Also known as the giant dodder, this plant belongs to the Cuscuta group, which supports a genus of about 100 to 170 species. They are parasitic plants and are often found in orange, yellow and red colours. Particularly the giant dodder or the Amar Bel has several medicinal properties. Belonging to the ‘Morning Glory’ family, the plant has intertwined stems and is therefore also referred to as ‘Devil’s Hair’. The plant is touch-sensitive and finds a host almost immediately after germination. In the absence of a host, the plant can wither and die.
The giant dodder is a greenish-yellow plant that is leafless with its stems tangled to the host. It draws nutrition from its countless branches and does not contain chlorophyll. For its entire life, the plant never attaches itself to the soil. The fruits and flowers are very small and contain only 3 to 4 seeds. It flowers between April and July in India.
Several uses of the plant have been identified in traditional medicine such as:
An androgen-driven condition, alopecia can be psychologically distressing. Classified as a predominantly dermatological disorder, alopecia can be readily relieved with Amar Bel. Since the ancient times of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, the extract of the plant has been considered effective in promoting hair growth. A study showed that the ethanolic and petroleum ether extracts of the plant facilitated the proliferation of hair follicles and successfully prevented hair loss.