MIRABILIS JAPALA Linn, Mirabilis longiflora Blanco
Local names: Alas cuatro (Sp., Tag.); maravilla (Sp.); gilala (Tag.); oracion (Sp.); supiros (Sp.); tallang (Sul.); four o’clock, marvel of Peru (Engl.).
A las cuatro is found throughout the Philippines in the settled areas in cultivation and also frequently spontaneous in the vicinity of towns. It was introduced from Mexico by the Spaniards at an early date, and is now pantropic in distribution. It is often cultivated in Manila and in large towns.
This is an erect, nearly or quite smooth, branched plant, growing to a height of 20 to 80 centimeters. The leaves are narrowly ovate, 4 to 10 centimeters long. The involucres are crowded, calyxlike, 1 centimeter long or less, and have one flower. The perianth is white, purple, or yellow, 3 to 4 centimeters long, with a cylindrical tube, which is slightly enlarged upward, and with a spreading limb. The fruit is narrowly ovoid, about 8 millimeters long, black, and finely ribbed.
According to Maurin the roots contain oxymethylanthraquinone, but their purgative action is not due to this constituent. Yoshimura and Trier isolated an alkaloid, trigonelline, from the plant. Chopra reports of the purgative action of trigonelline. Wehmer records that the plant yields galactose and arabinose.
Bruntz and Jaloux state that the roots are official in the Danish (2) Pharmacopoeia.
Burkill mentions that the pounded seeds are used in Malaya and elsewhere by Chinese and Japanese women for making a cosmetic powder. Burkill quotes Rumpf, who states that the powdered root was used with rice powder and sandalwood for the same purpose by the Spanish women in Ternate. In China the flowers are also used for cosmetic purposes.
Burkill says that the big tubers were formerly mistaken in Europe for the source of Jalap, and used as a purgative; but their action is very feeble. The roots have been reported as mildly purgative by Martinez, Sanyal and Ghose, Daruty, Chopra, Nadkarni, Debeaux, and Freise, and as emetic-cathartic in Mexico. Sanyal and Ghose and Nadkarni assert that the fresh juice of the leaves is very soothing and is applied to the body to allay the heat and itching in urticaria arising from dyspepsia. The bruised leaves are used in India and Java for poulticing boils and abscesses, and the juice is used for uterine discharges.
Gimlette and Burkill report that the juice of the leaves is prescribed internally in a mixture for gonorrhoea. Reutter states that its infusion is prescribed as a diuretic and for dropsy.