The Story of Sleepy Grass


All kids growing up in Hawaii and Guam know sleepy grass. And as adults still can’t resist the urge to get down on the ground, stick our finger out, and touch the leaves one by one staring in fascination as the leaves close.

Until recently I never really knew much about it. I was surprised to find out it has medicinal uses. The roots, leaves and flower heads of the “mimosa pudica” are used by those who practice Ayurveda, a system of traditional medicine in India. They use the pudica plant in their treatment of inflammations, burning sensations, biliousness, leprosy, dysentery and uterine complaints.


The Greeks used mimosa pudica to help treat leprosy, jaundice and diseases arising from blood impurities.

The seeds and parts of the mimosa pudica plant contain mimosine. Extracts from the plant have been said to act as a moderate diuretic, depress duodenal contractions, reduce menorrhagia and promote regeneration of nerves.

I’ve also read it is a natural Viagra.

Mimosa pudica is from Latin: pudica “shy, bashful or shrinking”; also called sensitive plant, sleepy plant and the touch-me-not), is a creeping annual or perennial herb native to South America and Central America, but is now a pantropical weed.

And like us, people around the world have their own names for this plant.

In Indonesia, they call it “Putri Malu” or “Shy Princess”.

In Puerto Rico they call it Morivivi.

Afrikaans call it Kruitjie roer my nie.

In Jamaica its called a shama meaning its ashamed so it closes up.

Colombia , they call it “dormidera” means (sleeper herb ) and grandmothers use it when kids have problems sleeping as an infusión or tea.

In Trinidad and Tobago they call it, ”T’Marie” and children actually play a game with it, singing, ‘Mary Mary shut your door, Police coming to hold you,’ while touching the leaves and enjoying seeing them close and re-open.

In hebrew they call this plant אלתיגעבי (al-tiga-bi), meaning “don’t touch me”.

Here is a video of larger version of the plant, most of us here in Hawaii see the smaller darker version.