This small, prennial herbaceous creeper grows up to 50cm (2ft) with fan-shaped leaves. The flowers range from pink to red and can be found in small, round bunches near the soil surface. It can be propagated from seeds or rhizomes and the plant favours sandy soils found in marshes and riverbanks.
It has a bitter-sweet, acrid taste and leaves are consumedraw in Malay salads (ulam) added to soups and curries or cooked as a vegetable. Asian pennyworth has long held a reputation for being a powerful cleansing herb for digestive disorders and a revitalising herb that strengthens nervous function and memory. Legend has it that Professor Li Chung You brewed his own”long-life” tea from the leaves and reached the grand old age of 265, he was reputed to have married 24 times!
The herb’s wide range of healing properties have been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the world’s most important medicinal plants to be conversed and cultivated.