Cincau, an Indonesian famous ingredient commonly used for beverages, turns out to have many health benefits. Other common names of cincau, include, grass jelly (English), khruea ma noi, chao kuai (Thailand), cao, juju, kepleng (Javanese), camcauh, tahulu (Sundanese), xian cao, hsian tsao (Taiwan).
Black cincau (black grass jelly)
Image from wikimedia
Cincau is made traditionally by first washing the leaves, finely crushed, and added with warm water. The water soluble is then separated from the leaves, left until it is cold, and turned into a jelly.
It might also simply by soaking the leaves into water, for about five minutes, and then squeeze them. The leaves will stick together like glues. The more sticky means better quality of Cincau leaves.
Moreover, the gel content in cincau, is affected by the altitude. The highest content of the gel is found in the leaves, which are planted at minimum of 2000 meters asl. (Widyaningsih TD, et al. 2012)
According to Kooiman P, 2006, the solubility of such a pure, and highly esterified pectin, from cincau plant cell walls, in cold water, seems to occur only in a restricted number of plant species.
Different varieties of cincau, whether they are derived from the leaves of Mesona palustris, Mesona chinensis, Mesona procumbens, or Cyclea barbata, all them possess the same health benefits.
Green cincau is made from the leaves of Cyclea barbata, in which is reported to be originated from Silent Valley, Kerala, India. Cyclea barbata is commonly used, as a medicinal plant by Javanese people, for stomach troubles, and as a prophylactic against fever. (Manilal KS, et al. 1985)
Five bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids, in which among them, tetrandrine, limacine, thalrugosine, homoaromoline, and cycleapeltine, were extracted from the roots of Cyclea barbata, had demonstrated cytotoxic, and antimalarial activities. (Lin LZ, et al. 1993)
Image from sito
Black cincau is made from the leaves of Mesona palustris, or other Mesona family plants. Black cincau has been reported to possess antioxidant, antibacterial, antimutagenic, hepatoprotective, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, immunomodulatory and cancer preventive properties. Black cincau is believed can be used to treat fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cough, mouth sores, high blood pressure, diabetes and liver disease.
Recent study was aimed to demonstrate the immunomodulatory property of a black cincau, in a form of instant tea powder, using Salmonella thypimurium induced mice. The beverage, in which was added with cinnamon and pandan leaves extracts, had the ability to increase interferon gamma (IFN-γ), and immunoglobulin G (IgG), in Salmonella thypimurium induced mice, at dose of 18,2 mg/20 g body weight, and 36,4 mg/20 g body weight. (Widyaningsih TD, et al. 2013)
Black cincau, which is tasteless in nature, is easily found to be sold, whether in a traditional market, or in a supermarket. Even though cincau beverages possess many health benefits, but another ingredients to make cincau beverages more tasty, might be questionable for health.
The use of sugar in a large amount, or artificial sweetener that is used by traditional cincau beverages seller, will make cincau no longer healthier. Even worse, if the seller made his own cincau, by adding the soluble water of the leaves with borax, to make it more gummy, and lasts longer to be sold.