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HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Bidens pilosa

Bidens pilosa

The hitch hikers or black-jack, beggarticks, farmer’s friends, Spanish needle, cobblers pegs (Bidens pilosa L.) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Asteraceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Asteridae,
Asterales Order,
Asteraceae family,
Subfamily Asteroideae,
Tribe Heliantheae,
Subtribe Coreopsidinae,
Genus Bidens,
Species B. pilosa.
The following names are synonyms:
– Bidens abadiae DC.;
– Bidens abadiae var. abadiae;
– Bidens abadiae var. pilosoides Sherff;
– Bidens abadiae var. typica Sherff, 1948;
– Bidens adhaerescens Vell.;
– Bidens africana Klatt;
– Bidens alba var. radiata (Sch.Bip.) Ballard ex Melchert, 1975;
– Bidens arenaria Gand.;
– Bidens arenicola Gand., 1875;
– Bidens aurantiaca Colenso;
– Bidens barrancae M.E.Jones;
– Bidens bimucronatus Turcz.;
– Bidens bullata var. glabrescens Fiori, 1904;
– Bidens bullata var. hirta (Jord.) Coste, 1903;
– Bidens calcicola Greenm.;
– Bidens californica DC.;
– Bidens caracasana DC.;
– Bidens cernua var. tenuis Turcz.;
– Bidens cernua var. tenuis Turcz. ex DC., 1836;
– Bidens chilensis var. chilensis;
– Bidens ciliata Hoffmanns.;
– Bidens ciliata Hoffmanns. ex Fisch. & C.A.Mey., 1840;
– Bidens coronata (L.) Fisch. ex Britton;
– Bidens decussata Pav. ex DC.;
– Bidens dichotoma Desf. ex DC., 1836;
– Bidens dondiaefolia Less.;
– Bidens fastigiata var. hispida Jord.;
– Bidens fastigiata var. hispida Jord. ex Cariot & St.Lag., 1854;
– Bidens hirsuta Nutt.;
– Bidens hirta Jord.;
– Bidens hispida Kunth;
– Bidens leucantha (L.) Willd.;
– Bidens leucantha Meyen & Walp., 1843;
– Bidens leucantha f. discoidea Sch.Bip.;
– Bidens leucantha var. leucantha;
– Bidens leucantha var. pilosa (L.) Griseb.;
– Bidens leucantha var. sundaica (Blume) Hassk., 1845;
– Bidens leucanthema f. discoidea Sch.Bip.;
– Bidens leucanthema var. pilosa (L.) Griseb.;
– Bidens leucanthema var. sundaica (Blume) Hassk., 1844;
– Bidens monophyllus Urb.;
– Bidens montaubani Phil.;
– Bidens multifida var. mutica DC., 1836;
– Bidens odorata Cav.;
– Bidens odorata var. calcicola (Greenm.) Ballard ex Melchert;
– Bidens odorata var. calcicola (Greenm.) R.E.Ballard;
– Bidens odorata var. calciola R.E.Ballard, 1986;
– Bidens orendainae M.E.Jones;
– Bidens paleacea Vis.;
– Bidens pilosa f. alausensis Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa f. bimucronata Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa f. calcicola (Sherff) Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa f. discoidea Sch.Bip.;
– Bidens pilosa f. dissecta Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa f. dondiaefolia (Less.) Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa f. dondiifolia Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa f. indivisa Kayama;
– Bidens pilosa f. indivisa Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa f. monophylla Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa f. odorata (Cav.) Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa f. pilosior Kuntze;
– Bidens pilosa f. pinnata Kuntze;
– Bidens pilosa f. simplex Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa f. subbiternata Kuntze;
– Bidens pilosa f. subsimplicifolia Kuntze;
– Bidens pilosa f. ternata Kuntze;
– Bidens pilosa f. triaristata Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa f. umbrosa Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa subsp. bimucronata (Turcz.) Schultz-Bip.;
– Bidens pilosa subsp. discoidea (Sch.Bip.) J.A.Schmidt;
