Lagundi is found, often common, throughout the Philippines at low and medium altitudes, in waste places, thickets, etc. It also occurs in tropical East Africa, Madagascar, India to Japan, and southward through Malaya to western Polynesia.
This plant is an erect, branched shrub 2 to 5 meters in height. The leaves have usually five leaflets (rarely three), which are palmately arranged. The leaflets are lanceolate, 4 to 10 centimeters long, hairy beneath, and pointed at both ends, the middle leaflets being larger than the others and distinctly stalked. The flowers are numerous, blue, 6 to 7 millimeters long, and borne in terminal inflorescences (panicles) 10 to 20 centimeters long. The calyx is hairy, and 5-toothed. The corolla is densely hairy in the throat, and the middle lobe of the lower lip is the longest. The fruit is a succulent drupe, black when ripe, rounded, and about 4 millimeters in diameter.
Hubert describes the anatomy of the leaves and branches.
Nadkarni records that the leaves contain a colorless essential oil of odor of the drug, and a resin; the fruit contains an acid resin, an astringent organic acid, mallic acid, and coloring matter. Boorsma isolated traces of an alkaloid.
Our first record of the use of lagundi as medicine was made by Faher Clain, who affirmed that leaves and the seeds were used by Filipinos as a vulnerary. Father de Sta. Maria also contributes some information regarding the uses of the parts of the plant. He said that the leaves in decoction were useful externally in cleansing ulcers, and internally for flarulence, and as a lactagogue and emmenagogue. According to Guerrero a decoction of the bark, tops, and leaves is said to be astigastralgic. The leaves are used in aromatic baths; also as insectifuge. The seeds are boiled in water and eaten, or the water is drunk, to prevent the spreading of toxin from the bites of poisonous animals. A infusion is also used for disinfecting wounds. Wine in which the seeds have been soaked is said to be helpful for headache. The plant is also regarded as a febrifuge.
According to Nadkarni in Mysore, febrile, catarrhal, and rheumatic affections are treated by means of a vapor bath prepared with this plant.
Dymock says that the root is thought to be tonic, febrifuge, and expectorant, and the fruit to be nervine, cephalic, and emmenagogue. Nadkarni adds that a tincture of the root-bark is recommended in cases of irritable bladder and for rheumatism. The powdered root is prescribed for piles as a demulcent, and also for dysentery. The root is used in a great variety of diseases: dyspepsia, colic, rheumatism, worms, boils, and leprosy. Bocquillon-Limosin says that in Indo-China a decoction of the root is prescribed for intermittent fevers (30 grams of roots in 1 liter of water).
Nadkarni continues that the leaves are considered insecticide. They are placed between the leaves of the books and folds of skin and woolen clothes to preserve them from insects. Medicinally they are very efficacious in reducing inflammatory, rheumatic swellings of the joints and swellings of the testes due to suppressed gonorrhea or gonorrheal epidymitis and orchitis; they are also effective for sprained limbs, contusions, leech bites, etc.; the fresh leaves are put into an earthen pot, heated over a fire, and applied as hot as can be borne without pain; or the leaves are bruised and applied as a poultice to the affected part. A pillow stuffed with the leaves is placed under the head for relief of catarrh and headache. The bruised leaves are applied to the temples for headache. The dried leaves, when smoked, are also said to remove foetid discharges and worms from ulcers. The leaves are applied as a plaster to an enlarged spleen. A decoction of the leaves as a warm bath in the puerperal state of women who suffer much from after-pains. Da Orta says that the leaves, heated over fire, are applied with oil externally on wounds.
The flowers are used in diarrhea, cholera, fever, and diseases of the liver, and are also recommended as a cardiac tonic. The flowers and stalks, reduced to powder, are administered in cases of discharge of blood from the stomach and bowels.
The fruit is given fro headache, catarrh, and watery eyes, and when dried, is considered vermifuge.
The seeds make a cooling medicine fro skin diseases and leprosy, and for inflammation of the mouth.
An oil prepared with the juice is applied to the sinuses and to scrofulous sores. The oil may also be used as a bath for rubbing on the head in glandular (tubercular) swellings of the neck. The oil is found to effect marvelous cures of sloughing wounds and ulcers. Very noteworthy is the cure with this oil of an old and deep, gangrenous wound in the leaf arm of the patient. This patient was given up by allopathic doctors after three months of medical treatment, cure having been considered hopeless without amputation of the arm.