Mimosa pudica is a perennial herb or a creeping annual that's native to Central and South America. Also known as the sensitive plant, mimosa pudica leaves fold inward and the plant appears to shrink away when touched. In many parts of the world, this shy plant is considered to be an invasive weed. Mimosa pudica uses include medicinal applications among certain cultures and botanical applications in others.
The roots, leaves and flower heads of the mimosa pudica may be used by those who practice Ayurveda, a system of traditional medicine native to India. Ayurvedic treatments use the mimosa pudica plant in their treatment of inflammations, burning sensations, biliousness, leprosy, dysentery and uterine complaints. Another traditional medicine, the Unani system traces back to Greek origins and uses the mimosa pudica to help treat leprosy, jaundice and diseases arising from blood impurities.
The seeds and parts of the mimosa pudica plant contain mimosine. Extracts from the plant have been said to act as a moderate diuretic, depress duodenal contractions, reduce menorrhagia and promote regeneration of nerves.
Mimosa pudica grows quickly and is a naturally occurring foraging species in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Foraging plants like mimosa pudica are invasive enough to eliminate weeds in a pasture and to provide a food source for sheep and other grazing cattle. The exception is the species of mimosa pudica found in Hawaii which is toxic to animals.
Mimosa pudica is a source of nectar for honeybees in the Philippines and other areas of Southeast Asia. The root nodes of the plant improve nitrogen levels in soil and the fast growing aspect of the herb makes it a good choice for ground cover in wastelands.