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Cocculus hirsutus (L.) Theob.

Protologue
Mason, Burmah ed. 4, 2: 657 (1883).
Family
Menispermaceae
Chromosome number
n = 13
Vernacular names
Broom creeper, inkberry, monkey rope (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Cocculus hirsutus occurs from East and southern Africa eastward to India, Myanmar, Thailand and southern China. In Africa it is distributed from Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia south throughout East and southern Africa (including Angola) to Kwazulu-Natal (South Africa) and Swaziland.
Uses
In Turkana (Kenya) a leaf infusion is taken to treat stomach-ache. In Tanzania a leaf decoction is drunk against female sterility and leaf sap is taken to treat nervous illnesses. Cocculus hirsutus is a popular medicine in Asia, especially Pakistan and India. The leaves are used to treat skin infections and itchy skin including eczema, rheumatism and gonorrhoea, the roots are taken as a tonic and alterative and as a diuretic and laxative. A root decoction is applied against fever, rheumatism and severe weight loss. In Rajasthan (India) the cooked leaves are eaten to treat night blindness and a jelly prepared by soaking leaves in cold water is taken to check spermatogenesis.
The stems are used in basketry in South Africa and the fruits to colour baskets blue. The leaves are occasionally eaten as a vegetable, e.g. in India.
Properties
From the above-ground parts of the plant the isoquinoline alkaloids hirsutine, cohirsine, cohirsinine, cohristine, cohirsitinine, haiderine, jamtinine, jamtine-N-oxide and shaheenine have been isolated, and also several bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids, including coclaurine, cocsuline-N-2-oxide, magnoflorine, trilobine and isotrilobine. The plant also contains the triterpenoids sitosterol and hirsudiol.
An aqueous extract of the leaves has shown diuretic and laxative properties in rats at doses more than 15 times lower than the acute toxic dose. Extracts from the fruit pulp can be used as a dye in a histological assay to test for pollen viability.
Cocculus shows one of the greatest diversities in alkaloid types in the family Menispermaceae. Some 135 alkaloids of 13 different classes have been isolated. Bisbenzyltetrahydroisoquinoline alkaloids represent the main type of alkaloids isolated from Cocculus, with erythrina alkaloids the second most common type.
Botany
Dioecious scandent shrub or liana up to 15 m long; branchlets densely yellowish short-hairy. Leaves arranged spirally, simple; stipules absent; petiole 0.5–3 cm long, densely short-hairy; blade ovate, ovate-oblong to obovate, 4–8(–11) cm × (2.5–)6–10 cm, on lower main branches 3–5-lobed, base cuneate, rounded or slightly cordate, apex obtuse to rounded, with small mucro, yellowish hairy, later glabrous, basal veins 5; leaves much reduced at the end of lateral branches and on flowering branches. Inflorescence a small axillary cyme, solitary or 2–3 together, few- to many-flowered, 1–2.5 cm long; peduncle up to 1.5 cm long. Flowers unisexual, small; pedicel 0.5–2 mm long; sepals 6, long-hairy, 3 outer ones broadly ovate or obovate, 1.5–2.5 mm × 1.5–2 mm, 3 inner ones oblong to lanceolate, 1.5–2 mm × 0.5–1 mm; petals 6, ovate-oblong, 0.5–1.5 mm × c. 0.5 mm, sparsely short-hairy, with auricles surrounding the stamens; male flower with 6–9 stamens c. 1 mm long; female flower with 6 staminodes c. 0.5 mm long, ovary superior, composed of 3 free, compressed-ovoid carpels, style short, cylindrical, stigma recurved. Fruit composed of up to 3 obovoid or rounded drupes, each drupe 4–8 mm × 4–5 mm, dark blue; stone ribbed on lateral faces, 1-seeded. Seed horse-shoe shaped, laterally flattened.
In Sudan flowering occurs in June–October, fruits ripen in November–April.
Cocculus comprises about 11 species, and occurs in Central and North America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Polynesia. In tropical Africa 3 species occur.
Ecology
