Agasta Vegetable Hummingbird
It is native to East Africa but has been introduced in several other tropical countries with similar climates. Description of the plant with emphasis on its beauty and usefulness in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, etc. A look at the ancient Indian Ayurvedic literature reveals that this plant was widely cultivated in the past for its medicinal and nutritional benefits.
Sesbania grandiflora is a beautiful flowering plant that grows up to 10 m tall. The pod is brownish-black, narrow, cylindrical with a blunt tip. Seeds are hard, kidney-shaped, and shiny. Flowers are lilac-pink arranged in dense head-shaped clusters at the ends of branches. Leaves are pinnately compound, alternate with short petioles.
The edible parts are young leaves, flowers, seeds, and pods. Young leaves are sour and are locally used as green vegetables combined with white butter beans (Lablab purpureus). Flowers can be made into an attractive pink jam. The seed extract is used to make medicine for children's epilepsy, nervous disorders and also in the treatment of snake bites. The seed powder is used to alleviate asthma. The flowers are useful for sunstroke and fever.
Numerous medicinal uses have been developed based on the traditional knowledge of local communities across India. These include usage as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antitussive, antihypertensive, diuretic, expectorant, antiepileptic, and sedative.
The seed extract is reported to have hypoglycaemic properties which can be effectively used in the management of diabetes mellitus. The antioxidant activity of Sesbania grandiflora has been evaluated against different model systems and it is higher in terms of scavenging activity and oxygen radical absorbance capacity than vitamin C and E.
Seeds and leaves are loaded with minerals like iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and copper which makes them an important source for general nutrition. Leaves also contain proteins that can be used as a substitute for animal proteins in the human diet.
Sesbania grandiflora seed extract has been reported to promote bone health by stimulating osteoblast cells. It can be used as a nutritional supplement for women who are at the risk of developing osteoporosis or even post-menopausal patients.
Pods are a rich source of protein (30-36%) and carbohydrate (44-49%). Carbohydrate portion is rich in dietary fiber. Leaves contain several minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, and manganese along with a good amount of vitamin C and E . Seeds are rich in proteins, carbohydrates, fat, and several minerals.
Pods can be fed to cattle while the seeds can be used as a fish poison. Leaves are good fodder for livestock while seeds are very poisonous to fish and hence used by local tribes as a fish poison. Seeds are also used in making oil cakes which can be mixed with cereals or fed directly to the cattle instead of expensive soy meal.