Flueggea virosa: White berry bush

Family: Phyllanthaceae
Common name: White berry bush, Common bushweed

A very unassuming bush with simple leaves, flowers, and fruits, White berry bushes have many medicinal uses in Ayurveda and herbal medicine. They are shrubs or small trees having many erect branches arising from the roots. It grows to a height of 4-5 meters with reddish-brown stems and simple, alternate leaves.

White berry bush leaves are green, about 4-6 cms long with reticulate venation, and arranged very close to each other. Tender leaves towards the tips of the stem are light green, almost yellow in color. The plant is dioecious, producing only male or female flowers.

Male plants produce flowers in bunches of 20-40 along the axils, the angle between the leaves and the stem. The flowers are tiny, about 1.5mm in diameter with 5 distinct stamens. Female flowers are produced in bunches of 8-10 and are about the same size as male flowers, 1mm in diameter.

Pollination is done by bees, insects, and butterflies who are attracted to the tiny greenish-white flowers. After pollination, the plant produces a fleshy, rounded, white fruits that is 3-5 mm in diameter, having roughly 3 lobes. The fruits contain about 6 seeds that are 2-3 mm long, brown and shiny.

Flueggea family is comprised of about 15 plants mostly seen in warm tropical countries. Flueggea Virosa plants prefer good sunlight and well-drained soil. Other than that, they are pretty self-sufficient and capable of withstanding drought, pollution, and poor soil quality.

They can be seen on hillsides, riversides, rocky areas, thickets, and even by the side of the road. The small, white fruits are quite sweet and are eaten by humans and grazing animals.

They also have many medicinal uses, in the treatment of snake bites, malaria, rashes, rheumatism, gonorrhea, heart diseases, gastric ulcers, hypertension, stomach pain, liver diseases, arthritis, worms, wounds, fever, and epilepsy.

The root is said to be the most potent part, used as powder, decoction, broth, and tonic for healing various ailments. White berry bushes also have antibacterial, antimalarial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties, making them a very valuable plant in herbal medicine.

These versatile little plants also yield red and black dyes that are used for dyeing clothing. Juice from the leaves is used as insect repellents. Long stems are used to weave baskets, beds, fishing baskets, and even shelves. Wood is used to make small wooden implements and also used a fuel for burning.

Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings.