Family • Gramineae - Heteropogon contortus (L.) P. Beau. ex Roem. & Schult. - TANGLEHEAD - Di jin

Scientific names

Andropogon allionii DC.
Andropogon besukiensis Steud.
Andropogon contortus Linn.
Andropogon hispidissimus Steud.
Heteropogon contortus (L.) P. Beau. ex Roem. & Schult.
Heteropogon fertilis B. S. Sun et Wang
Heteropogon roxburghii Am. ex Nees.
Sorghum contortum (L.) Kuntze

Common names

Sibat-sibatan (Tag.)
Tanglehead (Engl.)
Spear grass (Engl.)
Stick grass (Engl.)
Twisted beardgrass (Engl.)

Other vernacular names

AFRIKAANS: Assegaaigras.
CHINESE: Huang mao, Di jin, Ti chin, Tu chin.
FRENCH: herbe polisson, herbe barbue, herbe à moutons.
INDONESIA: Bejeng-bejeng, Merakan.
JAPANESE: Aka-hige-gaya.
MEXICO: Aceitilla, Barba negra, Cabeza enmarañada, Tola, Zacate aceitillo.
PORTUGUESE: Flechinha.
SPANISH: Hierba torcida.
SWAHILI: Kichoma mguu, Kichoma nguo, Kishona nguo, Kishona
TAMIL: Ucippul.
THAI: Lem, Ya laem, Yaa luuk nong, Ya nuat ruesi, ya rang takkataen.

Sibat-sibatan is a tufted or somewhat scattered grass, 1 meter high or less. Stems are compressed below, simple or somewhat branched, with solitary, terminal spikes. Leaves are flat, 10 to 20 centimeters long, 4 to 7 millimeters wide. Spikes are 10 centimeters long or less, being densely imbricated and hirsute; spikelets are about 8 millimeters long, the lower few pairs staminate or neuter, the upper ones perfect. Awn of the fourth glume is stout, twisted, geniculate and about 10 centimeters long.


– In open grasslands at low and medium altitudes, abundant in the Luzon Provinces of Ilocos Norte, La Union, Lepanto, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Viscaya, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Rizal and Zambales.
– Unquestionably introduced.
– Pantropic in distribution.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Tanglehead (Contortus) / Garden Guides

(2) Heteropogon contortus / Wikipedia

(3) Folk remedies used against respiratory diseases in Jalgaon district, Maharashtra / Garima Patil, Prashant Mali, and Vijay Bhadane / Natural Products Radiance, Vol 7(4), 2008, pp 354-358.

(4) Heteropogon contortus (L.) P.Beauv. ex Roem. & Schult. / Synonyms / The Plant List

(5) Digestion of polysaccharide constituents of tropical pasture herbage in the bovine rumen Part II. Spear grass (Heteropogon contortus) / R.F.H. Dekker, G.N. Richards / Carbohydrate Research, Volume 27, Issue 1, March 1973, Pages 1–4

(6) Monthly Variation in the Chemical Composition of Spear Grass (Heteropogon contortus) / L. C. Mishra / The Indian Forester, Vol 108, Issue 12, Dec 1982

(7) Evaluation of Heteropogon contortus (L.) Beauv. Methanolic extract for Mast cell, Cell Membrane and free radical stabilization / MAHAVIR H. GHANTE, KISHORE P. BHUSARI, NANDKISHORE J. DURAGKAR / IAJPR. 2012; 2(11): 1015-1026

(8) Bronchorelaxent And Anti-Inflammatory Effect Of Heteropogon contortus (L.) Beauv. Methanolic Extract / Mahavir H. Ghante*, Kishore P. Bhusari, Nandkishore J. Duragkar / International Journal of PharmTech Research, Vol.5, No.1, pp 99-104, Jan-Mar 2013

(9) Heteropogon contortus (L.) P.Beauv. ex Roem. & Schult. / Prota4U

(10) Ethno-medicinal wisdom of tribals of Aurangabad district (M.S.), India / Prashant Y Mali1 and Vijay V Bhadane / Indian Journal of Natural Products and Resources Vol. 2(1), March 2011, pp. 102-109

(11) CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names / Umberto Quattrocchi / Google Books

(12) E thuna-Heteropogon contortus / Herbal Plants Sri Lanka

– Spear grass yields polysaccharides constituents: hemicellulose and cellulose.
– Nutrient composition analysis showed highest nutritive value during lush growth. Calcium in leaves and stems averaged 0.84% well in excess of the 0.2 to 0.3% in an animal diet. Phosphorus, however, averaged 0.13%, slightly less than 0.16% required. Crude protein and fat were comparable to alfalfa.

Properties and info snippet
– Awned seeds damage hides, in extreme cases penetrating to perforate the intestines.
– In Australia, the species has been responsible for the elimination of the wool industry due to seeds embedding in the wool and skin of sheep, even causing deaths.

Parts used
– Inflorescence, roots, various plant parts.

– No recorded folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
– Elsewhere used for dysentery, asthma, fever, myalgia, rheumatism and toothache.
– Ash of grass applied with Pongamia pinnata on piles. Paste of plant use on bites of dogs, jackals, and scorpions. For snake bites, roots are chewed or pounded and taken with water.
– The Sutos use this plant with Tribulus terestris in the treatment of rheumatism of the hands.
– In Maharashtra, India, decoction of inflorescence give three time a day as bronchodilator.
– In Benin, inflorescence is an ingredient in a decoction drunk against irritability.
– In India, the Aurangabad tribe use a decoction of inflorescence as bronchodilator for asthma.
– In Ayurveda, used for eye diseases, vomiting fever, dysentery, bronchial diseases, wounds, ulcers.

– Forage: A good forage grass; palatable to most livestock. Sharp awns will not develop if consistently grazed. If allowed to develop, the awn seeds will damage hides and cause injury to the intestines by perforation. Another problem as forage is the wide fluctuation of growth between rainy and dry seasons.
– Ornamental: The interesting seed head makes it a good candidate for ornamental use.
– House Use: Used as thatch for huts; commonly woven into mats.

Study Findings
• Digestibility of Polysaccharide Constituents: In a study of the digestibility of polysaccharide constituents of spear grass in bovine rumen, hemicellulose and cellulose were digested slowly and incompletely. The resistance to complete digestion in the rumen appears to be due to physical protection by lignin.
• Mast Cell Stabilization / Anti-Inflammatory / Antioxidant: Study evaluated a methanolic extract of Heteropogon contortus for mast cell stabilization (in vitro anti-histaminic) and membrane stabilization (in-vitro anti-inflammatory effects. Results showed not only antioxidant activity but also membrane and mast cell stabiization.
• Bronchorelaxant / Anti-Inflammatory: Study evaluated a methanolic extract of Heteropogon contortus for bronchorelaxaton (in-vitro anti-histaminic) and in vivo anti-inflammatory effects. Study showed concentraton dependent bronchorelaxant action against acetylcholine and histamine induced bronchoconstriction in tracheal muscles of guinea pig. The extract also inhibited inflammation induced by carrageenan and egg albumin. Results suggest a potential for the treatment of asthma.