This prickly branching herb is rightly called Mexican Prickly Poppy. This herb has showy yellow flowers and yellow juice, which also brings us to its Sanskrit name, Svarnkshiri or gold juice. Originally from Mexico, the plant has been now naturalized all over the world. Back home in India, it grows as a weed in the wastelands or as a crop weed. Its thistle-like weeds have also earned the plant a different name- flowering thistle. The Argemone mexicana flowers occur at the branching ends. The flowers bloom all year round. The plant is poisonous.
Argemone mexicana: All That You Need to Know About
It is an ornamental plant and is used by farmers as a manure to enrich the soil after the harvesting season and slashing of the craps. The yellow juice and seed oil have medicinal and insecticidal properties but unfortunately, the plant’s negative impact outsmart all of them.
The plant poses a serious weed problem in agricultural lands. This unpalatable species can grow extensively in overgrazed areas. In agricultural lands, its allelopathic effect can impact the germination of seeds, growth and reproduction of important crops like fenugreek, sorghum, wheat, mustard, cucumber and tomato. The herb’s cinnamic and benzoic acid are responsible for its allelopathic effect. Besides, the plant is also responsible for the contamination of edible vegetable oil crops and resulting epidemic dropsy in India and South Africa. The last major outbreak in India happened in 1998 and was mixed deliberately in sunflower oil to increase the quantity. This resulted in major health issues and clinical diseases. No wonder that even now, you see big brands have ‘No Argemone Oil’ on the labels to indicate purity.
The crops contaminated with A. mexicana can cause skin irritation and toxicity when consumed.
Management of Argemone mexicana
This management of the plant varies and depends on various factors such as cost, terrain and the severity. It is possible to prevent the further growth of the plant by weeding them out when they are small. Early detection and response to the weed can help one manage to a great extent. One needs to be on its toes and keep following up to identify the weed and pluck them out. Hand weeding can also be done, but since the species cause irritation, it is often time consuming and painful. Herbicide can also be used under the expert guidance.
Medicinal Use of Argemone mexicana
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science use this plant to cleanse the body, as an antiseptic and to treat the wounds. It is also given to the patients with constipation, chronic fever and Virechana Panchakarma. In Mexico, the dried and fresh parts of the plants are used to relieve pain and cleanse the body after the delivery. The seeds of the plant are used as a laxative. The plant has also been studied for its clinical effect in worm infestation. It has also been referred to as the go-to first-aid anti-malaria medicine in the rural areas where the malaria treatment is often delayed.