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Does Pentas Plant Have Medicinal Values?

Updated on July 15, 2016
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Mazlan acquired his love of gardening at a young age and it has been his passion for over 55 years.

Growing Pentas Lanceolata - Pentas Plant Medicinal Property

Pentas lanceolata, also known as Egyptian Star, is native to tropical Africa and is commonly used as herbal medicine in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya.

But in temperate countries it is planted for its colorful clusters of flowers that easily attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. This shrubby plant is not only popular for bed and border planting, but also for containers and window boxes.

Since Pentas has edible and medicinal uses, you should seriously consider it as one of your medicinal plants for your garden, as you never know when you might need them.

To guide you, this article highlights its medicinal uses and how to grow and care for this colorful Pentas plant.

This is my red Pentas plant that will finally be planted along the slope as ground cover and for slope protection. The red Pentas Flower is probably the most striking
This is my red Pentas plant that will finally be planted along the slope as ground cover and for slope protection. The red Pentas Flower is probably the most striking | Source

Uses of Pentas Lanceolata in Traditional Medicine

Traditional medicine plays an important role for the daily healthcare needs of most of the ethnic groups in tropical African countries. Limited access and affordability to modern healthcare facilities are some of the reasons why they are highly dependent on traditional medicine. These include the use of plants, minerals and animals for healing and medicinal treatments.

Plants are the most popular and Pentas Lanceolata plant is used for the following ailments:

1. To Treat Lymphadenitis

Lymphadenitis is an infection of the lymph nodes, which causes the affected glands to swell. Conventional medicinal treatment will include the use of antibiotics, painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines. If there is abscess, surgery will be carried to drain it.

In Ethiopia, Pentas Lanceolata leaves and roots are used as the herbal treatment (used topically and orally) to treat lymphadenitis{1}{2}.

2. To Treat Diarrhoea

Pentas root and leaves are boiled and administered through the nose as treatment for diarrhoea{1}{2}. This method may be painful and is usually applied to babies and small children who would otherwise refuse to drink the concoction.

The report does not state how it is administered for adults, but I suspect it will be orally.

Pentas lanceolata grows easily & need little maintenance. That is why the plant thrives well in tropical Africa and is commonly use in traditional medicine. This is the  white pentas flower.
Pentas lanceolata grows easily & need little maintenance. That is why the plant thrives well in tropical Africa and is commonly use in traditional medicine. This is the white pentas flower. | Source

3. To Treat Snake Bite

In Ethiopia, Pentas Lanceolata is used to treat snake bite. However, in the report by Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, Kampala International University in Uganda, on the use of Pentas in traditional medicine {3}, it was silent on the snake species. It only mentioned the treatment, which is either of the following methods:

  1. Fresh Pentas Lanceolata root is crushed and mix with water, then drunk, or
  2. Chew any fresh parts of the whole Pentas plant, or
  3. Have smoke bath using pounded dried Pentas leaves, or
  4. Soak the whole body with crushed fresh Pentas leaf, or
  5. Chew fresh Pentas root then soak the bite area with the residue

4. To Treat Malaria

Malaria vaccines are not cheap and not easily available to rural Africa. Instead, they use traditional medicine to treat malaria and one of the plants used is Pentas.

Studies were done to check on the effectiveness of Pentas for this treatment. As reported in NCBI (US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health){4}, extracts from Pentas Longiflora and Pentas Lanceolata roots do show resistance to the malaria strains.

This study was conducted by the following universities/research agencies:

  1. Department of Chemistry, University of Nairobi, Kenya
  2. Department of Cell & Molecular Biology, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
  3. United States Army Medical Research Unit-Kenya,
  4. Department of Chemistry & Swedish NMR Centre, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

5. To Treat Ascariasis

Ascariasis may not be a common ailment in most of part of the world, but in rural parts of Africa, this is a frequent problem. This disease is caused by Ascaris lumbricoides, a parasitic roundworm that will grow inside the body causing enlargement of the liver and inflammation of the lungs.

Conventional treatment to heal this ailment is to kill the roundworm with the medicine, ascaricide, and is taken orally.

In the traditional treatment of Ascariasis, the root of Pentas Lanceolata is boiled and the mixture is taken orally {1}{2}

Ascariasis in Livestock

Ascariasis is also a common disease with the livestock. Instead of roots, Pentas leaves are given to cows as treatment for Ascariasis {1}

Bioactive Chemicals of Pentas Lanceolata Plant

Study by scientists from the Department of Botany, Scott Christian College and Nesamony Memorial Christian College in India, showed the presence of phytochemicals such as alkaloids, flavonoids, carbohydrates, phenols, terpenoids, coumarins, phytosterols and quinones in Pentas Lanceolata.

The presences of these bioactive chemicals are important as they are known to have antibacterial activities against viruses for the above ailments.

It was also reported that Pentas Lanceolata could be used to heal wound due to the presence of the polyphenolic compound tannin, which is considered antimicrobial.

This study was published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Review & Research, Vol 4, Issue 3, 2014.

References and Research Papers on the Use of Pentas Lanceolata in Traditional Medicine

The traditional medicinal uses are not limited to Pentas Lanceolata, but to other varieties of Pentas plants as well. If you need more information on the other varieties such as Pentas longiflora, Pentas brussei, Pentas decora etc, you can click on the following links. These links are also reports and studies that I used as references for this article.

