhi: Basalakkirai or Kodip Pasali
Assamese: - Boga puroi, পূৰৈ Puroi, পূৰৈ শাক Puroi sak.
Japanese: Mong Toi in Vietnam, Tsuru Murasa Kai
Chinese: Saan Choy / Shan Tsoi or Lo Kwai / Luo Kai
Sinhalese: vel niviti


There are  three common  types of  alugbati: Basella  alba  with  green stem  and  oval  to almost round leaves; Basella rubra with red stems and green, oval to round leaves; and a third type, which is a hybrid of the two. The Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of  the  Philippines  Los  Banos  (IPB-UPLB) has  released  two stopgap  varieties in  1981 through  its  Germplasm  Registration  and Release Office:  the red-stemmed  ‘Pulahan’ and the green-stemmed ‘Luntian.


Synonyms in Ayurveda: potaki, potaka, matsya, kali, sutungika, putika, vashalakkirai, shivappu, vashalakkirai

The literal meaning of its Latin name (Basella alba) is Small White Pedestal.
Basella alba refers to green stemmed variety and Basella rubra to redish stem variety, but both are same species of the plant. 

Rasa: Madhura
Guna: Picchila Snigdha
Veerya: Sheetha
Vipaka: Maduram
Karma: Pittahara Vatahara

 Basella is rich in vitamins A, B and C, iron and calcium. It is low in calories and has a fair amount of most minerals. The succulent mucilage is a rich source of soluble fibre.

Ayurveda recommends Baselle in the treatment of several conditions such as anaemia, cough, dysentery and diarrhoea and as a poultice and in the treatment of mouth ulcers in south India.

Fresh young leaves of this highly nutritious plant can be used in salads and older leaves may be cooked with dhal, prawn, meat, chicken and soups. It is cooked with fish in Bengali cuisine, and in stir fries and soups in Chinese or Vietnamese food.


Grow in rich, fertile, moisture-retentive soils in full sun. Tolerates light shade. Easily grown from seed. Start seed indoors 6-8 weeks before last spring frost date. Seed may also be planted directly in the garden at the last spring frost date. Use a slow-release fertilizer. When grown as a vegetable, train it on a sturdy trellis or other support. When grown for ornamental purposes, grow it on a fence or lamppost or other structure. Plants may also be allowed to simply trail along the ground. Plants are intolerant of frost and do not perform well if summer temperatures consistently dip below 59 degrees F. at night.


Seed  sow  period  is  March  or  April  in  a warm  greenhouse.  The  seed  requires  a minimum temperature of 18 - 21°c in order to  germinate  it  germinates within  10  -  21 days  at  20°c,  pre-soaking  the  seed  for  24 hours  in  warm  water  shortens  the germination time. As soon as they are large enough  to  handle,  prick  the  seedlings  out into  individual pots  of  fairly rich  compost and  grow them  on  fast, planting  them  out after the last expected frosts.  Stem  cuttings:  These can  be  taken  in  the late summer, overwintered  in a  greenhouse and  then  be  planted  out  in  late  spring  or early summer.


Basella is usually ready for harvest in 30–45 days after planting. Plants may be harvested once or several times .Once-over harvest is adapted  for  early  maturing  and  quick growing  varieties.  Stems  or  shoots  15–25 cm  in  length  are  cut  close  to  the  ground, washed, and tied in bundles. With multiple harvests, young leaves and shoots are picked at  weekly  intervals.  Frequent  harvesting delays  flowering  and stimulates  growth  of side  shoots. When  plants are  not regularly harvested,  side  shoots  develop  into  longer vines. There is a need to support long vines with trellis


Leaf : The chemical composition of the leaf extract include: proteins, fat, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B9 (folic acid), riboflavin, niacin, thiamine and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. Kaempherol is the flavonoid present in Basella at a concentration of 1. 4mg/100g . It contains Basellasaponins amino acid such as Arginine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Lysine, Threonine and Tryptophan , Peptide, Phenolic compounds in various extracts . 

