BIDENS–Bidens Pilosa, Bidens Radiata, Bidens Minor, Bidens Bisetosa, Bidens Cynapiifolia, Bidens Frondosa, Bidens Parviflora, etc.
Also known as: Spanish needles, Devil’s needles, Pitchforks, Beggar’s ticks, Broomstick, Cobbler’s pegs, Farmer’s friends, Blackjack, Demon spike grass, etc.
Parts used: leaves, root, flowers, seeds
Systems/organs affected: immune, nervous, liver, digestive, cardiovascular, kidney, spleen, urinary, bladder
Properties: anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antioxidant, anti-hyperglycemic, antidiabetic, antimalarial, antibacterial, anti-ulcerative, immunomodulatory, vasodilatory, anti-carcinogenic, edible, anti-dysenteric, antimicrobial, astringent, blood tonic, carminative, diuretic, galactogogue, hepato-protective, hypotensive, mucus membrane tonic, neuroprotective, styptic, vulnerary, prostaglandin synthesis inhibitor
Bidens is a member of the Asteraceae (Compositae or Daisy) family. There are about 240 known species at this time throughout the world. There is some dispute over whether it is a perennial or annual so I would dare say there are probably both among the species. It is an erect plant that is either smooth or hairy depending on variety with green leaves that are opposite. The leaves can be serrated or lobed and either have white or yellow flowers (again depending on the species). It has long narrow black seeds that resemble needles only thicker and can get up to five feet tall. It likes full sun and dry soil but it has been found growing in all types of conditions. Typically it is found by roadsides, vacant lots, railways, back yards, meadows, the desert and shores of rivers and ponds. It propagates easily from seed (usually within 4 days it germinates) and each plant has between 3000-6000 seeds. In many places it is considered a noxious weed. There is also some speculation as to the origins of the plant. Some say it originated in South America and was brought here by the Spaniards. Others say it originated in Europe and was brought over by the pilgrims and yet other say it began here in North America and has spread across the globe from here. Wherever it came from it seems to have found a home on almost every continent.
Ancient Asian texts (Bencao Gangmu, 1596 AD-Chinese Materia Medica penned during the Ming dynasty) lists a few different types of bidens that were commonly used for snake bites, insect bites and chronic diarrhea. (Bidens pilosa and bidens tripartita). Bidens pilosa was an herb considered to push toxins from the body and ‘clear heat’ or ease inflammatory conditions. In volume 5 of Chinese Medicinal Herbs of Hong Kong (there are 10 volumes), bidens pilosa is listed as being useful for rheumatic conditions, appendicitis, malaria, hepatitis, hemorrhoids, gastroenteritis (stomach flu) and pruritis (severe itching of the skin). Bidens bipinnata is listed as a cooling herb that is said to invigorate the blood and remove wind dampness (rheumatic issues). It was also commonly used for sprains, nephritis, insect and scorpion stings, dysentery, hepatitis, stomach aches and more. Apparently it can be used in much the same way as bidens pilosa (which is the variety most used medicinally today). In a book entitiled ‘Anticancer Medicinal Herbs’ (Chang, Minyi, 1992), bidens bipinnata was listed as useful for gastric and esophageal cancers. The decoction was said to ‘cure’ cardiac spasms, dysentery, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), laryngalgia (neuralgia of the larynx), vomiting and diarrhea. It has been used to treat chronic inflammation of the large intestine as well (called cecitis). In ‘Chinese Materia Medica’ it is said to ‘cure’ a scorpion’s sting by external application alone. In a ‘Thousand Formulas and Thousand Herbs of Traditional Chinese Medicine’ (1993), bidens parviflora was used for infant fevers with convulsions, frostbite, carbuncles, trauma, skin rashes, snake bites, boils, etc. In ‘A New Compendium of Materia Medica’ (1995) it states that bidens is,
“Good for diminishing inflammation, to cure common cold, bronchitis, hepatitis, tonsillitis, pneumonia, appendicitis and child-fever, eliminating sputum and relieving cough and asthma, also for curing snake bite or for external applications.”
The Native Americans would use a tea made with the leaves to get rid of worms. They also chewed the leaves to help relieve sore throats. The Shakers used the plant as an expectorant, for uterine issues, to treat heart palpitations and to induce menstruation and sweating. Ayurvedic medicine used it for glandular sclerosis, eczema, headaches, ear infections, toothaches and leprosy. (Quite a wide range of application for a noxious weed! Ha!)
Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1929. Dr. Fleming found the even THEN there were a number of penicillin resistant bacteria. At that time about 14% of staph was resistant to it. As of 1995, 95% of staph was resistant to penicillin. Almost 90 years since penicillin was discovered-some staph bacterium are now resistant to ALL KNOWN pharmarceutical antibiotics! Why? Unlike herbs, pharmaceuticals are made using only a few compounds. Herbs generally have hundreds of compounds within them making it nearly impossible for bacteria and/or viruses to become resistant to them. Bidens is a natural antibiotic with over 100 compounds in it. It has been found to be more effective against bacteria than penicillin, methicillin. Tetracycline and a host of other pharmaceuticals. The entire plant from seed to root is considered medicinally active.
Michael Moore (herbalist) stated that,
”Bidens may be our best herb for benign prostate hypertrophy, usually decreasing the membrane irritability both in the urinary tract and the rectum, and often, over a few weeks of use, noticeably shrinking the prostate and giving its connective tissue better tone.”
Stephen Buhner (author of Herbal Antivirals and Herbal Antibiotics) said that,
“Because it is a mucus membrane tonic and is astringent, powerfully anti-inflammatory and strongly antibacterial, it is specific for a number of diseases caused by resistant pathogens: UTI’s, chronic diarrhea and dysentery, gastrointestinal ulcers (anywhere in the GI tract, from mouth to anus), inflamed mucus membranes in colds and flu and respiratory infections of any sort, sore throats from coughs or infection or even overuse of the throat, and vaginal infections.”
Bidens contains a host of compounds which include flavonoids, lipids, terpenes, benzenoids, phenylpropanoids and acetylenes. The polyacetylenes and flavonoids are the most active of these.
The polyacetylenes have been found to inhibit yeast, bacteria and insect larvae in lab experiments. They were also found to inhibit human fibroblast cells. (Interesting to note that it works extremely well when combined with sunlight or light therapy. The therapeutic effects seems to diminish in darkness so light is key). These polyacetylenes were also effective against the malaria parasite (Plasmodium falciparum) which explains why it is used extensively in the Amazon for just that. When combined with chrysanthemum and houttuynia, it effectively inhibited tuberculosis as well.
The flavonoids contain quercetin and luteolin, both of which protect the body from toxins. Flavonoids are usually used for cardiovascular issues of which bidens has been proven effective. A mixture of the bidens species (bipinnata and parviflora) was found to inhibit platelet aggregation, lower cholesterol and inhibit thrombosis. To date, bidens has been found to be effective against candida, bacillus cereus (a bacteria that causes vomiting and/or diarrhea), kiebsiella pneumonia, E. coli, human cytomegalovirus (a kind of herpes virus), bacillus subtilis (bacteria commonly found in soil and the gastrointestinal tract), Entamoeba histolytica (an anaerobic parasite that feeds on cells in the colon), mycobacterium tuberculosis, herpes simplex 1&2, Streptococcus faecalis (bacterium found in the gastrointestinal tract and in diseased teeth or bad root canals), plasmodium, leishmania amazonesis (Skin bacteria), Neisseria gonorrhea, salmonella, shigella flexneri (Bacteria that causes diarrhea), pseudomonas aeruginosa (the most common acquired hospital bacteria-from being IN the hospital), staphylococcus aureus, serratia marcescens (bacteria that can be found in the respiratory tract, urinary tract, soft tissues and surgical wounds), and staphylococcus epidermis.
Bidens is most potent in tincture form from fresh plants. It can be decocted or infused but that will be much less effective than the tincture form. Bidens does have some cautions. The internet medical sites say it shouldn’t be taken by diabetics as it lowers glucose levels, stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreas and can increase insulin sensitivity. Bidens is also known to absorb cadmium and arsenic from dumps and waste places so use caution when harvesting and never harvest these plants near those areas. Also it should not be taken by pregnant and/or nursing women. (It is amazing any woman survived through millennia of time using plants as medicine. How did we manage? Gasp, the horror…) As always, consult a qualified physician before ever beginning an herbal program or regimen.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links here for your benefit. Stay strong and healthy!