The medicinal plant Anamirta cocculus 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.
Index in Flora of British India (Hooker): 1. 96.
Synonyms:—Anamirta paniculata, Colebr. Menispermum cocculus, Linn.
Vernacular:—Kakamari (H. and B.); Kakaphala; Vatoli (Bomb.); Kakkay-Kolli-Virai (Tam.); Kaki-Champa; Kaka-Mari; Vittn (Tel.); Kakamari-bija (Kan.); Karanta-Kattin-Kaya; Polluk-Kaya (Mai.); Titta-wel (Sinhalese).
Habitat:—Eastern Bengal; Khasia hills; Assam; and from Concan and Orissa to Ceylon, up to 2,000 ft.
Botanical description:—A large woody twiner, bark thick, vertically furrowed or corrugated, young shoots glabrous.
Leaves: 3-6 in., broadly ovate, acute or obtuse, rounded or subcordate at base, sub-coriaceous, glabrous above, paler and with very small tufts of hair in the axils of the veins beneath.
Petioles: 2-1 in., thickened and prehensile at lower ends.
Flowers: pale, greenish-yellow, sweet-scented, ½ in. diam, with 2 or 3 small bracts at base, on short, thick, divaricate pedicels, arranged on the horizontal branches of large glabrous panicles, 8-12 in. long, springing from the old leaves, buds globular.
Sepals: equal ultimately reflexed.
Male flowers: Anthers forming a globose head on the short, stout column of coherent filaments;
Female flowers: Carpels usually 5, on short, globose gynophore, surrounded at base by a ring of ten very small bifid, fleshy staminodes, smooth, stigmas reflexed.
Ripe carpels: 1-3 (usually 3) on thickened branches of enlarged gynophore, nearly globose, ½ in., smooth, black.
Parts used:—The berries, and leaves.
Medicinal uses:—The bitter berries are sometimes used in the form of an ointment. This ointment is employed as an insecticide, to destroy pediculi, and in some obstinate forms of chronic skin diseases. (Bentley and Trimen).
The fresh leaves are used in Bengal as a snuff in the treatment of quotidian ague.
Chemistry (chemical constituents):—See notes on Picrotoxin.