Posted by: Glow-worm PJ25 SEP 2013
Fat hen, Chenopodium album, is a native, annual summer flowering plant, found on cultivated land and waste ground. It can be an invasive and troublesome weed, particularly among root vegetable crops, although in Britain it is often grown alongside sugar beet to act as a trap crop for the beet leafhopper insect.
It has been eaten as a vegetable since Neolithic times, and is still grown as a food crop in some parts of Asia and Africa. In Europe it fell from favour with the introduction of spinach and cabbages in the 16th century.
It contains high levels of vitamin C, and its seeds were ground into flour. It was used as a food crop for sheep and pigs, as well as poultry (hence its common name), but it can contain high levels of nitrates. The leaves contain the anthelmintic ascaridole, used to treat roundworm and hookworm infestation.
Recent research carried out in Wales by an animal feed manufacturer has shown that extracts of C album can help to prevent a disease condition in horses known as equine metabolic syndrome (EMS).
EMS starts with increased glucose levels and progresses to insulin resistance and obesity. The starch overload leads to laminitis, a painful condition affecting the laminae that stabilise the bones within the hooves of ungulates. It is one of the common causes of lameness in horses and can be an expensive and sometimes fatal condition.
The leaves of fat hen contain phytoecdysteroids, which have been found to prevent and reduce the deposition of fats, through a hypoglycaemic effect. Owing to the high nitrate levels in the plants themselves, it is envisaged that the preferred method of administration would be as a feed supplement, and at a fraction of the cost of current treatments.