Ethnopharmacognosy Series IV

Ethnopharmacognosy Series IV: Pharmaceutical and Nutraceutical Values of Spanish Needle–Plant-Base

A new economic potential for the flowering plant Spanish needle (Bidens pilosa L.) is described by Windward Community College Professor Ingelia White in her recently published book titled Ethnopharmacognosy Series IV: Pharmaceutical and Nutraceutical Values of Spanish Needle–Plant-Based Products and Recipes.

White’s BOT 205 (ethnobotanical pharmacognosy) and BOT 299 (independent study) students have identified the medicinal and nutritional values of the Spanish needle plant. Medicinal products such as tooth cleaning powder, gargle, chewing gum, pills, lozenges, fruit bites, lollipops, teas and soaps are introduced in the pharmaceutical products section of the booklet, while BOT 105 (ethnobotany) students prepare delicious Spanish needle dishes as well as recipes that are shared in the food pharmacy section.

White is also the coordinator of the Agripharmatech Program at Windward CC. The pharmaceutical and nutraceutical research was conducted by her agripharmatech-ethnopharmacognosy students at the natural sciences labs in Hale ʻImiloa and the Bioprocessing Medicinal Garden Complex at Windward CC from January 2011 to May 2013.

“The goals of the Agripharmatech Program is to provide knowledge and skills for students to transfer to higher degree institutions and to enter a workforce in plant biological science-related fields including medicinal botany, plant biotechnology, horticulture, biology, nutraceuticals—and to promote agribusiness/plant-based product entrepreneurships,” said White.

“Students learn why certain plants are valued medicinally in Hawaiian and other cultures and what basis there is for their use in such practices…Spanish needle has been traditionally used for ulcers, diabetes, skin disorders, colds and other ailments,” said Ardis Eschenberg, Windward CC vice chancellor for student affairs. “Investigating the potential basis for medicinal values of this plant, students found that Spanish needle inhibits three oral pathogens and reduces bacteria which causes peptic ulcers. As a result, students developed a chewing gum and tooth cleaning powder to control the pathogens orally. In this publication they provide the experimental protocol, associated data, medicinal products and healing food recipes for Spanish needle.”

The Ethnopharmacognosy Series IV booklet containing research protocols, laboratory exercises and recipes to be used in future botany classes, is also available to the public for $13 at the Windward CC Bookstore. Proceeds from booklet sales will be used for student internship and travel to attend and present research at national and international scientific conferences.

The series is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDANIFA) and sponsored by Windward Community College.

Spanish Needle recipe

(Photo by Peter Owen)

(Photo by Peter Owen)

Kabocha-Spanish Needle Soup with Banana Dumplings by Windward student Michael Denis

  • 2 kabocha squash
  • 2 cups Spanish needle leaves
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 onion. diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 green Bluefield or Chinese bananas
  • 1 apple, unpeeled and sliced
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • Salt, ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degree F.

One kabocha squash is used for the soup, cut in half, remove seeds, coat each halved squash with olive oil. Place them in shallow pan in half-inch of water and bake for 45 minutes.

Scoop cooked squash into a bowl.

Cook Spanish needle leaves in 3 cups of boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain, set aside the broth.

Saute onion, carrots and garlic in olive oil until tender and set aside.

Finely grate green bananas with food processor, add salt and pepper to taste. Form grated bananas into dumplings. Gently boil for 10 minutes, and set aside.

Combine prepared squash, sauteed onions, carrot and garlic mixture, apple and 1 cup Spanish needle broth into food processor and run it until creamy consistency.

Pour the mixture into a large pot, add the rest of the broth, coconut milk and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and simmer.

Add banana dumplings (be sure not to stir dumplings as they are fragile and could fall apart) and simmer for 45 minutes.

Hollow out the other uncooked kabocha for use as the container for the soup. Keep the top intact to use as lid.

Pour boiling water into cleaned kabocha, let sit for two minutes. Dump water out, and it is ready to use.

A Windward CC news release

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Very interesting. We are starting to cultivate Spanish Needle independently but we too, see the value of this plant and definitely agree it needs to be available publicly.

    I would like to be able to purchase this book.

    Are these class available online, since I live in Louisiana?

    1. Hi, Yolanda,

      Thank you for your interest. A good place to start for book availability would be the Windward CC bookstore. Their phone number is (808) 235-7418. For more information on the classes, the best person to contact would be the Professor Ingelia White. Her email is

      UH News Staff

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