1. {1}Journal of Ethnopharmacology: Medicinal plants of the Meinit ethnic group of Ethiopia

2. {2} NCBI: Medicinal plant knowledge of the Bench ethnic group of Ethiopia

3. {3} African Journal of Plant Science: Uses of Pentas in Traditional Medicine

4. {4} NCBI: Antiplasmodial quinones from Pentas longiflora and Pentas lanceolata

Most gardeners plant Pentas for its colorful blooms. This Pentas comes in two-toned colors with dark purple centers
Most gardeners plant Pentas for its colorful blooms. This Pentas comes in two-toned colors with dark purple centers | Source

Pentas Flowers - Why Pentas Plant Is Also Good for Your Garden

Even if you ignore its medicinal values, Pentas plants are great for your garden.

They are hardy, easy to maintain and are not likely to get diseases. They are not fussy about soil type and generally drought resilient. But make sure the soil drains well.

Pentas Flowers in Variety of Colors

They bloom all year and come in clusters of red, white and pink. The newer varieties are in violet/lavender, purple and even in two-tone colors. The older varieties, however, are taller and seem better at attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.

Growth rate is rather slow, so they make good container or bedding plants. If you want them indoor put them in areas that received the most sunlight.

Pentas will give you prolific flower clusters and this variety is in deep purple .
Pentas will give you prolific flower clusters and this variety is in deep purple . | Source

Growing Conditions and How to Care for Pentas Plant

Pentas plants grow best if there are in full sun and the soil is moist and well-drained. Give them plenty of water, but do not overwater. Fertilize every week (or according to your fertilizer brand instructions) during the growing season.

Prune and deadhead it often for a compact plant and to have more blooms.

Pentas lanceolata plant (& its flower) is probably one of the best plants to attract butterfly and birds to your garden
Pentas lanceolata plant (& its flower) is probably one of the best plants to attract butterfly and birds to your garden | Source

How to Grow Pentas - Pentas Seeds and Pentas Cuttings

Propagating Pentas plant is easy. You can plant it from seeds or from cuttings. You will, however get blooms sooner if you grow from cuttings.

How To Do Cuttings

Use a hand pruner to cut lateral stem from the terminal wood. Moisten the end of cutting and dip it into growth hormone powder. Shake off any excess powder and plant Pentas cutting to about half its depth in a mixture of equal parts peat moss and coarse sand. Keep the mixture moist, but not saturated. It will take about a month for it to root and for new plant to appear.

Cuttings from Pentas Plant: Cut the lateral stems from the leader with hand pruner or sharp knife
Cuttings from Pentas Plant: Cut the lateral stems from the leader with hand pruner or sharp knife | Source

Growing Pentas From Seeds

Use good quality Pentas seeds and place them into a potting mix. You can use equal parts peat moss and coarse sand as your potting mix. Do not cover the seeds with soil as they are small and need light to germinate.

Create a mini greenhouse effect by placing plastic cover over the cultivation pots or tray. This will hold in the moisture.

Remove this plastic cover once the seedlings emerge. After it is about 3 inches tall, you can transplant it to a bigger pot or outdoor.

Transplanting Pentas

Gently tap the cultivation pot on its side to slowly dislodge the soil from the pot. Together with the potting mix, transfer the Pentas seedling to its final destination.

If the final destination is a bigger pot, make sure it has enough holes in the base. This will allow water to drain freely.

If it is outdoor in the garden bed, make sure the soil retains moisture, but will not be water logged.

Pentas Northern Lights Lavender in soft lavender shade
Pentas Northern Lights Lavender in soft lavender shade | Source

How Tall do Pentas Plant Grow?

In tropical climates, they will grow to about three feet, but the older varieties can grow up to six feet tall. These tall Pentas need to be pruned often. Otherwise, they will grow outward and will topple over. In non-tropical climates it will grow to less than 3 feet, but some varieties may also grow up to 3 feet.

Pentas is a sub-shrub where the base is a persistent woody stem, but the top part is herbaceous with lots of leafy green and flowers. Hence, if there is no pruning it will be top heavy and will topple.

If you have Pentas that are about three years old, it is good to prune off the top one-third for better growth and flowers.

Pentas flowers in different colors for a stunning ground cover, which will double up as your medicine chest!
Pentas flowers in different colors for a stunning ground cover, which will double up as your medicine chest! | Source

Are You Ready to Plant Pentas?

I have to admit I loved Pentas plant and will be collecting the many colorful varieties. Right now I have only the red Pentas and will use it as ground cover. The medicinal values of Pentas will come in handy, should problems such as snake bite happens. Hopefully, I will not come to that stage at all.

Are you ready to give this easy-care plant a try?

Disclaimer

The medicinal values of Pentas Lanceolata has not been fully researched and endorsed by the relevant health authorities. This article served as a platform for further research. If you are interested in its herbal values, you should check with your certified herbalist and medical practitioners for further guidance.

© 2014 Mazlan

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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 21 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Beautiful flowers in those photos. This is an interesting hub on how it can handy for medicine or your garden. Voted up!

    • greatstuff profile image
      Author

      Mazlan 2 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi BlossomSB, thanks for dropping by and sharing your own experience with Malaria. Pentas plant is pretty and with its medicinal values, will come in handy. All the best for 2015.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      What a wonderfully useful plant, and it's so pretty, too, so a great addition to the garden. Aiding resistance to Malaria would be very useful in many countries - having had that disease, although it was comparatively mild as I took the recommended prophylactics, I've had a taste of how horrible it can be.

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