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Achyranthes (Achyranthes aspera)


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Rough chaff flower, birdweed, prickly chaff flower, devil's horsewhip, chaff burr, chaff flower [English]; herbe à Bengalis, herbe d'Eugène, herbe des jeunes, herbe sergent, herbe zinde, la zinde, queue de rat [French]; zorro, zorrillo blanco, rabo de gato, picha de gato, malpica [Spanish]; Langklits, Grootklits, Knapsekêrel, Haak-en-steek-bossie, Haak en steek klitsbossie [Afrikaans]; soho, Ntsohomaele, Ntsohoho Mayele [Comorian]; kuri pallade, demgal dimadyo [Fufulde]; Lingulukila, Ngulukila [Bena]; Kwantzi, Nunuhay [Gorowa]; Tsipotiky [Madagascar]; Lugeni [Hehe]; Bwasi [Luguru]; Olerubat [Maasai]; Lindiame [Matengo]; Ihata, Ikulula, Mbarahasha [Rangi]; Pulule [Swahili]; Bohomane [Sotho]; Lemanamana [Swazi]; Ngwena ja kulutambo [Tongwe]; Moxato [Tswana]; अपामार्ग apamarga [Sanskrit]; Bundlubundlu, IsiNama, USibambangubo, ULimilwengwe [Zulu] (USDA, 2021; Le François, 2021)

Related feed(s) 

Achyranthes aspera L. is an herbaceous plant from the tropics and subtropics, mainly used for food and ethnomedicine, and consumed by ruminants, horses, and rabbits (Ruffo et al., 2002; Malzy, 1954).

Morphological description

Achyranthes aspera is a perennial or annual shrubby herb than can grow from (30-) 60-80 (-200) cm in height. It can become somewhat woody with maturity. It is taprooted. The leaves are simple and opposite, very variable in size and colour. The limb is usually long-oval up to 15 cm, often softly hairy on one or both surfaces, and very variable. The inflorescence is a terminal or axillary spike, silvery green to pink-red in colour. It bears small (3-7 mm) flowers that point downward at maturity. The fruit is a small (1.6-2.5 mm), few-seeded capsule, that is mostly dispersed in animal furs and human clothing. The seeds are very small, sometimes used as famine food (Le François, 2021; Ruffo et al., 2002).


In Tanzania, the leaves are used and cooked like spinach in side dishes of staple food. They can be mixed with sesame seeds, pounded peanuts or sunflower seeds to make them more palatable. It is grazed by ruminants and horses, and it is fed to rabbits (Ruffo et al., 2002). It is an important source of forage for buffaloes in East Java (Djufri, 2017). It is referred to as a good fertility indicator in soils (Ruffo et al., 2002). In India, a leaf protein concentrate had been tested to enrich human diet in times of scarcity (Rathore, 2010). The seeds, roots and shoots of Achyranthes aspera are widely used in Africa and India for their ethnomedicinal properties and phytochemicals extracted from them are under study (Ruffo et al., 2002; Ghimire et al., 2015).


Achyranthes aspera is widespread through the tropics and subtropics of Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas. It is thought to have originated from the Old Word. It occurs in open dry places at elevations up to 2000-3000 m (Nepal or Tanzania). It is often found in secondary regrowth at forest edges, in thickets, open grassland, along forest trails, in sand dunes and in seasonal swamps and dried-up watercourses (Fern, 2019; Vibrans, 2009). It grows in sandy soils, especially in the shade of trees and bushes (Göhl, 1982). It is considered a weed in Mexico where it grows in disturbed areas (Vibrans, 2009). It has been reported to be invasive in some areas of Tanzania (Ruffo et al., 2002). In East Java, Achyranthes aspera is one of the predominant species of the understorey of Acacia nilotica (Djufri, 2017).

Environmental impact 

Soil fertility indicator

It has been reported to be an indicator of good fertility in soils (Ruffo et al., 2002).

Host for nematodes

A variety of Achyranthes aspera has been reported to host the pathogenic nematode Meloidogyne javanica in tomato, okra, gram or eggplants crops (Sharma et al., 1980).


