Also known as jute—when its fibers are used for cloth—and Jew’s mallow—when its nutritious leaves are eaten as a vegetable—corchorus has been raised for food and medicine for countless centuries in its native Africa, as well as in India and parts of southern Asia. Cleopatra’s legendary beauty and allure could have come, in part, from using corchorus, as it overflows with nutrients that endow radiant health. This herb enjoys much favor in Japan, where its leaves have carved out a niche of their own on the shelves of health stores.
What does it do?
Being carminative in action, i.e., preventing or expelling gas in the stomach and intestines, the tender young corchorus leaves make a good addition to salads. The older leaves are treated as potherbs and cooked to be eaten with other vegetables. Like okra, these older leaves become mucilaginous when cooked, giving it an edge over many other vegetables when a sticky sauce or a gummy thickening agent for soups and stews is called for. Nutritionally, the leaves offer an appreciable amount of vitamin C, beta-carotene (pre-vitamin A), calcium and iron. The fiber helps keep the intestines running smoothly. Fiber also helps in the prevention of certain cancers. Eaten in Egypt since the era of the pharaohs, corchorus is the centerpiece of that country’s national dish. The coarser fiber obtained from the stems is used to make sackcloth and paper, while the olitoriside extracted from the plant provides the injections that come to the aid of heart patients.
About the herb
Standing 6 to 12 feet tall, this erect annual herb begins to show off its dainty, five-petaled yellow flowers during August. Copper colored seeds appear during October to produce the next generation of corchorus plants. Adaptable and quick growing, corchorus thrives in warm climates worldwide.
Some specialty stores carry frozen or dried corchorus. An infusion or tea is useful as a tonic and to restore strength. Used in cases of chronic cystitis, corchorus is also the herb of choice when dealing with milder ailments that require a mild laxative, a digestive aid or a natural cough suppressant.