The medicinal plant Tinospora cordifolia is a member of the Menispermaceae (moonseed) family. This page includes its habitat, botanical descption, medicinal uses (eg., Ayurveda), chemical constituents and history of use in modern and ancient India.
Synonyms:—Menispermum cordifolium, Roxb., Cocculus cordifolius, D.C.
Sanskrit:—Guduchi (bitter plant), Kundali (coiled), Chhina (cut) Vayastha (old), Amrita-Vallari (immortal Creeper), chhinnodhhana (growing after being cut), Chhinnaruha, Amrita (nectar), Jwara-nashini (febrifuge) Vatsadani (eating its own offspring), Chandrapasa (deriding the moon), Jivanti (living), Chakra-Lakshana (wheel-shaped.)
Vernacular:—Gurach, gurcha, giloe, gulancha, gul-bet, (extract) palo, sut-gilo, satte-gilo (root)-ghlancha-ki-jar, (Hind.); gulancha, gurach, giloe, nim-gilo, gadancha (Beng.); zakhmi haiyat, gilo, garum, garham, batindu, (Pb.) (Extract)-palo, sut-gilo (Sind); Gulwel, (CP.); Gulvel, guloe, gharol, giroli, ambarvel; (Bomb.); Gulaveli, gulavela, gulwail, guloe, gharol, (Mar.); Gado, gulvel, galo, (Guz.); gul-wail, gul-bel, gulo, (extract)-polo, sat-gilo, gulbel ka-sat, (Dec.); Shindil-kodi, (extract)-shindil-shakkarai (root)-shindil, kodi-ver, (Tam.); Tippa-lige guluchi, guduchi, guricha, manapala, tippatingai, (extract) Tippa-tige-sattu, (root)-tippa-tege veru (Tel.); Amrita-Calli, amruta-Calli, (Kan.); Amruta valli, citamerdu, amruta, chitramruta (Malay); Amritvel, amrit-wel (Goa).
Habitat:—Throughout tropical India, from Kumaon to Assam and from Behar and the Concan to the Carnatic. In the Dun and Shaharanpur forests, fairly common.
Botanical description:—A glabrous, succulent, climbing shrub, often reaching a great height and sending down long thread-like aerial roots, closely warted.
Bark: grey or creamy-white, deeply cleft in spiral longitudinal clefts, the space between the clefts usually dotted with large rosette-like corky lenticels.
Wood: white, soft, porous.
Pores: small to large, rather scanty, irregularly arranged between the few broad medullary rays (Gamble).
Leaves: 2-4 in., broadly cordate, glabrous, thin, acute or acuminate.
Petiole: l½-3 in., slender, thickened and curved at base.
Flowers: greenish-yellow, or yellow, large for the order, ¾ in. diam.
Males: in clusters of 1-6 on slender branches of a drooping panicle exceeding the leaves.
Females: in shorter racemes, solitary.
Male-flower: stamens, free, but wrapped in the petals.
Female flower: Stigma dilated, laciniate.
Drupe: of 1-3, ripe carpels size of pea, somewhat ovoid, apiculate, smooth, red, succulent.
Seed: generally curved round the intruded endocarp.
Medicinal uses:—The following pharmaceutical preparations can be made of the plant:—
1. Tincture of Gulwel:—Take 4 ounces of the stem, not very young and thin, nor very old and thick, but of medium age and size, together with the aerial roots (Kanjilal); cut into thin slices, and steep them in a pint of proof-spirit for seven days and press out of a Tincture-press. Dose 1-2 drachms.
2. Gold Infusion:—Take one ounce of the stem, as directed above, cut into thin slices, steep them in ten ounces of cold water for four hours, and strain. Dose 1-3 ounces,
3. Extract of Gulwel:—The well-grown stem is sliced finely and bruised in cold water, well steeped in it for four hours and then kept on a slow fire, until it thickens into a semi-solid or almost pliable mass. Dose 5-15 grains.
