Basella alba - L.
Common Name Indian Spinach, Ceylon spinach
Family Basellaceae
USDA hardiness 9-11
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Moist places in hedges to elevations of about 500 metres in Nepal[272].
Range A widely cultivated plant, its original range uncertain but was possibly Africa.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Tender Moist Soil Full sun

Translate this page:

You can translate the content of this page by selecting a language in the select box.

Indian Spinach, Basella alba, is an annual or perennial climbing herb with red or green vines and leaves. The leaves are thick, fleshy, pointed at the tip, and arranged alternately along the vine. Flowers are white, pink, or red in short spikes and are located in the leaf axils. The fruits are round and soft, and can be red, white, or black in colour. The seeds are round and black. The roots are cooked and used against diarrhoea. Paste of the root is used as a rubefacient while paste of leaves is used externally as treatment for boils and sores. The leaves and stems are cooked as well and eaten for their laxative properties. Leaf juice is used to treat catarrh in Nepal. It is also a demulcent, diuretic, and febrifuge. The flowers are used as an antidote to poisons. The whole plant is a febrifuge and its juice is reportedly safe for pregnant women. In fact, during labour, decoction of the plant can be used to ease pain and discomfort. The red juice of the fruit is used as eye drops against conjunctivitis. Not only does the Indian spinach exhibit various medicinal properties, it also provides food through its edible plant parts. It is considered as a leaf vegetable. The leaves and stem tips are edible either raw or cooked. Infusion of the leaves is a tea substitute. Fruit sap is used as a food colouring in pastries and sweets.

Basella alba Indian Spinach, Ceylon spinach
Basella alba Indian Spinach, Ceylon spinach
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of flower
Basella alba is an evergreen Perennial Climber growing to 9 m (29ft 6in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10 and is frost tender. It is in flower from May to September, and the seeds ripen from Jul to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

B. cordifolia. B. rubra.

 Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Leaves.
Edible Uses: Colouring;  Tea.

Leaves and stem tips - raw or cooked[200]. A pleasant mild spinach flavour[206], the leaves can be used as a spinach or added to salads[183]. Do not overcook the leaves or they will become slimy[206]. The mucilaginous qualities of the plant make it an excellent thickening agent in soups, stews etc where it can be used as a substitute for okra, Abelmoschatus esculentus[206]. A nutritional analysis of the leaves is available[218]. An infusion of the leaves is a tea substitute[183]. The purplish sap from the fruit is used as a food colouring in pastries and sweets. The colour is enhanced by adding some lemon juice[183].
Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Leaves (Dry weight)
  • 275 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 20g; Fat: 3.5g; Carbohydrate: 54g; Fibre: 9g; Ash: 19g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 3000mg; Phosphorus: 0mg; Iron: 0mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 50mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.7mg; Riboflavin (B2): 1.8mg; Niacin: 7.5mg; B6: 0mg; C: 1200mg;
  • Reference: [ ]
  • Notes:
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antidote;  Aperient;  Astringent;  Demulcent;  Diuretic;  Febrifuge;  Laxative;  Rubefacient.

The roots are astringent. They are cooked and used in the treatment of diarrhoea[ 206 , 264 ]. A paste of the root is applied to swellings and is also used as a rubefacient[ 272 ]. The leaves and stems are cooked and eaten for their laxative properties[ 206 , 264 ]. The leaf juice is a demulcent, used in cases of dysentery[ 218 ]. It is also diuretic, febrifuge and laxative[ 218 ]. The leaf juice is used in Nepal to treat catarrh[ 272 ]. A paste of the leaves is applied externally to treat boils and sores[ 272 , 299 ]. The flowers are used as an antidote to poisons[ 218 ]. The plant is febrifuge, its juice is a safe aperient for pregnant women and a decoction has been used to alleviate labour[ 218 ]. The red juice of the fruit is used as eye drops to treat conjunctivitis[ 299 ].


