Ati-ati is a species of shrub plant abundantly available in Southeast Asia. Although the species has more than one colour variety, they have the same leaf form and colour. Different Ati-ati is named after the colour but the leaves produce the same aroma after being crushed. The leaf has a heart shape with ‘teeth’ edges.
The colour variety of the Ati-ati – green, red, black, yellow and even ‘batik’ like, make it a popular plant for landscapes and interior decoration. The stems and branches are green in colour, somehow four-angled, soft and easy to break. It reproduces easily as the branches would usually sag to the ground and cause them to produce roots to form new branches and shrubs.
The branch skins are soft and thin but hard and when the branches are broken, the skin will open. Although easily broken, for bud-grafting purpose or to be taken for alternative medicine it is advisable to use a sharp knife to cut the branches.
The red leaf Ati-ati species, known scientiically as Coleus atropupureus Benth from the Lamiaceae family, has small flowers in the form of elongated bunch at and along the end of branches. It is easily grown by just breaking the branches and inserted into pots or merely erected on the ground. The black leaf Ati-ati is said to be more effective for alternative medicine.
The whole plant contains alkaloids. The crushed leaves are used to treat all kinds of infammations, hemorrhoids, and to relive muscular pain. It is also used as an active medicine. The red leaves are crushed and the red sap is massaged onto the belly to stimualte menstruation. Some women swallow the sap of the leaves as a contraceptive. In the Malay traditional medicine sphere, the leaves are boiled in water and later consumed.