Tempuh wiyang is scientifically known in Latin as Emilia sonchifolia. Another name for the species Emilia sonchifolia is Emilia javanica (Burm.f.) C.B.Rob. and Cacalia sonchifolia Hort ex L. Internationally this plant is popular under the name red tasselflower.
In Indonesia, this plant has many different names according to the local name of the region. In West Java, in Sundanese, this plant is known as jonghe or jombang, in Central Java this plant is known as kemondelan, dalgiu, centongan, tespog, cerubung bracelet, minyawon, ketiu or jawi swamp, in Madura it is known as sarap or sundilan, in Maluku it is known as mahali, in Ternate this plant is known as gafu saru, in Tidore it is known delo - delo while in Sulawesi it is known as linrapa or halmah.
It is still not certain where the millet plant comes from. However, this plant is believed to originate from East Asia or China more specifically Southeast Asian countries which include Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
In present days the red tasselflower has spread widely and can be found in the tropical regions of Africa, North, South, and Central America also Oceania as well as the Pacific and Indian Islands (Rojas‐Sandoval, 2022). The genus Emilia itself consists of about 100 species distributed mainly in the tropical regions of the Old World.
Shape Description and Habitat
Red tasselflower is an upright, climbing annual herbaceous plant with smooth, slightly hairy stems. This plant has slender branches and can grow up to 20 to 70 cm. The leaves grow alternately with an oval shape and measure 4 to 16 cm long and 1 to 8 cm wide.
The inflorescence is terminal and branched with a flat top and consists of 3 to 6 pedunculated flower heads and a whorl of bracts underneath. Each flower head is shaped like an urn and is a combination of many tubular florets. There are around 30 to 60 flower heads per flower head with the outer part being the female and the inner part having the stamens and pistil head. Varieties of flowers include purple, crimson, red, pink, orange, white, and purple.
The fruit is an oval-shaped, unbroken achene with a length of 2.4 to 3 mm. It is reddish brown or pale white with a pappus of white hair that is up to 8 mm long.
Red tasselflower can generally be easily found in open grasslands, waste areas, roadsides, forest edges, river banks and areas near rice farms.
This species is similar and can be confused with the species Cyanthillium cinereum. The difference lies in the flower leaves of the Emilia sonchifolia species which are much longer and vase-shaped.
Red Tasselflower as Weed
This species has been reported as a weed on a number of crops and has been shown to reduce crop yields and act as a reservoir for plant pathogens. It is currently listed as invasive in India, Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Galapagos, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Madeira, Réunion, Hawaii and many other islands in the Pacific Ocean (Rojas‐Sandoval, 2022).
As a weed, the red tasselflower plant generally grows in partially shaded areas under coffee, oil palm, and tea plantations.
Benefits of the Red Tassselflower for Health
The red tasselflower plant has been widely used in traditional medicine in various countries. The Kerala tribe in India usually uses this plant to treat inflammation, insect bites, conjunctivitis, rheumatism and wounds. A study conducted by B.S Shylesh & José Padikkala (1999) successfully found that fresh juice and methanol extract of E. sonchifolia leaves or red tasselflower can inhibit the formation of hydroxyl radicals and superoxide radicals in vitro. The inhibition by the methanol extract was comparable to that of curcumin, which is a well-known antioxidant.
Not only is used as a medicinal plant, the plant also consumed as an ingredient in traditional vegetable salads in Malaysia, Bangladesh, and India. However, its use as herbal medicine and food needs to be done carefully and may need to be limited. This refers to the pyrozidine alkaloid content found in the red tasselflower plant which is considered hepatotoxic (Dash et al., 2015).
Counterfeit Substitute Materials for Quit-Smoking Aid Products in Thailand
Due to its similarity to the species Cyanthillium cinereum which is popularly used as a herbal aid for smoking cessation in Thailand, the species Emilia sonchifolia (L.) DC. was also found to be an ingredient for counterfeiting of herbal smoking cessation products in the country (Kannika Thongkhao et al., 2020).