– Bidens pilosa subsp. indivisa Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa subsp. subbiternata Kuntze;
– Bidens pilosa var. bimucronata (Turcz.) Sch.Bip.;
– Bidens pilosa var. bimucronatus (Turcz.) O.E.Schulz;
– Bidens pilosa var. brevifoliata Hieron.;
– Bidens pilosa var. calcicola (Greenm.) Scherff, 1925;
– Bidens pilosa var. calcicola (Greenm.) Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa var. discoidea J.A.Schmidt;
– Bidens pilosa var. discoidea Sch.Bip., 1846;
– Bidens pilosa var. dubia O.E.Schulz;
– Bidens pilosa var. humilis (Walp.) Walp. ex Reiche;
– Bidens pilosa var. humilis Walp., 1903;
– Bidens pilosa var. puberula Sch.Bip.;
– Bidens pilosa var. radiata (Sch.Bip.) Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa var. subbiternata Kuntze;
– Bidens pilosa var. typica Domin;
– Bidens pilosa var. typica Hochr., 1934;
– Bidens pinnata Noronha;
– Bidens reflexa Link;
– Bidens rosea var. calcicola Greenm.;
– Bidens striata Schott;
– Bidens striata Schott ex Sw.;
– Bidens striata Schott ex Sweet;
– Bidens taquetii H.Lév. & Vaniot;
– Bidens trifoliata Norona, 1790;
– Bidens tripartita Bojer;
– Bidens tripartita var. cannabina (Lam.) Beckh., 1893;
– Bidens tripartita var. discoidea Wimm., 1841;
– Bidens tripartita var. hirta (Jord.) Sherff, 1926;
– Bidens tripartita var. hispida Cariot & St.-Lag., 1889;
– Bidens tripartita var. indivisa Corb., 1893;
– Bidens tripartita var. integra Peterm., 1838;
– Bidens tripartita var. latifolia Rouy, 1903;
– Bidens tripartita var. minima Lej., 1824;
– Bidens tripartita var. orientalis (Velen.) Sherff, 1926;
– Bidens tripartita var. radiata Wimm., 1841;
– Bidens tripartita var. tenuis (Turcz. ex DC.) DC., 1836;
– Bidens viciosoi Pau;
– Bidens wallichii var. albiflora Max.;
– Bidens wallichii var. albiflora Max. ex Matsum., 1912;
– Ceratocephala pilosus Rich.;
– Ceratocephala pilosus Rich. ex Cass.;
– Ceratocephalus pilosus (L.) Rich.;
– Ceratocephalus pilosus (L.) Rich. ex Cass.;
– Coreopsis coronata L.;
– Coreopsis corymbifolia Buch.-Ham.;
– Coreopsis corymbifolia Buch.-Ham. ex DC.;
– Coreopsis ferulifolia var. odoratissima (Cav. ex Pers.) Pers., 1937;
– Coreopsis leucantha L.;
– Coreopsis multifida var. mutica DC.;
– Coreopsis odorata Lam.;
– Coreopsis odorata Poir., 1811;
– Cosmea pilosa (L.) Spreng.;
– Cosmos pinnatus Jacq.;
– Cosmos pinnatus Jacq. ex Steud.;
– Diodonta coronata (L.) Nutt.;
– Enneastemon Exell;
– Glossogyne chinensis Less.;
– Kerneria dubia Cass.;
– Kerneria leucantha Cass., 1822;
– Kerneria pilosa (L.) Lowe;
– Kerneria pilosa subsp. discoidea (Sch.Bip.) Lowe;
– Kerneria pilosa var. discoidea Lowe;
– Kerneria pilosa var. pilosa;
– Kerneria tetragona Moench..
Within this species, the following subspecies, varieties and forms are recognized:
– Bidens pilosa subsp. pilosa;
– Bidens pilosa subsp. radiata Sch.Bip., 1842-1850;
– Bidens alba var. alba;
– Bidens odorata var. odorata Cav.;
– Bidens pilosa var. alausensis (Kunth) Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa var. apiifolia (DC.) Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa var. dissecta Sherff, 1925;
– Bidens pilosa var. kraussii Sch.Bip., 1844;
– Bidens pilosa var. leucantha (L.) Harvey;
– Bidens pilosa var. leucantha (L.) Kuntze, 1891;
– Bidens pilosa var. minor (Blume) Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa var. mucronata (Turcz.) Sherff;
– Bidens pilosa var. pilosa;
– Bidens pilosa var. radiata Sch.Bip.;
– Bidens pilosa var. radiata Thuill.;
– Bidens rosea var. rosea;
– Bidens sundaica var. radiata Sch.Bip.;
– Bidens sundaica var. sundaica;
– Bidens pilosa f. minor Sherff, 1948;
– Bidens pilosa f. pilosa;
– Bidens pilosa f. radiata Sherff, 1948.

Etymology –
The term Bidens comes from the prefix bis- twice and from dens dente: due to the characteristic pair of hooked ridges at the apex of the cypselae present in many species of this genus.
The specific epithet pilosa comes from pílus pelo: with organs covered with down, hairy.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Bidens pilosa is a plant native to an area that includes Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil (Paranà, Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Guadalupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico (Aguascalientes, Baja Norte, Baja Sur, Chiapas, Coahuila, Colima, Federal District, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacan, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Zacatecas), Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Uruguay, U.S.A. (California) and Venezuela.
Its preferential habitat is that on generally poor soils, in open areas, at the margins of the forests, along the watercourses and in disturbed areas, from the sea level up to about 2000 m of altitude but, in some zones, up to 3,600 meters of altitude.

Description –
Bidens pilosa is a branching annual plant of gracile habit, growing up to 1.8 meters in height.
The leaves, on a 1-5 cm long petiole, are opposite, of very variable shape, simple, ovate to lanceolate with serrated margins, 3-10 cm long and 1-4 cm broad, or pinnate with 3- 7 ovate to lanceolate lobes, 2-8 cm long and 1-4 cm broad, of intense green colour. The petioles are slightly winged.
The flowers are small heads borne on relatively long peduncles.
The flower head is formed by a multitude of sessile flowers spirally inserted on a rounded base, the receptacle, of about 0,6 cm of diameter, surrounded by an involucre formed by a series of bracts, usually 7-10 in number, from linear to spatulate, 0,4 cm long, with ciliated margins, of green colour.
The flowers of the external ring, called ray flowers, usually 5-8 in number, have an ovate corolla with tridentate apex, 0,5-1,5 cm long, of white or yellowish colour; the ray flowers can sometimes be totally missing. The flowers of the ray are sterile, they have the function of attracting the attention of the pollinator like the petals of a single flower. The flowers inside the ring, called disc flowers, 20-60 in number, are bisexual, with tubular corolla, 0,3-0,5 cm long, of yellow colour.
The plant can flower at any time of year, but especially in summer and autumn in temperate regions.
The fruits are quadrangular cypselae up to 20 mm long, long exceeding the involucre, slender, linear, black or dark blue, rigid, with 2 or 3 rigid, yellowish stalks, each with 4 or 5 hook-shaped bristles which allow easy spread.

Cultivation –
Bidens pilosa is an annual plant that is harvested from the wild for local use as food and medicine. In parts of Africa, the plant may remain as a weed in cropland but is sometimes also cultivated.
It is a pantropical plant that prefers temperatures above 15°C and below 45°C, but is frost tolerant and has roots able to resist and regenerate even after temperatures down to -15°C.
This plant can grow well in areas where the average annual rainfall is between 500 and 3,500 mm.
Grow in any moderately fertile soil that retains moisture and full sun.
From a pedological point of view the plants tolerate a pH range between 4 and 9 and also highly saline soils and can tolerate severe droughts.
It is a plant that can become a weed capable of invading a vast type of habitat at altitudes from sea level up to 3,600 metres.
This plant has become an invasive species for many reasons throughout its range. It forms dense stands that may compete with, overgrow with, and displace native crops and vegetation, particularly the lower vegetation layers, over large areas. It also prevents the regeneration of these plants, given its allelopathic properties. Leaf and root extracts are known to significantly suppress germination and seedling growth of many species and are believed to remain active during decomposition. It also grows three times faster than similar plant species.
Its dense populations often prevent access to roads, paths and recreational areas; they are a nuisance to travelers and tourists and inflict damage on sidewalks and walls. The plant is also host and vector of harmful parasites Root knot nematodes (Meloidogyne sp.) and Tomato spotted wilt virus (Schlerotinia sclerotiorum).
It is a fast growing plant, flowering begins 6 weeks after emergence and continues until plant senescence 2 – 3 months later.
Plants are ready to harvest within 4 – 6 weeks of emergence.
The harvest is done by hand, by cutting or uprooting. If the plants are topped, a second harvest can follow after 2 weeks. Up to 6 crops are possible.
There may be 4 or 5 successive plantings within a year.
If grown for harvesting leaves as an antimalarial drug, defloration is required to retard senescence and maintain growth.
Yields of up to 30 tons per hectare can be achieved.
The plant is not resistant to fire but tends to quickly invade burnt areas by means of its seeds.
In fact, it reproduces by seed, in a draining substratum kept humid at the temperature of 20-24 °C, with germination times of 3-4 days and first flowering starting from 8 weeks.

