An Eco-sustainable World
HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Curculigo latifolia

Curculigo latifolia

The tambaka or lamba, lemba babi (Curculigo latifolia Dryand. ex W.T.Aiton, 1811) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Hypoxidaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Kingdom Plantae,
Clade Tracheophytes,
Clade Angiosperms,
Clade Monocots,
Order Asparagales,
Hypoxidaceae family,
Genus Curculigo,
Species C. latifolia.
The terms are synonymous:
– Aurota latifolia (Dryand. ex W.T.Aiton) Raf.;
– Curculigo latifolia Dryand.;
– Curculigo villosa Wall. ex Kurz;
– Molineria latifolia (Dryand. ex W.T.Aiton) Herb.;
– Molineria latifolia (Dryand. ex W.T.Aiton) Herb. ex Kurz;
– Molineria latifolia (Dryand. ex W.T.Aiton) M.R.Almeida, 2009;
– Molineria latifolia var. latifolia.
The following varieties are recognized within this species:
– Curculigo latifolia var. latifolia;
– Curculigo latifolia var. megacarpa (Ridl.) Geerinck.

Etymology –
The term Curculigo derives from the Latin curculio which means “awl”, in reference to its fruit.
The specific epithet latifolia comes from the Latin “latus, a, um”, i.e. broad and “folium, ii”, i.e. leaf, in reference to the shape of the leaves.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Curculigo latifolia is a plant native to an area that includes: Bangladesh, Borneo, Cambodia, China (Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Henan, Hong Kong, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Kin-Men, Macao, Ma- tsu-Pai-chúan, Shanghai and Zhejiang), Philippines, Java, Andaman Islands, Nicobar Islands, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sulawesi, Sumatra, Thailand and Vietnam.
Its natural habitat is mixed lowland and hill dipterocarp forests, humid forests near watercourses, lower montane forests and heathlands, as well as in secondary forests and areas of disturbed vegetation where it is common around villages. Its altimetric distribution is from sea level up to approximately 1000 m altitude.

Description –
Curculigo latifolia is a perennial, acaule, evergreen herbaceous plant, equipped with an erect rhizome and creeping stolons.
The leaves are located on a petiole up to 0.5 m long; they are basal, simple, plicate, lanceolate to oblong lanceolate with pointed apex, entire margin and parallel veins, 15-60 cm long and 5-12 cm wide.
The inflorescences are racemose, grow in an axillary position, at ground level, on a short erect scape, compact, ovoid to cylindrical, 2-6 cm in length and diameter.
The flowers are sessile or subsessile of intense yellow color which arise in the axils of almost triangular green bracts with pointed apex, the lower ones are hermaphroditic, the upper ones male, with 6 oblong tepals with pointed and retroflexed apex, about 1 cm long. The flowers last only one day and are pollinated by ants and bees.
The fruits are white ovoid berries, 2-4 cm long and 1-2 cm in diameter, with a “beak” (extension at the apex) 0.6 cm long, edible. Their consumption changes the perception of sweetness for about an hour afterward: even tap water then seems sugary.
Inside the fruits there are tiny blackish seeds.

Cultivation –
Curculigo latifolia is a perennial, evergreen plant, which is also collected in the wild for local use as food, medicine and a source of materials. It is sometimes grown as a fiber plant and is also widely grown as an ornamental plant in warm temperate to tropical areas.
The plant is grown in humid tropical or subtropical areas and in essentially frost-free warm temperate areas.
It is sometimes grown in parks and gardens for its ornamental foliage.
It requires partially shaded to shaded exposure and fertile, well-drained soils, rich in organic substance with ample availability of water.
The plant reproduces by seed, which if fresh germinates easily in draining organic soil kept constantly humid at a temperature of 24-26 °C, by division and by root suckers.

Customs and Traditions –
Curculigo latifolia is a plant known by some common names; among these are: palm grass, weevil lily (English); doyo, kehoang, ketari, lekuan, lumpa, luva, marasi, merap (Indonesia); tambaka, lamba, lemba, lumbah, pinang puyuh (Malaysia); chaa laan, ma phraao, phraa nok (Thailand); cồ nốc lá rộng, sâm cau lá rộng (Vietnam).
The fruit, with a sweet flavour, also has the property of modifying, for about an hour after consumption, the perception of the flavor of water and of sour foods and drinks which are perceived as sweet, both in an acidic and alkaline environment, not it is therefore a sweetener, but a taste modifier, which is also low-calorie.
The property linked to the modification of flavor is due to neoculin, a protein, isolated in 1990, which has an average sweetening power approximately 500 times greater than that of sucrose and up to over 2000 times, depending on the acidity of the substance in contact with the tongue. This protein has the disadvantage of being thermolabile, the effect disappears at temperatures above 50 °C, therefore it is not suitable for hot foods and drinks.
The leaves are used by local populations to wrap food and, in particular in Borneo, to obtain fibres, which are tenacious, elastic and highly resistant to fungal attacks, therefore suitable for hot-humid environments, with which ropes, fishing nets and fabrics to replace cotton.
All parts of the plant are variously used in traditional medicine for various pathologies; laboratory studies have highlighted the presence of bioactive compounds with promising antioxidant and antimicrobial properties of possible use in the official pharmacopoeia.
The fruit is used as an alternative sweetener while the root is used as an alternative treatment for diuretic and urinary problems. The antidiabetic and hypolipidemic activities of the aqueous extract of the fruit of C. latifolia: root in a high-fat diet (HFD) and 40 µmg of streptozotocin (STZ) induced in diabetic rats were studied through the expression of genes involved in the glucose and lipid metabolism. Diabetic rats were treated with fruit extract: C. latifolia root for 4 weeks. Plasma glucose, insulin, adiponectin, lipid profiles, alanine aminotransferase (ALT), gamma glutamyltransferase (GGT), urea and creatinine levels were measured before and after treatments. Regulations of selected genes involved in glucose and lipid metabolism were determined. The results showed a significant increase in body weight, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), insulin and adiponectin levels and a decrease in glucose, total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides (TG), low-density lipoprotein (LDL ), urea, creatinine, ALT and GGT levels in diabetic rats after 4 weeks of treatment. Furthermore, C. latifolia fruit/root extract significantly increased the expression of IRS-1, IGF-1, GLUT4, PPAR?, PPAR?, AdipoR1, AdipoR2, leptin, LPL, and lipase genes in adipose tissues and muscles in diabetic rats. These results suggest that C. latifolia fruit/root extract exerts antidiabetic and hypolipidemic effects through alteration of regulatory genes in glucose and lipid metabolism in diabetic rats.

Preparation Method –
Curculigo latifolia is a plant used both for food, medicinal and other purposes.
In the food sector, the fleshy fruits which are edible are used.
They are eaten as an appetizer.
In the medicinal field, all parts of the plant come into folk medicine.
The roots are boiled and the decoction is taken to give energy or to treat stomach ache and bloody diarrhea.
Among other uses, the leaves provide fairly tough fibers that are, unlike cotton, very resistant to hot humid weather. This durability is obviously due to the high resistance to fungi.
The fibers are used to make clothing and fishing nets.
The leaves are soaked in water and beaten, which loosens the fiber, which is then prepared and woven into a very dense cloth, called “Lamba”.
The rolled leaves can be used as twine.
The leaves are used to wrap fruits, etc.

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 d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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

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