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Health Benefits of the Cat's Whiskers Plant

Health Benefits of the Cat's Whiskers Plant

Also known as Java tea or the Indian kidney plant, the cat's whiskers plant has been known for its therapeutic properties for centuries. This Buzzle article provides information on the health benefits of the cat's whiskers plant.
Smita Pandit
Did You Know?
The name 'cat's whiskers' is used for referring to two plants: Orthosiphon aristatus and Cleome gynandra (spider flower). As their botanical names suggest, each of these plants belongs to a different genus and family
The botanical name of the cat's whiskers plant is Orthosiphon aristatus  and it belongs to the Lamiaceae  family. It is also called Java tea, Orthosiphon stamineus  Benth, balbas pusa, misai kucing, etc. The genus name Orthosiphon  is derived from the Greek terms 'orthos', which means straight, and 'sifon', which means tube. It refers to the straight tube of the corolla, whereas 'aristatus' refers to the bristle-like appendage of the inflorescence. Native to several regions of Southeast Asia and tropical regions of Australia, this plant is called cat's whiskers, as its long stamens look like a cat's whiskers. However, there's more to this plant than its distinctive stamens. Dried or fresh leaves of this plant have been used for preparing a herbal tea, which is known for its diuretic properties. Animal studies have concluded that the cat's whiskers herb appears to be safe, with the doses tested being 5-10 times higher than the supplemented doses. Moreover, it has been used by the people of Southeast Asia for centuries.
Phytonutrients Present in the Cat's Whiskers Plant
Also known as Balbas pusa and Java tea, this plant has been extensively used as a diuretic in folk medicine for centuries. It is mostly used in the form of a tea or a herbal infusion. In order to make this herbal infusion, you need to chop fresh leaves of the cat's whiskers plant. Add a cup of chopped leaves to four cups of water. Let it boil for 10-15 minutes. Let it steep. Thereafter, use a strainer to separate the leaves. Drink in moderation; you can drink 1-2 cups of Java tea daily.
Laboratory studies have revealed that the cat's whiskers plant contains many phytonutrients that might be of pharmacological interest. For instance, it contains flavonoids. Flavonoids refer to a class of plant pigments that are associated with several therapeutic properties. These are believed to help neutralize the effects of free radicals. The numerous health benefits of this herb can be attributed to the presence of phytonutrients such as:

✦ Flavonoids (Eupatorin and Sinensetin)
✦ Tannins
✦ Saponins
✦ Phenols
✦ Terpenoids
✦ Orthosiphonin (a glycoside)

This plant contains triterpines, which are precursors to steroids. These include:

✦ Ursolic acid
✦ Oleanolic acid
✦ Caffeic acid
✦ Rosmarinic acid
✦ Betulinic acid

It also contains diterpenes such as:

✦ Orthosiphols
✦ Neoorthosiphols
✦ Staminols
Health Benefits of the Cat's Whiskers Plant
This herb has been used for treating the ailments or problems of kidney and bladder due to its diuretic action. It is believed to have antihypertensive and anti-inflammatory properties, which is why herbal practitioners have been using this herb for alleviating the symptoms of gout and rheumatism. It also exhibits considerable antimicrobial activity. No wonder, this herb is used in some detoxification drinks or products that are used for stimulating or increasing urine flow. It is available in the form of extracts, dried leaves, tea sachets, tablets, and capsules.
✦ Diuretic Action
The term 'diuretic' refers to a substance that increases the flow of urine. It is believed that sinensetin and the tetramethoxy-flavones present in this herb help increase the flow of urine by relaxing the muscles of walls of the internal vessels. The diuretic action of this herb can also be attributed to Methylripariochromene A. In a study conducted on hyperuricemic rats, the use of cat's whiskers herb was linked to reduced serum urate levels. The results indicated the diuretic and hypouricemic effect of this herb in rats.
✦ Detoxification
Many weight loss programs involve the use of herbal drinks that act as detoxifying agents. When one follows a detox diet, it triggers the loss of glycogen and water, which can lead to the loss of water weight. However, this cannot be equated to fat loss. Being a diuretic, cat's whiskers herb helps in increasing urine flow, which can help one lose water weight. However, more evidence is required, when it comes to proving the efficacy of Java tea for weight loss.
✦ Antihypertensive Effect
It is believed that the use of cat's whiskers herb could help lower blood pressure. This effect has been attributed to the presence of Methylripariochromene A (MRC) in the leaves of this plant. Studies suggest that MRC has a vasodilating action. It also reduces cardiac output and increases the flow of urine. These properties are believed to be beneficial in the treatment of high blood pressure. The high content of potassium in this plant is also beneficial in treating hypertension, as potassium helps in reducing the effects of sodium.
✦ Anti-inflammatory Effect
This herb is also believed to possess antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. In traditional medicine, it has been used for providing relief from swelling and pain. The leaves of this plant are used as a poultice in order to get relief from pain caused by dental caries (cavities). It may also be pounded and employed as a poultice to relieve swelling. Due to its antimicrobial properties, it helps alleviate the symptoms of inflammation in the urinary tract. Being a diuretic, it is believed to be beneficial in flushing kidney stones or gallstones.
Besides the aforementioned benefits, herbal practitioners from Southeast Asia have been known to use this herb for lowering blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Though there haven't been reports of adverse interactions, it is advisable to consult a healthcare practitioner before you start using this herb, especially if you are taking other drugs or supplements.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.