Customs and Traditions –
Bidens pilosa is a plant known by various names, such as: beggar-ticks, black-jack, bur marigold, cobblers’-pegs, hairy beggar-ticks, hairy bidens, Spanish-needles (English); gui zhen cao, san yeh kuei jen tsao (Chinese); bident hérissé, bident poilu, herbe d’aiguille, herbe villebague, piquant noir (French); jaringan, caringan, hareuga (Indonesian); hairy hemp, hairy earwig (Italian); carrapicho-de-agulha, picão-preto (Portuguese); pilosus bident, mozote (Spanish); Zweizahn (German).
Although Bidens pilosa is primarily considered a weed, it is also a source of food and medicine in many parts of the world.
The leaves have a resinous taste and are eaten raw, stewed or dried for preservation. It is particularly important in East Africa, where it is known as michicha.
In Vietnam, during the war, some soldiers used the herb as a vegetable, which led to it being known as the “soldier’s vegetable”. It is susceptible to hand weeding if small enough.
In traditional Chinese medicine, this plant is considered a medicinal herb, called xian feng cao (Chinese: 咸豐草).
In traditional Bafumbira medicine, this herb is applied to a fresh wound and is known as inyabalasanya.
Bidens pilosa extracts are used in southern Africa for malaria.
It is a choleretic, antiulcerous, antifungal, antibacterial plant.
In Durango, the decoction of its leaves and stems is used to relieve kidney and bladder congestion, lower fever and stomach inflammation, and treat lung problems. In Veracruz, an infusion is made to increase platelets when one suffers from dengue. In Cuba, the infusion is used to clear the throat of tonsillitis, to kill the bacteria that cause gastritis. The juice of the stem and leaves mashed with honey is used to remove stomatitis and tonsillitis. The infusion is also used to reduce inflammation of the turbinates and adenoids in the nose.
The shoots and young leaves are eaten locally, raw or cooked, as a vegetable in times of famine.
Roots, leaves and seeds contain numerous bioactive compounds and are variously and widely used in traditional medicine for various pathologies, both in the countries of origin and in those where it is naturalized; laboratory studies have already highlighted the antimalarial properties of the leaf extracts and research is underway to evaluate its effectiveness in other fields of medicine.
Almost two hundred compounds have been isolated from this plant, in particular polyacetylenes and flavonoids. The plant contains the chalcone okanin and ethyl caffeate, a hydroxycinnamic acid.
The extracts of the plant have shown antimalarial activity both in vitro and in vivo. Crude ethanol extract (50 μg/ml) causes up to 90% inhibition of Plasmodium falciparum growth in vitro, compared to 86-94% inhibition for the chloroform fraction and 68-79% for the butanol fraction (both at 50 μg/ml).
Phenylacetylenes and flavonoids have been found in the ethanol extract of the leaves and roots.
The results indicate that the antimalarial activity of the plant can be attributed to the presence of acetylene compounds. The direct therapeutic utility of these compounds seems limited, as they are easily oxidized by air and light.
A number of polyacetylenes are toxic to yeast and some bacteria. This compound is an active pesticide and showed marked insecticidal activity with LC50 of 204 ng/cm2 for first stage larvae of Spodoptera frugiperda.
Polyacetylene 7-phenylepta-2,4,6-triine in combination with light is found to be phytotoxic to fibroblast cells.
In addition to the acetylenes, other compounds such as phytosterols, triterpenes and caffeic acid are also reported from the plant.
The main flavonoids in leaf extracts are aurones and chalcones. Since friedelin and friedelan-3β-ol, as well as various flavonoids have anti-inflammatory properties, their detection in plant extracts, together with the presence of the described acetylenes, may explain the use of Bidens pilosa in traditional medicine, above all to treat wounds, inflammation and bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal tract.
The ethanolic extract of the plant showed a high inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis in an in vitro test for cyclooxygenase inhibitors. The methanol extract showed radioprotective activity for bone marrow. In addition to the aforementioned pharmacological activity, antihyperglycaemic, immunomodulatory, antiulcerous and hypotensive activities are also reported.
Among other uses, it should be remembered that the plant is harvested for the extraction of natural dyes.
The root is washed and dried, then used as a paint brush.

Method of Preparation –
Bidens pilosa is a plant that is used for many edible and medicinal uses.
The leaves and young shoots are eaten raw or cooked; they have a resinous taste and are added to salads or steamed and added to soups and stews, they can also be dried for later use.
They are a good source of iodine.
The young shoot tips are used to make a tea.
In the medicinal field it is widely used in traditional medicine in the treatment of a wide range of ailments, often used to relieve pain.
The leaves are considered alterative, anti-inflammatory, carminative, constipating and vermifuge.
They are taken as an infusion or decoction, or as the juice of the leaves, to treat a variety of digestive problems, including stomach pains, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and intestinal worms; as well as cough, angina, headache, fever, diabetes, body aches, etc.
Eating the leaves as a vegetable in the daily diet has been observed to prevent goiter in the Philippines.
A juice obtained from the leaves is used to heal wounds and ulcers.
The sap of the leaves is used for the treatment of burns, sores, itchy skin etc. but also as eye drops for itchy and tired eyes.
An infusion is used to treat diabetes, thrush, esophagus and stomach pain.
The roots are used to treat constipation and malaria and are also chewed to relieve toothaches.
The crushed flower heads are used externally to extract pus from boils.
A tincture of the flowers and leaves is used as a mouthwash for toothache.
Substances isolated from the leaves are bactericidal and fungicidal, they are used in the treatment of thrush and candida.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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