4. Gulwel “Satwa,” which means the separation of the solid parts, principally the Starch. Slices of a well-formed stem are finely pounded into a pulp with water and strained. The water so strained is allowed to remain in a pan, undisturbed. Much white powdery matter will, after a time, deposit at the bottom of the pan. The supernatant water is removed arid the deposit allowed to dry in the air or in the sun, but never heated on fire. Pandit Jay a Krishna Indraji says that, as soon as the deposit settles, the sooner it is dried the better, The quantity thus obtained is small, but clear white. If the mashed product, together with the water, be left over-night, the deposit, after settling down, turns blackish, although a larger quantity of the starch and other solids is obtained from the sediment. Dose 10-30 grains. The starchy matter is administered in ghee, or with molasses, or in sugar and water, or in milk. This information is collected from the works of Dr, Tribhuvandas Motichand Shah of Junagadh and Pandit Jaya Krishna Indraji of Porebnndar (1909-1910):
In a paper, entitled “A note on some Indian Drugs,” with exhibits of medicinal preparations; read before the section of Pharmacology of the 2nd Session of the International Medical Congress of Australasia, held at Melbourne (Victoria) in January 1889, Surgeon K. R. Kirtikar made the following observations on Tinospora cordifolia (Gulwel or garola).
“The preparation exhibited was a powder of the dried stem of the plant prepared by the late Mr. M. C. Pariera of Bandra, who was for a long time connected with the Government Medical Stores of Bombay, under the late Brigade-Surgeon W. Dymock, Surgeon Kirtikar said as follows The powder of the stem is used in making an infusion in the proportion of one ounce of the powder to ten fluid ounces of cold water. The medicinal value of the plant is due to a small quantity of Berberine. It is used as an alterative and tonic, and has enjoyed the reputation among ancient Hindu writers of being an aphrodisiac; but as a drug it being never prescribed alone as an aphrodisiac, its reputation as such is of a doubtful nature. The dose of the infusion is one to three ounces. There is a starch obtained from the roots and stems of the plant which goes under the name Gulweliche-satwa (the starch of Gulwel), which is similar to Arrow-root in appearance and effect. It answers not only as a remedial medicinal agent in chronic diarrhoea and some forms of obstinate chronic dysentery, but it is also a valuable nutrient, when there is intestinal irritability and inability to digest any kind of food. I have myself had experience of the usefulness of this starch. Dr. Dymock says ‘through not having been washed, the starch has been found to retain some of the bitterness of the plant.’ I have several times tasted the starch myself and have not found it bitter to any appreciable degree, probably from the fact that my specimens were different from those of Dr. Dymock (and perhaps fresh and better-washed); but I have no doubt that the starch has some medicinal property in it from the minute traces of berberine which the plant is supposed to contain, I think also that this drug is useful where there is an acid diarrhoea, due to an acidity of the intestinal canal or acid dyspepsia. It is useful in relieving the symptoms of rheumastism. There is another preparation of this plant—the succus (juice), fresh prepared from the fresh plant. It acts as a powerful diuretic. It is prescribed by ancient Hindu physicians in gonorrhoea with advantage. Considering that in the earlier stages of gonorrhoea we now try to reduce the acidity of urine by alkaline mixtures, it is probable this drug acts by reducing the acidity of urine in gonorrhoea. Dose of the succus 2-3 drams in water, milk or honey, thrice daily.” (See Congress Proceedings, Melbourne p. 947. 1889).
In the Bombay Druggists’ shops the starch of Gulwel is found not unoften adulterated.
“I was supplied not once, but several times, with the English-made powder of Zea Mays—our common Maka (corn-flour) for the Satwa of Gulwel. Sometimes I was given masses of the common Attah (wheat flour).” (See K. R. Kirtikar’s Presidential Address 5th All-India Ayurvedic Conference, Muttra, 1914, p. 14).
Speaking of its employment as an antiperiodic, Waring states, that he employed it in twenty cases of ordinary quotidian fever in Burma; and in each case it prevented the accession of the cold stage, but it did not appear to diminish the severity, or prevent the regular return of the hot stage, a peculiarity, he adds, not observed by him in the use of any other remedy of the same class. Gulancha is also regarded by the natives in certain parts of India as a specific for the bites of poisonous insects and venomous snakes.