Prickly Chaff-flower is a species of plant in the family Amaranthaceae. It is distributed throughout the tropical world. It can be found in many places growing as an introduced species and a common weed. It is an invasive species in some areas, including many Pacific Islands environments.
Prickly Chaff-flower is an erect or prostrate, annual or perennial herb, often with a woody base, which grows as wasteland herb every where. Since time immemorial, it is in use as folk medicine. It holds a reputed position as medicinal herb in different systems of medicine in India. Stems 0.4-2 m, pilose or puberulent. Leaf blades elliptic, ovate, or broadly ovate to orbiculate, obovate-orbiculate, or broadly rhombate, 1-20 × 2-6 cm, adpressed-pubescent abaxially and adaxially. Inflorescences to 30 cm; bracts membranous; bracteoles long-aristate, spinose; wings attached at sides and base. Flowers: tepals 4 or 5, length 3-7 mm; pseudostaminodes with margins fimbriate at apex, often with dorsal scale. According to the Black Yajurveda, Indra, having killed Vritra and other demons was overcome by Namuchi and made peace with him, promising never to kill him with any solid or liquid, neither by day or by night. But Indra collected some foam, which is neither solid nor liquid, and killed Namuchi in the morning between night and daybreak. From the head of the demon sprung the herb Apamarga, with the assistance of which Indra was able to kill all demons. Hence this plant has the reputation of being a powerful talisman, and is now popularly supposed to act as a safeguard against scorpions and snakes by paralysing them.
Different parts of the plant are ingredients in many native prescriptions in combination with more active remedies. In Western India the juice is applied to relieve toothache. The ashes with honey are given to relieve cough; the root in dosed of one tola is given at bedtime for night blindness, and rubbed into a paste with water it is used as an anjan (eye salve) in opacities of the cornea. The seeds are often used as a famine food in India, especially in Rajputana, where the plant is called Bharotha (grass).