Herb: Spiny Amaranth

Latin name: Amaranthus spinosus

Family: Amaranthaceae (Amaranth Family, Pigweed Family)

Medicinal use of Spiny Amaranth:

The seed is used as a poultice for broken bones. The plant is astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, febrifuge and galactogogue. It is used internally in the treatment of internal bleeding, diarrhoea and excessive menstruation. It is also used in the treatment of snake bites. Externally, it is used to treat ulcerated mouths, vaginal discharges, nosebleeds and wounds. The plant can be used fresh or it can also be harvested when coming into flower and dried for later use. The root is emmenagogue and galactogogue. A paste of the root is used in the treatment of menorrhagia, gonorrhoea, eczema and colic. It helps to remove pus from boils. The juice of the root is used in Nepal to treat fevers, urinary troubles, diarrhoea and dysentery. It is also used, often combind with the root juice of Dichrophela integra and Rubus ellipticus, to treat stomach disorders and, on its own, to treat indigestion and vomiting that occur after eating unusual foods.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Roadsides, waste places and fields in South-eastern N. America.

Edible parts of Spiny Amaranth:

Leaves and stems - raw or cooked as a spinach. If older leaves and stems are used the spines must be removed. Highly esteemed. The dried leaves contain (per 100g) 267 - 276 calories, 20 - 34.4% protein, 2 - 4.5% fat, 45 - 54% carbohydrate, 9.8 - 10.4% fibre, 16.6 - 24% ash, 1795 - 5333mg calcium, 333 - 460mg phosphorus, 13.5 - 152.7mg iron, 13 - 37mg sodium, 337 - 3528mg potassium, 27.9 - 40.8mg betacarotene equivalent, 0.06mg thiamine, 2.02mg riboflavin, 7.7 - 8.6mg niacin and 503mg ascorbic acid. Seed - cooked. Very small but easy to harvest and very nutritious. The seed can be cooked whole, and becomes very gelatinous like this, but it is rather difficult to crush all of the small seeds in the mouth and thus some of the seed will pass right through the digestive system without being assimilated.

Other uses of the herb:

Yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant. A red pigment obtained from the plant (the report does not specify which part of the plant) is used as a colouring in foods and medicines.

Propagation of Spiny Amaranth:

Seed - sow late spring in situ. An earlier sowing can be made in a greenhouse and the plants put out after the last expected frosts. Germination is usually rapid and good if the soil is warm. A drop in temperature overnight aids germination. Cuttings of growing plants root easily.

Cultivation of the herb:

Roadsides, waste places and fields in South-eastern N. America.

Known hazards of Amaranthus spinosus:

No members of this genus are known to be poisonous, but when grown on nitrogen-rich soils they are known to concentrate nitrates in the leaves. This is especially noticeable on land where chemical fertilizers are used. Nitrates are implicated in stomach cancers, blue babies and some other health problems. It is inadvisable, therefore, to eat this plant if it is grown inorganically.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.