Alternanthera sessilis is a perennial herb that grows in mostly tropical locales and prefers locations with constant or frequent high-humidity levels, such as swamps, ponds and reservoirs. It can also survive in drier conditions, like gardens and roadsides. Though it is considered a weed, Alternanthera is actually used for a variety of purposes in countries like India and Nigeria.
Alternanthera is a harmless plant that can be safely ingested. The people of Southeast Asian and African countries consume the young shoots and leaves of the Alternanthera sessilis plant both raw and cooked as vegetables. In Guinea, Alternanthera is a staple often cooked with rice. It is used in soups in both Nigeria and Benin, as relish in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and sold in raw bunches for use in salads in Sri Lanka.
The plant is used throughout Asia and Africa to treat a variety of disorders, including gastrointestinal problems, such as flatulence, nausea and vomiting, headaches, bronchitis, asthma, vertigo and even hepatitis.
Different parts of the Alternanthera sessilis plant are used for different ailments. The roots of the plant are generally used for stomach problems, the leaves are made into teas to treat hypertension and itchy skin, and leaf sap is snorted up the nose as a treatment for nerve pain.
Alternanthera sessilis is also used to treat several external disorders. A paste made from the powder of the plant's twigs and leaves serves as a general topical treatment for skin abrasions, rashes and other skin disorders. In several countries, the ground powder from the Alternanthera plant is made into a paste that can be applied to snakebites. Alternanthera sessilis is also used to create plasters to cover wounded or diseased skin against infection.