Cocculus hirsutus occurs in bushland and semi-desert scrub vegetation, up to 1200 m altitude. It grows on sandy and gravelly soil, and can form a dense cover on top of other plants.
Management
Cocculus hirsutus is only collected from wild stands.
Genetic resources and breeding
Because Cocculus hirsutus is widely distributed and locally common, there is no risk of genetic erosion.
Prospects
Cocculus hirsutus will continue to play a role in traditional African and in Chinese and Indian systems of medicine; in Africa it will probably remain of minor importance. It is unlikely that it will become a source of chemicals for the Western pharmaceutical industry. Its use as a vegetable is unlikely to become important in Africa; moreover, research on possible health risks would then be needed.
Major references
• de Wet, H., 2005. An ethnobotanical and chemotaxonomic study of South African Menispermaceae. PhD thesis, Faculty of Science, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa. 450 pp.
• Ganapathy, S., Dash, G.K., Subburaju, T. & Suresh, P., 2002. Diuretic, laxative and toxicity studies of Cocculus hirsutus aerial parts. Fitoterapia 73: 28–31.
• Shaista Iqbal, 1993. Extended studies on the chemical constituents of Cocculus hirsutus. PhD thesis, H.E.J. Research Institute of Chemistry, University of Karachi, Pakistan. 87 pp. [Internet] http://eprints.hec.gov.pk/ 822/1/ 532.html.htm. Accessed November 2007.
• Troupin, G., 1956. Menispermaceae. In: Turrill, W.B. & Milne-Redhead, E. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 32 pp.
• Troupin, G., 1960. Menispermaceae. In: Exell, A.W. & Wild, H. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 1, part 1. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 150–171.
Other references
• Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
• Chhabra, S.C., Mahunnah, R.L.A. & Mshiu, E.N., 1990. Plants used in traditional medicine in eastern Tanzania. 3. Angiosperms (Euphorbiaceae to Menispermaceae). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 28: 255–283.
• Gupta, S., Lalshmi, J., Manjunath, M.N. & Prakash, J., 2005. Analysis of nutrient and antinutrient content of underutilized green leafy vegetables. Lebensmittel Wissenschaft und Technologie 38: 339–345.
• Jain, A., Katewa, S.S., Chaudhary, B.L. & Galav, P., 2004. Folk herbal medicines used in birth control and sexual diseases by tribals of southern Rajasthan, India. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 90(1): 171–177.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Parrotta, J.A., 2001. Healing plants of peninsular India. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, United Kingdom. 917 pp.
• Thulin, M., 1993. Menispermaceae. In: Thulin, M. (Editor). Flora of Somalia. Volume 1. Pteridophyta; Gymnospermae; Angiospermae (Annonaceae-Fabaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 25–28.
• Uddin Ahmad, V., Mohammad, F.V. & Rasheed, T., 1987. Hirsudiol, a triterpenoid alcohol from Cocculus hirsutus. Phytochemistry 26: 793–794.
• Uddin Ahmad, V., Atta-ur-Rahman, Rasheed, T., Habib-ur-Rahman & Khan, A.Q., 1987. Cohirsine, a novel isoquinolone alkaloid from Cocculus hirsutus. Tetrahedron 43(24): 5865–5872.
• van Wyk, B.E. & Gericke, N., 2000. People’s plants: a guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 351 pp.
Author(s)
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands


Editors
G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
A. Gurib-Fakim
Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius, Réduit, Mauritius
Associate editors
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
M.S.J. Simmonds
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, United Kingdom
R. Arroo
Leicester School of Pharmacy, Natural Products Research, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Photo editor
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Oyen, L.P.A., 2008. Cocculus hirsutus (L.) Theob. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
leafy twigs
obtained from
B. Wursten


leaves
obtained from
B. Wursten


fruits
obtained from
B. Wursten