Orthosiphon aristatus – Cat Whiskers.
Also known as Java Tea, Kidney Tea, Kumis Kucing, Kumis Kitjing and Kitty Whiskers.
This is a well known, tall, thin evergreen perennial herb, which is part of the mint family. It is fast growing and enjoys rich soil, tropical climates and a good supply of water.
It is native to some tropic regions of Australia and South East Asia as well as East India, China, Sumatra and Indonesia. It can grow to around 1.5m tall by 30 – 90cm wide depending on conditions. It likes well-draining soil with high organic content, regular watering and it will benefit from an application of fertiliser in spring and summer. An easy care, hardy plant, they have no serious known pests or diseases.
The flowers are large and eye catching and appear in late summer to autumn. They are fantastic for attracting bees, birds and butterflies to the garden. The plant gets it’s name from the long, elegant stamens that protrude from each flower that resemble cat whiskers. During cold winters it may be partially deciduous, with some leaves turning yellow and dropping before growing back in spring.
Cat Whiskers is marketed to the public as a drink called Java Tea and Kidney Tea and is highly popular in Asia, Europe and India. The tea is made by using the parts of the plant that are above the ground as the other parts of the plant can be toxic. The leaves should only be harvested when the plant is in bloom. It is used for treating mild kidney symptoms as it (along with drinking lots of fluids), can assist in flushing out the bladder. It is also believed to be anti-hypertensive, diuretic, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. It is believed to aid in treating urinary tract infections, gout, diabetes, rheumatism and jaundice.