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Cocculus pendulus (J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.) Diels

Engl., Pflanzenr. IV, 94: 237 (1910).
Chromosome number
n = 13
Cocculus leaeba (Delile) DC. (1817).
Origin and geographic distribution
Cocculus pendulus occurs in northern Africa, the Middle East and eastward to India. In tropical Africa it is distributed throughout the Sahara desert and its semi-desert edges, from Cape Verde east to Somalia and north-eastern Kenya.
People in the Sahel, as well as in Pakistan and Afghanistan, use various parts of the plant, especially the root, to cure fevers including intermittent fever. In Nigeria the leaves and root are used for this purpose, in Senegal the Toucouleur and Peul people use the stem bark and root bark. In West Africa a decoction of the roots, together with those of Tinospora bakis (A.Rich.) Miers, is used to prepare a stimulating tonic. In Senegal the Toucouleur and Peul people use stem bark and root bark decoctions against intestinal parasites and gonorrhoea. The root has a great reputation in Senegal against biliousness and menstrual problems and as a diuretic. It is also part of medicines against jaundice, yellow fever, leprosy, syphilis, and of an aphrodisiac. An infusion of the plant is used to assist in removing thorns from the feet. In Kenya a wood infusion is taken as an emetic.
In the drier parts of West Africa the plant is browsed by all livestock, especially camels and goats, but where more browse is available, few animals eat it. The flowers are added to food. The fruits are edible and Arabs make an intoxicating drink from the fruits.
The stems and leaves contain a great variety of bisbenzylisoquinoline dioxine alkaloids, including cocsuline, cocsoline, cocsulinin, siddiquine, penduline, tetradine, isotrilobine, siddiquamine, kohatine, telobine, pateline, kurramine, isotrilobine and tricordatine, and many derivatives of these. Little investigation has been made of the chemical components of the root.
Cocsulinin is the main alkaloid with anticancer properties of Cocculus pendulus. Kurramine derivatives have shown anticholesterinase activity in vitro. The alkaloids cocsoline, penduline, tetradine and isotrilobine have shown high antiplasmodial activity in vitro. In a comparison of 20 plant species from India, however, Cocculus pendulus was not selected as one of the promising species with antimalarial properties for further research. Newcastle disease, a fowl pest, provides a test-model for antiviral activity, and positive anti-Newcastle virus action has been noted in Cocculus pendulus.
High alkaloid-producing cell lines have been established, which produce actineoplastic agents.
Dioecious, much-branched liana or scandent shrub; stem up to 15 cm in diameter at base, striped, dark grey, branchlets long, slender, terete, hairy. Leaves arranged spirally, simple; stipules absent; petiole 2–10 mm long; blade oblong-lanceolate, in lower leaves sometimes ovate, 1.5–5 cm × 0.5–2 cm, base cuneate, rounded or sometimes spear-shaped, apex obtuse, with mucro, sometimes notched, leathery, glabrous, basal veins 3, conspicuous. Inflorescence a small axillary cyme, solitary or clustered; male inflorescence few- to many-flowered, up to 2 cm long; female inflorescence 1–2-flowered, up to 1.5 cm long. Flowers unisexual, small; sepals 6, ovate-elliptical, fleshy to membranous, 3 outer ones 1–1.5 mm long, slightly hairy, 3 inner ones larger, finely hairy to glabrous; petals 6, ovate-obovate, 0.5–2 mm × 0.5–1 mm, apex notched; male flowers sessile or with short pedicel, stamens 6–9, up to 1.5 mm long, free; female flowers with pedicel up to 1 cm long, staminodes 6, c. 1 mm long, ovary superior, consisting of 3(–6) free, ovoid, laterally compressed carpels c. 1 mm long, stigma c. 0.5 mm long. Fruit composed of 1–3 obovoid, flattened drupes, each drupe 4–7 mm × 4–5 mm, dark red, stone ribbed on lateral faces, 1-seeded. Seed horse-shoe shaped, laterally flattened.
Other botanical information
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.
Cocculus orbiculatus (L.) DC. is an Asian species that also occurs on Réunion and Mauritius. In Asia the stem is used as a diuretic against oedema, and the root is used to treat fever and epilepsy. In China the stem and leaves are prescribed against flatulence, stomach-ache and oedema. In Réunion the branches are used as rope in construction.
Growth and development
In Sudan flowering occurs in June–September, fruits ripen in November–April.
Cocculus pendulus grows in semi-desert scrub vegetation or deciduous bushland, sometimes in shady localities along streams, climbing on e.g. Acacia and Balanites spp., up to 1900 m altitude. It grows on sandy and gravelly soils, and sometimes colonizes dry fallow land.