Fruits : Basella fruit contains Gomphrenin derivative which is Betalain pigment . The seeds were found to be rich in Oleic acid . The fatty oil from seeds was found to contain Palmitic, Oleic, Linoleic and Linolenic acid. The proteins revealed presence of Lysine, Threonine, Valine, Methionine and Leucine

Seeds : Rich in Oleic acid


important formulations

1. Vishatinduka Taila as root juice extract

Parts used for medicinal purpose

Fruit, Leaves, Root, Stem, ,


Juice 5-10 ml

Commercial value:

Basella alba, commonly called Malabar spinach, is native to the East Indies. It is a vigorous, climbing, tropical vine that may be grown in St. Louis as an annual leafy vegetable for cultivation of its edible spinach-like stems and leaves or as an ornamental foliage vine. This is a fast-growing tropical vine that, if trained on a support, will rise to 6 tall in a single season. Although in a different family than spinach, the leaves taste like spinach and, unlike spinach, the plants thrive in hot summer weather. Leaves and stems are a good source of Vitamins A and C, calcium and iron. Small purple-white flowers may appear at the end of the summer (plants will not flower until daylight decreases to less than 12 hours per day).
Although both green and red leaves variety are eaten as vegetable but green variety is cultivated commercially.


It is a fast growing, succulent, branched, softstemmed, twining herbaceous vine, reaching 10 m in length. 

Stem : Green 

Leaves: : Green in colour, glossy surface, somewhat fleshy, ovate or heartshaped, 5 to 12 cm long, stalked, tapering to a pointed tip with a cordate base. 

Flowers: : The inconspicuous bisexual pinkish white or violet cluster flowers are borne on spikes or branching peduncles. Spikes are axillary, solitary, 5 to 29 cm long. Flower type is hermaphrodite about 4 mm long. 

Fruit & Seed : Fleshy, stalk less, ovoid or nearly spherical, 5 to 6 mm long and purple when mature, It is a simple true fruit with many seeds


Bracteoles are acute. Stamens are included with short filaments and cordate anthers. Ovary is unilocular. Fruit is black or dark purple coloured and enclosed within the persistent fleshy calyx. Seeds are black, globose and indehiscent

Geographical distribution:

A native of tropical Asia and Africa, it is now widely cultivated as a pot herb. Its occurance in forests and shady places is rather rare, it is mainly confined to the drier regions


This plant prefers hot and humid climate. During low temperature growth of the plant is slow. In India, it is found almost in every part of country, and especially in Bengal and Assam

Plant conservation:

Acarya  Carak  says  that  collected  herb should  be  placed  in  suitable  vessles,  they should be stored in a room which is windless (Ca. Ka. 1/11). Physical as well as chemical changes, enzymatic changes, yeast, bacteria, fungal  infection  are  the  factors  which decrease the potency of Churna. Hence it is advisable  to  keep  the  Churna  of  Basella rubra in the vacuum container so as to avoid contact  of  these  affecting  factors  with Curna

General Use:

Pramehaghna, Agni, Vrna, Raktapitta and Visha Shamana, Kaphaja, Shukraja, Stanyaja, Bala Vardaka, Madahara, Sthulyakara, Nidra Alasya kara, Ruchikara, Truptikara, Vishtambhakara, Vidbedhana, Akanthya, Vrunhana

Therapeutic Uses:

According to Charaka Samhita, Potaki prescribe for in retention of urine and faeces. In case Ama is digesting but still the patient suffers from diarrhea passing stool with retention, pain, mucus and tenesmus in small quantity but frequently the patient should be fed with the soup of Potaki. 

 Caraka said that Potaki can be used for alleviates necrosis. 

 Caraka says that, Potaki cooked with sesame paste causes diarrhea and in Susruta Samhita mentioned Potaki cures piles, which helps easy elimination of urine and faeces. 

Systemic Use:

Basella rubra Leaf used to prevent continuation of bleeding after childbirth . 

 Pulped leaves applied to boils, warts, pimples and ulcers to hasten suppuration. 

 Sugared juice of leaves is useful for catarrhal afflictions . 

 Leaf-juice mixed with butter, is soothing and cooling when applied to burns and scald . 

 The leaf juice is a demulcent, used in cases of dysentery. 

 Stem and leaves are used as mild laxative, diuretic and antipyretic. 

 In India have been used Basella leaves and stem for anticancer such as melanoma, leukemia and oral cancer. 

