Indian Heliotrope

Heliotropium indicum


Location in our garden

Section A (Principal)


Herbaceous. An erect, annual to perennial, much branched, hirsute plant, 15-50 cm high. 

Part Used

  • The Whole Plant

Growing Requirements

  • Full Sunshine


  • Roadside
  • Grassland


Heliotropium indicum is native to Asia and invasive in parts of the United States. Its distribution just barely includes New England, collections having been made only in Massachusetts. This plant has a phenomenally wide invasive range, being found throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world as well as in many temperate areas. The plant is often harvested from the wild and used locally for its medicinal virtues.

Vernacular Names

Da wei yao (Chinese), Tournesol indien (French), Hatisundha (India), Sinletmaung-gyi (Myanmar), Trompang elepante (Philippines), Yah nguang-chang (Thai). 


The plant occurs in sunny localities, on waste land, in periodically desiccating pools and ditches and anthropogenic habitats, at elevations generally below 800 m. It is widely considered a weed of fields and pastures.


  • Roots - strong taproot.
  • Stem - deeply grooved and covered with large, coarse, white hairs, branched.
  • Leaves - opposite or alternate, ovate to oblong-ovate, somewhat hairy, acute or acuminate, base decurrent along the petiole, 3- 8 cm long.
  • Flowers - Inflorescence internodal, an unbranched and very rarely dichotomous helicoid cyme, the peduncle portion 2-3 cm long, pubescent, the fertile portion 9-16 cmlong. Flowers bisexual with five sepals, lanceolate, 2-3 mm long, corolla lilac to occasionally white. 
  • Fruits - angular with an apical beak, 2-3 mm long, glabrous with two lobes which spread apart and separate to give two nutlets at maturity.
  • Seed - small, black rounded.

Chemical Constituents

  • Alkaloids, Saponins, Phenolic compounds. Tannins, Glycosides, Flavonoids, Steroids, Phytosterols. Triterpenes.

Traditional Medicinal Uses

  • It has been widely used for centuries to treat warts, inflammations and tumours. Throughout tropical Africa it is used as an analgesic to ease rheumatic pain, as a diuretic and to treat numerous skin problems including yaws, urticaria, scabies, ulcers, eczema and impetigo. 
  • The leaves are haemostatic, stomachic. 
  • The flowers are emmenagogue in small doses and abortifacient in large. They are used to control menstrual blood loss, yaws, skin ulcers.
  • In the Philippines, decoction of dried roots is used as emmenagogue and in Mexico, decoction of roots or any plant part is used for asthma. 
  • In India, juice of leaves is used for treating sores and insect bites, and given to infants for cough. 
  • In Indonesia, leaf decoction is used for thrush; poultices used for herpes and rheumatism.
  • A decoction of the whole plant is used to treat thrush, diarrhoea, diabetes, venereal diseases and frequent excretion of urine. The whole plant is boiled and the beverage used as a remedy for heat rash. An infusion of the plant is used as an eye-lotion and to clean ulcers.


This plant is propagated by seeds (generative propagation), and can flower all year round.

Snapshot of Part Used

Reference Sources


  • CABI. (2020). Heliotropium indicum (Indian heliotrope) - Invasive Species Compendium. 24-09-2020.
  • Fern, Ken. (2014). Heliotropium indicum - Useful Tropical Plants. id=Heliotropium+indicum. 24-09-2020.
  • Native Plant Trust-Go Botany, (2020). Heliotropium indicum L.- Indian heliotrope.  24-09-2020.
  • StuartXchange. (2016). Trompang elepante - Heliotropium indicum Linn., INDIAN HELIOTROPE. References: