Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat 25: 137 (1955).
Orange grape creeper (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Tinospora caffra occurs from the Central African Republic east to Kenya and south to the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), Botswana, Mozambique and eastern South Africa.
Juice from the pounded leaves is applied to wounds as an antiseptic. In South Africa the steam of the leaves in boiling water is inhaled to sooth body pain. The leaves mixed with leaves of other plants and sprinkled with water are spread through the bedroom against sleeping problems. In South Africa the plant is used to prepare fish poison.
Dioecious, briefly deciduous, climbing herb; young stems glabrous, older stems warty. Leaves alternate, simple and entire, V-shaped; stipules absent; petiole 2.5–15 cm long; blade broadly ovate to nearly orbicular, 2.5–14 cm × 1.5–12.5 cm, base rounded to cordate, apex rounded and abruptly mucronate or slightly acuminate, glabrous, yellowish green, leathery, palmately veined with 5–7 main veins. Inflorescence an axillary, elongate false raceme, male inflorescence 7–30 cm long, with 1–4 flowers per bract, sometimes panicle-like, female inflorescence up to 4(–15) cm long with 1 flower per bract; bracts linear, up to 1.5 cm long. Flowers unisexual, small; male flowers with pedicel up to 7 mm long, sepals 6 in 2 whorls, outer ones triangular to ovate, 0.5–1.5 mm long, inner ones oblong to oblanceolate, 1.5–4 mm × 1–1.5 mm, glabrous, petals 6 in 2 whorls, outer ones 1.5–2.5 mm × 0.5–1 mm, inner ones shorter, stamens 3, filaments 1.5–3 mm long, completely fused; female flowers with pedicel up to 2.5 mm long, sepals 6 in 2 whorls, outer ones triangular, c. 1 mm long, with 2 small appendages at base, inner ones elliptical to ovate, 2–3 mm × 2–2.5 mm, glabrous, petals 6 in 2 whorls, linear, 1.5–2 mm × 0.5–1 mm, staminodes 6, ovary superior consisting of 3 free carpels 2–3 mm long, stigma sessile. Fruit consisting of 1–3 ovoid drupes c. 10 mm × 6–7 mm, orange when ripe, glabrous, stone ellipsoid, with prominent knobs at both ends, 1-seeded.
In South Africa Tinospera caffra flowers from December–February.
Tinospora comprises about 30 species, of which about 20 occur in Asia, 7 in continental Africa and 2 in Madagascar.
Tinospora fragosa (Verdoorn) Verdoorn & Troupin (Moses’ staff, marvel creeper) is a semisucculent liana, which occurs in northern Namibia, northern Botswana, Zimbabwe and the dry parts of northern South Africa. An infusion of the leaves and twigs is taken against anthrax, whereas the whole plant is fed to cattle for this purpose. Twigs are chewed against cough and sore throat. Stems and leaves are used in a bath against rheumatism and body pain. Tinospora fragosa is an attractive ornamental with bright orange-red fruits just when the bright green leaves appear. Tinospora oblongifolia (Engl.) Troupin is a liana occurring in lowland rainforest and coastal evergreen bushland in Kenya and Tanzania, including Zanzibar. A decoction of the roots or an infusion of the roots in cold water is drunk as a purgative. Tinospora tenera Miers is a semi-succulent liana, which occurs in Tanzania, Mozambique, Swaziland and north-eastern South Africa. A leaf extract is drunk against pain in the joints and as a sexual tonic for men. A decoction of the leaves and roots is drunk or used as enema against kidney stones, whereas the steam is inhaled to treat influenza. A decoction of the leaves is used as a wash against venereal sores, steam from the decoction is applied to treat skin problems. Hyalosepalum uviforme (Baill.) Troupin (synonym: Chasmanthera uviformis Baill.) occurs in northern Madagascar and closely resembles Tinospora spp. A decoction of its stem bark is taken to treat malaria.
Tinospora caffra occurs in dense humid forest, deciduous bushland, in drier areas often on rock outcrops, up to 2000 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Tinospora caffra has a wide distribution and there are no signs that there is immediate danger of genetic erosion.
In view of its medicinal uses and many medicinal uses of related species, chemical and pharmacological screening of Tinospora caffra and other African Tinospora spp. seems warranted.
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• Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• 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.
• de Wet, H. & van Wyk, B.E., 2008. An ethnobotanical survey of southern African Menispermaceae. South African Journal of Botany 74(1): 2–9.
• Troupin, G., 1962. Monographie des Menispermaceae africaines. Mémoires in-8. Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-Mer, Classe des Sciences Naturelles et Médicales, Nouvelle série 8(2), Brussels, Belgium. 313 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Oyen, L.P.A., 2008. Tinospora caffra (Miers) Troupin. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.