Other Uses

A red dye is obtained from the juice of the fruits[206]. It has been used as a rouge and also as a dye for official seals[218]. Agroforestry Uses: The plant can be grown on living stakes, usually on a fence or on a hedge[ 617 ]. Other Uses A red dye is obtained from the juice of the fruits[ 206 ]. It has been used as a rouge, an ink, for colouring foods and also as a dye for official seals[ 218 , 299 ].
Cultivation details
Requires a well-drained moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter and a warm sunny sheltered position[200]. Prefers a sandy loam[206]. Tolerates fairly poor soils but does much better in rich soils[206]. Tolerates high rainfall[206]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.3 to 7. A frost-tender perennial, it is not hardy outdoors in Britain but can be grown as a spring-sown annual[200]. A fast growing plant, capable of producing a crop within 70 days from seed in a warm climate[200, 264], though it requires a minimum daytime temperature of 15°c if it is to keep growing vigorously so it seldom does well outdoors in Britain[264]. It does tolerate low light levels plus night temperatures occasionally falling below 10°c, and so can do well in a cold greenhouse[206]. Plants do not flower if the length of daylight is more than 13 hours per day[200]. Widely cultivated for its edible leaves in the tropics[200], there are some named varieties[183]. It is an excellent hot weather substitute for spinach[183]. Some authorities recognize three different species, B. alba, B. rubra and B. cordifolia[206], they are all treated here as being part of one species[K]. Production: It is 4-6 weeks until the first harvest. It grows reasonably well on poor soils and is fairly resistant to pest and disease. Leaves will only store for one day at 20-30°C. Yields of 40 kg of leaves from a 10 metre square bed is possible over 75 days. Leaves are plucked from the vine.
Agroforestry Uses: The plant can be grown on living stakes, usually on a fence or on a hedge[ 617 ]. Other Uses A red dye is obtained from the juice of the fruits[ 206 ]. It has been used as a rouge, an ink, for colouring foods and also as a dye for official seals[ 218 , 299 ].
Other Names
Other Names: Adwera, Alogbati, Alugbati, Ama, Aworoke, Ban-poi, Basle soppu, Boroboro, Busum-muru, Ceylon spinach, Chakai, Chan Cai, Chan-Choi, Chunlueng, Delega, Enderema, Gendola, Inderema, Inika, Kattupasali, Kurakura, Libato, Luo kui, Maghi, Maifrai, Malabar nightshade, Mayal, Mndele, Mong toi, Mong toi, Myal-ki-bhaji, Ndelema, Ndera, Pabang, Pak plang, Pasali-Kirai, Phak plang, Po deng chaai, Poaya, Poi sag, Poi, Pui-shak, Remayong, Ronga pui sak, Ronga puroi sak, Saan choi, Shan ts'oi, She eje, Shoro, Sufed-bachla-ki-bhaji, Suped-bachla, Tsuru-murasaki, Vine spinach.
Found In
Found In: Africa, Algeria, Angola, Asia, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canary Islands, Central Africa, Central African Republic, CAR, China, Congo, Cook Islands, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, East Africa, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Ghana, Guiana, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, India, Indonesia, Indochina, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Laos, Lesser Antilles, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Africa, North America, Northeastern India, Pacific, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Sao Tome, SE Asia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Southern Africa, South America, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Suriname, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tasmania, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, USA, Vanuatu, Vietnam, West Africa, West Indie.
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None known
Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Anredera cordifoliaMadeira Vine, Heartleaf madeiravine20
Ullucus tuberosusOlluco30


Print Friendly and PDF
Expert comment
Botanical References
Links / References
For a list of references used on this page please go here
Readers comment
Jon Booth   Sun Dec 8 11:20:54 2002
Superb salad greens & keeps a long time in refrigeration. Grows slowly in high PH soils.
elika   Tue Mar 4 2008
can we make a watercolor out of basella alba? what are the procedure and the chemical composition? tnx
Bamidele o.   Wed Jul 22 2009
is it not used to treat hemophilia?
   Jan 14 2012 12:00AM
Pulped leaves applied to boils and ulcers to hasten suppuration. Sugared juice of leaves useful for catarrhal afflictions. Leaf-juice, mixed with butter, is soothing and colling when applied to burns and scalds.
QR Code

What's this?

This is a QR code (short for Quick Response) which gives fast-track access to our website pages. QR Codes are barcodes that can be read by mobile phone (smartphone) cameras. This QR Code is unique to this page. All plant pages have their own unique code. For more information about QR Codes click here.

1. Copy and print the QR code to a plant label, poster, book, website, magazines, newspaper etc and even t-shirts.
2. Smartphone users scan the QR Code which automatically takes them to the webpage the QR Code came from.
3. Smartphone users quickly have information on a plant directly for the website on their phone.
Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Basella alba  

Plant Uses

Edible Uses
Medicinal Uses
Other Plant uses
Woodland Gardening
Why Perennial Plants?
Top Edible Plants
Top Medicinal Plants
Garden Design

Twiter      Facebook


Content Help
Support Us
Old Database Search
About Us

Stay informed about PFAFs progress,
challenges and hopes by signing up for
our free email ePost. You will receive
a range of benefits including:
* Important announcements and news
* Exclusive content not on the website
* Updates on new information &
functionality of the website & database

We will not sell or share your email address.
You can unsubscribe at anytime.