Tolerating moist conditions and a variety of soil types, Chinese violet (Asystasia gangetica) is an almost vine-like weed ubiquitous to both wild spaces and gardens throughout Hawai’i. Brought to the Hawaiian Islands in 1925 as an ornamental, this African native is now considered a serious invader in Asia, the Caribbean, Australia and Oceania.
These highly nutritious greens have excellent amounts of magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, copper and protein when compared to other greens. And, some research has shown that they are 61-74% digestible, making those nutrients more bioavailable to the body. Although there are some accounts of the flowers being eaten, in the decade I’ve been eating them I always gravitate towards eating only the leaves. The flowers are wonderful used in bundle dyeing though!
In Africa, where the plant originates from, it is eaten as a leafy green vegetable and used by traditional healers to treat asthma, hemorrhoids, swelling, rheumatism, gonorrhea, ear diseases, vermifuge, and epilepsy. Modern pharmacological and clinical studies have shown the extracts of Chinese violet (Asystasia gangetica) to be anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-asthmatic, anti-hypertensive, anti-hyperlipidemic, anti-diabetic, analgesic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and with anti-venom properties.