Sauropus androgynus is a wild vegetable native to Southeast Asian countries. It was introduced into Taiwan and Mainland in earlier years. Its dark green leaves were reported to have various nutritive value and were commonly consumed in Malaysia. When the plant was marketed in Taiwan, it was regarded as a delicacy in restaurants. It was subsequently used for weight reduction purpose and was consumed in the form of vegetable juice (with or without blending with other juices such as apple juice, honey, milk, etc), salad or cooked vegetables. Recently in the Mainland, it was reported by the media that Sauropus androgynus, (marketed under the name of "天綠香") was available for sale in vegetable markets, supermarkets and shops, and that a fast-food restaurant chain was serving a kind of soup with Sauropus androgynus ("天綠香") as one of the ingredients.
However, Sauropus androgynus caused a food incident in Taiwan, which indicated that the consumption of large amount of this plant (especially in the uncooked state) resulted in insomnia, poor appetite, difficulties in breathing and occurrence of bronchiolitis obliterans (a severe form of lung disease). As a result, the plant was banned for human consumption. Recently in October 2005, the South China Agricultural University reported their results of an animal toxicity study on oral ingestion of wild vegetables and raised safety concerns on the use of Sauropus androgynus as food.
In Hong Kong, consumption of Sauropus androgynus, if any, is uncommon. Nevertheless, the public are advised to note the following food safety tips :
- Do not pick wild herbs for consumption;
Avoid prolonged and regular consumption of "天綠香" in large amount.
Avoid consuming the uncooked "天綠香" including the juice of this vegetable.