Achyranthes aspera is a moderately noxious weed. In Madagascar, it is sometimes found locally abundant and harmful to long-cycle crops such as cotton and cassava. Because of its vegetative development, it may hinder harvesting (cotton, maize, groundnuts, cassava) (IDAO, 2021).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Despite the worldwide abundance of Aschyranthes aspera, data about its composition and nutritional value remain elusive. It looks like a quite valuable forage, with a protein content varying from 12 to about 30% DM though relatively fibrous (20-36% crude fibre).

Potential constraints 

Achyranthes aspera has been reported to contain alkaloids (Ruffo et al., 2002).


Young leaves and branches of Achyranthes aspera are readily browsed throughout the year. It has been recommended to have it grazed before flowering (Ruffo et al., 2002). Heavy grazing is suggested where the plant is invasive so as to control it (IDAO, 2021).


As of 2021, no information was available on the use of Achyranthes aspera in domestic rabbit feeding. The complete eradication of wild European rabbits from Round Island (Mauritius) permitted a rapid re-growth of this plant in this small island of 120 ha (Bullock et al., 2002), which indicates that Achyranthes aspera is palatable for rabbits and is readily browsed when available. Different studies were done with this plant used as medicinal plant (leaves and roots) in the Indian subcontinent. It was shown that this plant is hypoglycaemic and hypolipidemic (Akhtar et al., 1991; Krishnakumari et al., 2006). According to these observations, Achyranthes aspera could probably be used in rabbit feeding as a safe forage rich in proteins (about 20% in DM). The calculated nutritional value is about 7.5 MJ/kg DM (Lebas, 2016). If used for rabbit feeding, one should pay attention to the anti-fertility activity of Achyranthes aspera that was demonstrated in the rat (Vasudeva et al., 2006).


In India, Achyranthes aspera leaves and seeds have been assessed in several feed experiments as immunostimulatroy agents (Singh et al., 2020; Vasudeva Rao et al., 2005a; Vasudeva Rao et al., 2005b; Srivastava et al., 2012).

Indian major carp (Catla catla)

Indian major carp fed on 0.5% achyranthes seeds had enhanced immunity compared to those fed on control (Vasudeva Rao et al., 2005a).

Common carp (Cyprinus carpio)

Common carp challenged by Aeromonas hydrophila bacteria were supplement with 0.5% seeds of Achyranthes aspera and they were found to have better immunity status (Vasudeva Rao et al., 2005b).

Rohu (Labeo rohita)

Achyranthes aspera seeds offered at 1% dietary level to rohu fry (0.547 g) had stimulating effect on the immune system of these fish (Srivastava et al., 2012). It was shown that the same dietary level (1%) of seeds in bigger rohu fry (2 g) challenged by Aeromonas hydrophila, resulted in the highest growth rate, the best immune status and the lowest mortality compared to lower rates of seeds or leaves or to control diet in rohu (Singh et al., 2020).

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Crude protein % DM 20.5 7.7 11.7 29.6 6  
Crude fibre % DM 26.8   20.2 36.4 4  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 56.9         *
Acid detergent fibre % DM 31         *
Ether extract % DM 1.3   1.1 1.5 4  
Ash % DM 16.1 3 12.1 18.7 6  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.1         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 14.5   9.6 20.7 4  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 2.7   1.9 3.4 4  
Potassium g/kg DM 46.2   25.9 66.1 3  
Sodium g/kg DM 1.73   0.11 4.77 3  
Magnesium g/kg DM 5.1       1  
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Tannins (eq. tannic acid) g/kg DM 50   40 60 2  
In vitro digestibility and solubility Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
In vitro DM digestibility (pepsin) % 76   74 78 2  
Ruminants nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 69         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 65.9         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 11.3         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.8         *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 88         *
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 7.5         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 43.6         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Bartha, 1970; Dougall et al., 1964; Roothaert, 2000

Last updated on 06/07/2021 11:10:10

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Lebas F., 2021. Achyranthes (Achyranthes aspera). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://feedipedia.org/node/194 Last updated on July 6, 2021, 15:44