- Star Gooseberry
- Sweet Leaf
- Sweet Leaf Bush
Katuk (botanical name Sauropus androgynus) is a shrub-like plant, which is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family. This herb is usually found growing in high temperatures with humid conditions. It is an indigenous vegetable of the Southeast Asian regions and extensively cultivated for its use in traditional medicine in this part of the world. This herb grows upright and has multiple branches. It usually grows up to a height of 2.5 meters and produces deep green leaves, which are oval-shaped. The shape of katuk plant is somewhat like a clump. The branches of this herb are somewhat soft and they bear divided leaves, which appear alternately on the stem. The leaves measure about 2.5 cm long and anything between 1.25 cm and 3 cm broad. The flowers of katuk appear solitarily or sometimes even in bunch of three. The small fruit is held by a long stem and measures about 1.25 cm across.
Katuk is among the most popular leafy vegetables across Southeast and South Asia. Moreover, this plant is remarkable for its palatability as well as very high yields.
It has been found the Sauropus androgynus or katuk is a medicinal herb possessing elevated antioxidant potential. People have been traditionally using katuk leaves for treating specific diseases and for weight loss. They are also consumed as a vegetable and various dishes are prepared with the leaves of this herb. Katuk leaves enclose sufficient quantities of various macronutrients in addition to containing nearly all the micronutrients. The micronutrients contained by katuk leaves include carotenoids, phenolic compounds, various antioxidant vitamins and several essential minerals. In a number of developing nations the leaves of Sauropus androgynus are a staple food and provide the poor inhabitants of those regions with several essential nutriments. Furthermore, katuk leaves also aid in sustaining good health.
Katuk (Sauropus androgynus) plant has been extensively used in traditional medicines of various regions of its origin for a variety of purposes, including promoting lactation, healing wounds, alleviating urinary problems and also in the form of an anti-diabetic agent. These leaves are also known to be effective in curing fever. Aside from their therapeutic applications, the deep green leaves of katuk are also employed in the form of an excellent food coloring agent.
The deep green leaves of katuk supply us with an excellent source of chlorophyll, which is essential for rejuvenating cells, blood building and is also useful for the intestinal flora, circulation system as well as for eliminating bowel regularly. In fact, all plants that possess high nutritional worth, such as katuk, which help in detoxifying our body, are always a valuable addition to our daily diet. The leaves of katuk are a wonderful natural source of potassium, an essential mineral that offers us multiple benefits. An infusion prepared from katuk leaves is also employed in the form of a poultice for treating fevers and healing ulcers. In folk remedy, the katuk leaf is also used for curing snoring and teeth grinding when one is asleep. Hence, it is advisable that you consume katuk leaves on a regular basis in soups as well as in various other dishes.
For long people have known the katuk plant as “multi-green”, especially because it contains high levels of vitamins and other nutrients. Generally, people consume the leaves of this herb raw in salads and also stir-fried. The leaves are also used in curries. Alternatively, you may also cook the leaves in soups. People in most Southeast Asian countries do this. In addition, people in Malaysia and Indonesia believe that consumption of Sauropus androgynus leaves helps to augment breast milk production in nursing women.
In addition, people in Thailand have been traditionally using the roots of katuk plant for bringing down temperature during fevers and also to cure food poisoning. Roots are also used in the form of an antiseptic agent. On the other hand, in Taiwan, people believe that this plant may possibly have considerable potential for use in weight loss regimen and help in combating obesity. People in India use the leaves of katuk as an anti-diabetic medicine as well as to improve eyesight. It is worth mentioning here that this herb possesses anti-pyretic property and is an excellent natural medicine for treating mumps.
A decoction prepared from katuk leaves is believed to alleviate disorders related to the urinary tract. In addition, this decoction is also used for reducing fevers.
The leaves of katuk are also administered to women after childbirth with a view to help their womb to recuperate faster.
Aside from its therapeutic uses, katuk also has culinary uses and is sold in the form of tropical asparagus. Locals in Vietnam cook the leaves of katuk with minced pork, crab meat or with dried out shrimp to prepare soup. On the other hand, people in Malaysia generally use stir fry katuk leaves with egg or dried out anchovies. People in Indonesia also consume the flowers as well as the little purple hued fruits of katuk. They also use the leaves of the plant to prepare an infusion, consumption of which is said to augment breast milk production in nursing mothers.
The rich green pigment present in katuk leaves is often employed to dye foods to give them a green hue. Stir frying the leaves in oil or hot butter for a few minutes makes a very delicious treat. The result is nutty and crispy leaves. You may also mix the katuk leaves with tempura batter and deep fry them for a delicious food.
Habitat and cultivation
Katuk (Sauropus androgynus) plants grow to form a widespread evergreen forest and are also cultivated. This plant is generally cultivated in altitudes up to 1,300 meters.
When cultivated in hot and humid conditions, katuk grows quite fast, but is relatively dormant when grown in cooler climatic conditions. This plant thrives well in heavy clay and acid soils. Katuk has a preference for shaded locations, but the plant may also endure full sunlight provided it is watered sufficiently.
Katuk plants can be propagated easily from the cuttings of mature wood stems. All that you need to do is take a cutting, remove all the leaves and just plant it in a shaded place in the ground. This plant probably requires cross pollination in order to produce seeds.
Chemical analysis of katuk leaves has revealed that they are a wonderful natural resource of vitamin B, vitamin C, provitamin A, several essential minerals and proteins. The protein contained by katuk leaves is comparatively much more than in many other leafy vegetables. In fact, the mature leaves of this plant contain more nutrients compared to the tender leaves. These leaves also enclose a significant amount of an alkaloid called papaverine. Several studies have shown that the aerial parts of the katuk plant also contain megastimane glucoside, lignin glycoside and sauroposide.
Katuk is also an excellent source of vitamin K. Nevertheless, findings of one particular study suggests that consuming too much katuk leaves may result in lung damage, since they contain elevated levels of the alkaloid called papaverine. In fact, this warning is mainly owing to the popularity among the Taiwanese people regarding body weight control during the mid ’90s.
Side effects and cautions
The health benefits of katuk leaf notwithstanding, consuming too much of them may prove to be toxic. These leaves enclose a significant amount of an alkaloid known as papaverine. Consuming excessive amounts of katuk leaves may result in drowsiness, light-headedness and even constipation. When the katuk (Sauropus androgynus) leaves are consumed raw or uncooked, papaverine contained by them may cause vasodilatation and even result in a progressive respiratory ailment called bronchitis obliterans. Consuming large amounts of uncooked leaves as well as drinking the raw juice of these leaves instead of eating boiled or stir-fried katuk leaves is responsible for most of the damages.