The leaves and seeds of all members of this genus are more or less edible. However, many of the species in this genus contain saponins, though usually in quantities too small to do any harm. Although toxic, saponins are poorly absorbed by the body and most pass straight through without any problem. They are also broken down to a large extent in the cooking process. Saponins are found in many foods, such as some beans. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K].The plants also contain some oxalic acid, which in large quantities can lock up some of the nutrients in the food. However, even considering this, they are very nutritious vegetables in reasonable quantities. Cooking the plant will reduce its content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition.
The whole plant is analgesic, antiasthmatic, carminative, stomachic and vermifuge. An infusion can be used as a digestive remedy, being taken to settle a wide range of problems such colic and stomach pains. Externally, it has been used as a wash for haemorrhoids, as a poultice to detoxify snake bites and other poisons and is thought to have wound-healing properties. Use with caution and preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. This remedy should not be prescribed for pregnant women. See also the notes above on toxicity. Until fairly recently, this was one of the most commonly used vermifuges, though it has now been largely replaced by synthetic drugs. The seed, or an essential oil expressed from the seed, was used. It is very effective against most parasites, including the amoeba that causes dysentery, but is less effective against tapeworm. Fasting should not precede its use and there have occasionally been cases of poisoning caused by this treatment. The oil is used externally to treat athlete's foot and insect bites. One report says that it is an essential oil that is utilised. This is obtained from the seed or the flowering stems, it is at its highest concentration in the flowering stems before seed is set, these contain around 0.7% essential oil of which almost 50% is the active vermifuge ascaridol. The essential oil is of similar quality from plants cultivated in warm climates and those in cool climates.The leaves are added in small quantities as a flavouring for various cooked bean dishes because their carminative activity can reduce flatulence.
Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Chenopodium ambrosioides. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.
Plants are annuals or short-lived perennials. They are not very hardy when grown outdoors in Britain and so are best grown as an annual. Plants have often self-sown freely in our Cornish trial grounds, but the seed often germinates in the autumn and then does not manage to survive the winter. This species is sometimes grown as a medicinal and culinary plant, especially in its native Mexico. The sub-species C. ambrosioides anthelminticum is more active medicinally and is the form most often cultivated for its vermicidal activity.The bruised leaves emit an unpleasant foetid odour.
Problems, pests & diseases
Associations & Interactions
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Polycultures & Guilds
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