This plant was purchased from a friend (Pak Hassan) in Jeniang Kedah. He never had the time to tell me what it is being used for in Traditional Malay Medicine. But I assume it must be very similar to Jeruju (Acanthus ebracteatus and Acanthus illicfolius). This plant is not a native of the Malay Peninsular but has become ferral is many places that it has been assumed to be similar to the other jeruju in it medicinal values. It was probably introduced a long time ago by the colonialists as an ornamental plant. I have seen it in the wild in two places Jeniang and Ulu Chepor near Chemor. They seem to like cool moist areas by the streams. Apparently it is a native of West Africa where it has found many uses.
In its native land it is known as Elele-nyijuo, inyinyi ogwu (Nigeria); Cundu muala ve is another name for it in Gambia. The English who probably must be the ones who introduced the plant to Malaya called it Mountain Thistle, Bear Breaches and Aligator plant.
Today I have found out some of its uses in its native land. In the Cameroons it is being used to treat diarrhoea, threatened abortion, dysmenorrhoea, pain, heart troubles and epilepsy. Mostly in decoction form of either the leaves or the roots. No recorded use of the flower or seeds. In Nigeria it is being used to treat abscess by local application of the grinded roots. While the leaves are used in decoction to treat hypertension when taken orally and to treat skin infections by bathing or washing the affected part. Another documented use of this plant is as an antitussive where a decoction of the leaves is used to treat chesty coughs.
Research done by Nigerian scientist has proven a few things about this plant.
1. The aqueous extract of the leaves has anti-inflammatory, peripherally mediated analgesic effect and a significant antipyretic effects. The same people did studies on the same extract and found that it has tocolytic properties (i.e it relaxes the smooth musc;es of the uterus) and thus proves the logic in its used by tradtional medical practitioners to treat threatened abortions and dysmenorrhoea.
2. The methanolic extracts show both centrally and peripherally mediated analgesic effects and also a non-specific smooth muscle relaxant activity.
Chemical rundown of the plants showed that it contains the usual elements in plant chemistry i.e. Flavinoids, Alkaloids, Saponins, tanins, phenols, triterpinoids and sterols.
As an ornamental plant it has very beautiful flower spikes and leaves. However, the leaves are rather stiff and the stems spiny and can be a bit painful when pricked by them at times. Makes good living security fence I suppose.