King of bitter is a common medicinal plant naturalised in many tropical countries. For centuries it has been used for cures in China, India and Java and is now considered a promising new treatment for HIV and other auto-immune disorders.
This upright herb can grow to a height of 65cm (2ft) with narrow, simple leaves appearing in opposite pairs. The flowers are small, white and tinged with violet and the fruits are 2cm( 1in) capsules with small, red or yellow-brown seeds. King of bitter can be easily grown from seeds and cuttings in rich, well-drained soil. It grows rapidly in the wild as undergrowth in forests.
A decoration of leaves can be consumed to treat diabetes and high blood pressure. In India, this is used as a bitter tonic for dysentery and diarrhoea. A leaf poultice can also be applied to relieve itchy skin, insect and snake bites.