Ox Knee

Achyranthes bidentata

Herbs gallery - Ox Knee

Common names

  • Niu Xi
  • Ox Knee

Ox knee (Achyranthes bidentata) is a flowering species belonging to the amaranth plant family named Amaranthaceae. This species is found growing naturally in several Asian countries including India, China, Nepal and Japan. This plant is the main resource of a Chinese herbal medicine called huái niú xī, which possesses anti-inflammatory properties. People in Nepal use the root of this herb to cure toothache. The seeds of ox knee have been widely used as an alternative for cereal grains, especially during famines. In India's Mizoram state, people apply this herb topically to cure leech bites. In addition, a decoction prepared from the herb is taken orally in the form of a diuretic.

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In a number of regions in China, the species (Achyranthes bidentata) is found growing in the wild. In the United States as well as many places around the world having sub-tropical climatic conditions, this plant is considered to be a weed. In Chinese, this plant is called "niu Xi" denoting "ox-knee". The term has reference to the distended leaf nodes on the plant's stems, which bear resemblance to the knees of an ox.

Achyranthes bidentata is a perennially growing herb, which usually reaches a height of anything between 30 cm and 100 cm. This plant has elongated roots measuring about 0.6 cm to 1 cm across and the color of their skin is earthy yellow. The stems of Achyranthes bidentata are four-angled, straight, thinly pubescent and have somewhat distended node and branches are opposite to each other on the nodes. The leaves of this herb also appear opposite to each other on the stems and branches. The petioles measure anything between 5 mm and 22 mm.

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The leaf blade of Achyranthes bidentata is elliptic-lanceolate or elliptic and measures anything between 2 cm and 10 cm in length and about 1 cm to 5 cm in width. The leaf blades are spiky at the apex, while they are cuneate or wide cuneate at the base. A main margin runs through the length of the leaf blade, which is pubescent on the sides. The spica of the plant is axillary as well as apical. The flowers appear in inflorescences which are initially short and packed with small flowers. Later, the inflorescence stretches to approximately 15 cm to 20 cm, which includes the peduncle on the downside. The utricle of Achyranthes bidentata or ox knee is smooth and oblong shaped. The seeds are oblong shaped and one fruit encloses a solitary seed. Achyranthes bidentata flowers during the period between July and September, while the plant bears fruits from September to October.

Parts used

Leaves, seeds, stems, roots.

Uses

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), ox knee is widely employed in the form of a medicine to unclog collaterals as well as activate blood. Therapeutically, physician, especially practitioners of herbal medicine prefer to recommend this herb for treating various types of arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, osteoproliferation and cerebrovascular diseases, such as cerebral thrombosis, coronary heart disease and cerebral arteriosclerosis. In addition, this herb is also commonly prescribed for treating gynecological disorders such as leukorrheal diseases, emmeniopathy and a variety of antenatal as well as postpartum conditions.

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A medicinal herb, ox knee possesses the aptitude to make the bones and muscles stronger, while ensuring appropriate blood flow downward adhering to the traditional medicine's therapeutic theory.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the leaves, stems and roots of ox knee are extensively used for treating various health conditions. The roots of Achyranthes bidentata enclose saponins, triterpenoid, sigmasterol and sistosterol. The roots are bitter, digestive, anodyne, emmenagogue, anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and vasodilator. Formulations prepared with Achyranthes bidentata roots mainly influence the lower portion of the body and, hence, are widely employed for treating back aches, knee pains and asthenia of the legs and feet. Findings of studies hint that the roots of this herb also possess the aptitude to dilate the cervix. As a result, pregnant women should always avoid using this herb.

Achyranthes bidentata is also taken internally for treating high blood pressure, urine in blood, bleeding, menstrual pain and several other conditions. When taken internally, this herb also helps to lower the levels of blood cholesterol and, hence, it is often used for treating atherosclerosis. In Nepal, which is the native place of this herb, people extract the juice of roots and use it to cure toothache. In addition, the root juice is also taken internally to treat indigestion. It is believed that the root of Achyranthes bidentata is also effective for treating asthma.

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The stem of Achyranthes bidentata or ox knee is employed in the form of a toothbrush. It is believed that using the stem as a toothbrush is not only beneficial for the health of the teeth, but it is also effective for treating pyorrhoea. This herb can be used fresh as well as in its dehydrated form. The leaves and stems of Achyranthes bidentata are harvested during the summer. Normally, people crush the leaves and stems of this herb to obtain their juice. Alternatively, the parts of the herb are also used in the form of a tincture. Harvesting of roots is always undertaken in plants that have at least grown for one or two years. The roots are generally harvested during the autumn or in winter. Normally people dry the roots and pulverize them in a powdered form. In addition, various decoctions are also prepared with the ox knee roots.

Culinary uses

Ox knee is also used for culinary purposes. The seed of the plant is consumed after cooking. Ox knee seeds are an excellent substitute for various cereal grains, especially in making bread. Often people have used this plant for this purpose, particularly when there is a famine and availability of other foods is scarce. The seeds of this herb are pale brown in color and have an oblong shape. They grow up to 1 mm long. The leaves of this plant are also consumed after cooking. Ox knee leaves are used in the same way as you cook spinach.

Habitat and cultivation

Ox knee (Achyranthes bidentata) has its origin in Asia. This plant has a preference for rich, well composted, well draining soils and a position sheltered from direct sunlight. Ox knee is vulnerable to drought as well as frost. When the plant is cultivated in a fertile soil it roots can grow up to a length of 1.2 meters. It is extensively cultivated in China's Henan Province both as a medicinal as well as a food plant.

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Commercially, ox knee is generally propagated by its seeds, which are sown in a greenhouse during the latter part of spring. The seeds germinate quite quickly and the young seedlings need to be pricked individually when they have grown sufficiently long to be handled. Subsequently, plant the seedlings into individual pots containing fertile soil. It would be best if you grow these delicate plants in a greenhouse during their first winter with a view to avoid damages due to frosts. You can plant them outdoors into their permanent position sometime in late spring when the last expected date of frost has passed.

Constituents

Chemical analysis of ox knee (Achyranthes bidentata) has revealed that the main chemicals contained by the plant include steroid compositions (inokosterone, ecdysterone and rubrosterone); triterpenoid saponins (sugar following hydrolysis and oleanolic acid); various polysaccharides, 12 types of amino acids such as glycine, coumarin compounds, alkaloids and a number of trace elements such as copper and iron.

Collection and harvesting

If you want to use ox knee for therapeutic purposes, you should harvest the roots during the fall when the leaves of the herb have shrivelled. The first harvesting should be done only after the first couple of years of the plant's growth. It is worth mentioning here that the best ox knee roots are those that are the longest. The roots that are usually available commercially measure anything between 6 inches and 20 inches. However, the best quality roots measure more than five feet. While harvesting, care should be taken to ensure that you dig up the entire plant without damaging the roots. Keep the entire roots intact and subsequently remove the smaller lateral roots. Next, the long roots of ox knee are bundled together, dried in the sun till the external layer has dehydrated and shrivelled.

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