Propagation and planting
Protocols for in-vitro multiplication have been developed in India.
Genetic resources
Cocculus pendulus grows in a variety of habitats and has a very wide distribution, and therefore it does not seem to be in danger of genetic erosion.
As folk medicine Cocculus pendulus has many uses. It is rich in bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids, many of which have shown pharmacological potential. There is a need for further scientific evaluation of these uses and compounds. Because of their wide utilization, the composition of the roots deserves special research attention.
Major references
• Atta-ur-Rahman, Tul Wahab, A., Nawaz, S.A. & Choudhary, I.M., 2004. New cholinesterase inhibiting bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids from Cocculus pendulus. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 52(7): 802–806.
• Jahan, K., 1988. Isolation and structural studies on Cocculus pendulus. PhD thesis, H.E.J. Institute of Chemistry, University of Karachi, Pakistan. 145 pp. [Internet] Thesis/977.pdf. Accessed November 2007.
• Ozenda, P., 1977. Flore du Sahara. Deuxième édition. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, France. 622 pp.
• Setyowati, F.M., 2003. Cocculus DC. In: Lemmens, R.H.M.J. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(3). Medicinal and poisonous plants 3. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 125–127.
• 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.
• Verma, V. & Lall, S.B., 2000. Effect of leaf and stem extract of Cocculus pendulus on epididymal sperm of swiss albino mice. Indian Journal of Environment and Toxicology 10(2): 93–95.
Other references
• Al Khalil, S., Al Eisawi, D., Sharaf, M. & Schiff, P.L.jr., 1993. Alkaloids of Cocculus pendulus. Planta Medica 59(3): 276.
• Atta-ur-Rahman, 1986. Isolation, structural and synthetic studies on the chemical constituents of medicinal plants of Pakistan. Pure and Applied Chemistry 58: 663–673.
• Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
• Bhakuni, D.S., Jain, S. & Singh, A.N., 1978. Biosynthesis of cocsulinin. Journal of the Chemical Society. Perkin Transactions 1: Organic and Bio-organic Chemistry 4: 380–383.
• Bhakuni, D.S. & Joshi, P.P., 1975. Alkaloids of Cocculus pendulus (Forsk.) Diels. Tetrahedron 60(2): 2575–2579.
• Duarte, M.C., 1995. Menispermaceae. In: Paiva, J., Martins, E.S., Diniz, M.A., Moreira, I., Gomes, I. & Gomes, S. (Editors). Flora de Cabo Verde: Plantas vasculares. No 4. Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical, Lisbon, Portugal & Instituto Nacional de Investigação e Desenvolvimento Agrário, Praia, Cape Verde. 8 pp.
• El Amin, H.M., 1990. Trees and shrubs of the Sudan. Ithaca Press, Exeter, United Kingdom. 484 pp.
• Gaur, A., Singh, A.K., Suri, S.S. & Ramawat, K.G., 1995. Bud culture and regeneration of plantlets in Cocculus pendulus, a woody medicinal plant. Gartenbauwissenschaft 60(2): 69–72.
• Guinaudeau, H., Bashir, M., Colton, M.D., Freyer, A.J., Shamma, M., Jehan, K., Nilofar, A. & Atta-ur-Rahman, A., 1987. Bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids from Cocculus pendulus. Phytochemistry 26(3): 829–832.
• Ikram, M., Shati, N. & Zarga, M.A., 1982. Chemical investigation of Cocculus leaeba. Planta Medica 45(4): 253–254.
• Kerharo, J. & Adam, J.G., 1974. La pharmacopée sénégalaise traditionnelle. Plantes médicinales et toxiques. Vigot & Frères, Paris, France. 1011 pp.
• Oliver-Bever, B., 1983. Medicinal plants in tropical West Africa 3. Anti-infection therapy with higher plants. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 9: 1–83.
• Simonsen, H.T., Nordskjold, J.B., Smitt, U.W., Nyman, U., Pushpangadan, P., Prabhakar, J. & Varughese, G., 2001. In vitro screening of Indian medicinal plants for antiplasmodial activity. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 74(2): 195–204.
• 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.
Sources of illustration
• Berhaut, J., 1979. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Dicotylédones. Volume 6. Linacées à Nymphéacées. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Senegal. 636 pp.
P. Oudhia
SOPAM, 28-A, Geeta Nagar, Raipur, 492001, C.G., India

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:
Oudhia, P., 2008. Cocculus pendulus (J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.) Diels. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Distribution Map wild

1, part of stem with male inflorescences; 2, part of stem with fruits.
Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin


part of male inflorescence

part of female inflorescence
obtained from
Sahara Nature

female flower
obtained from
Sahara Nature

fruiting branches
obtained from
Sahara Nature