 Ground leaves of Basella alba are rubbed on the human hand to introduce the whole preparation into the animal vagina every morning for the treatment of sterility

    The seeds are used as abortifacient . 
 The fruit provides dark violet color for food colorant

Root and leaves has been used for the removal of placenta, membranes after birth, stomach pains and increase milk production[


leaf juice


Leaves are used in constipation, poultice for sores, urticaria, balanitis, gonorrhea, antiviral and dyspepsia. It is also used in poultice local swellings, intestinal complaints etc

The plant is febrifuge; its juice is a safe aperient for pregnant women and a decoction has been used to alleviate/ease labour

Clinical trials:

A review of the taxonomy, ethnobotany, phytochemistry and pharmacology of
Basella alba 
S. A. Deshmukh and D. K. Gaikwad*


  1.; Flora of China; 20/4/2018
  2. Basella alba L. var. rubra (L.f.) J.L. Stewart, Punjab Pl. 177.1869; Subram., Fl. Thenmala Div. 297. 1995.
  3. Basella alba L., Sp. Pl. 272. 1753; Manilal & Sivar., Fl. Calicut 247. 1982; Mohanan, Fl. Quilon Dist. 332. 1984; Babu, Fl. Malappuram Dist. 677. 1990; Sasidh., Fl. Periyar Tiger Reserve 330. 1998; Sasidh., Fl. Chinnar WLS 262. 1999; Sasidh., Fl. Parambikulam WLS 257. 2002; Sunil & Sivadasan, Fl. Alappuzha Dist. 598. 2009; Ratheesh Narayanan, Fl. Stud. Wayanad Dist. 675. 2009.
  4. Basella rubra L., Sp. Pl. 272. 1753; Hook. f., Fl. Brit. India 5: 20. 1886; Gamble, Fl. Pres. Madras 1185(830). 1925.
  5. D K Ved, Suma Tagadur Sureshchandra, Vijay Barve, Vijay Srinivas, Sathya Sangeetha, K. Ravikumar, Kartikeyan R., Vaibhav Kulkarni, Ajith S. Kumar, S.N. Venugopal, B. S. Somashekhar, M.V. Sumanth, Noorunissa Begum, Sugandhi Rani, Surekha K.V., and Nikhil Desale. 2016. ( / FRLHTs ENVIS Centre on Medicinal Plants, Bengaluru. 

Use in other system of medicine:

Basella alba is a plant used in traditional medicine in the West Cameroon region to treat sexual asthenia and infertility in man. Basella alba possesses a good anti-inflammatory activity and shows a dose depending activity.

 In Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh, the root of Poya (Basella.) is used as an anti-fertility agent after menstrual periods[

In India have been used Basella leaves and stem for anticancer such as melanoma, leukemia and oral cancer

In South-east Asia it has been consumed for centuries for malaria, melanoma, leukemia and oral cancers, catarhh, mouth ulcers, dysentery, stomach pains, anorexia, haemoptisis, strangury, sexual weakness, irregular periods, to increase milk production in breastfeeding mothers, and applied topicly in form of smashed leaves on bruises, wounds, burns, skin inflammations, urticaria, sores, scalds, fungal infections, boils, acne, freckles, pruritic skin lesions, snakebites and on forehead for headaches.
   In China it is claimed to reduce fever and neutralize poison. In Nigeria it is used to enhance fertility in women and for hypertension. Juice from fruits is used as eye drops for conjunctivitis. In Kenya leaves are used to treat stomachache and constipation after childbirth. In Cameroon it is taken for malaria. In the Philippines it is used gonorrhea and balanitis.


Malabar Spinach is a tropical climbing vine probably native to Indias Malabar Coast or Indonesia. It appears in two forms, green one, called in latin Basella alba (alba means white and refer to its white flowers) and Basella rubra (rubra means red) with highly ornamental bordo-red stems and veins of leaves. But lack of other differences in its outlook is bringing those names to be interchanged in use for both varieties together. It is quite popular vegetable in many tropical countries of Asia, Africa and South America. But its scientificaly proven medicinal values are mostly unknown and used mainly in traditional medicine.

KEY WORDS: Basella rubra, Androgenic, Basellaceae, Central nervous system

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