Tinospora crispa

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Tinospora crispa


Woody climber up to c. 15 m, entirely glabrous. Leaves: Inflorescences not coetaneous with the leaves.


Asia-Temperate: China South-Central (Yunnan present), Asia-Tropical: Assam (Assam present); Cambodia (Cambodia present); Malaya present; Philippines (Philippines present), Bengal present, Burma present, Christmas I present, Indian Ocean present, Lesser Sunda Is present, Luzon present, Mindanao present, Mindoro present, Singapore I present, Sumbawa present, W. Java present
Bengal, Assam, Burma, Cambodia, Yunnan; in Malesia: Malaya (incl. Singapore I.), W. Java (incl. Christmas I.), Lesser Sunda Is. (Sumbawa), and the Philippines (Luzon, Mindoro, Mindanao).
In Christmas I. (Indian Ocean) it may have well been introduced in the past by immigrant workers.


The anatomy of the stem and leaf has been described by SANTOS ().


BURKILL (1935, under T. tuberculata) lists the many medicinal uses of this plant. The Malays drink an infusion of the stem as a vermifuge and of the whole plant to treat cholera.
According to CREVOST& PETELOT (1929, l.c.) the species was introduced into northern Vietnam (Tonkin) by the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul under the name of liane-quinine (= dây ki nin) and it was cultivated by various Christian communities; but it was also known elsewhere in the region. It is used by local people to treat fevers and jaundice. The stem is cut into small pieces and scraped, then it is infused in boiling water, which after cooling is drunk. The stems can also be dried and pounded into a powder, which is used as quinine. This powder mixed with fodder is used to fatten horses and cattle by stimulating their appetite; a similar use is reported from N. Thailand by BÄNZIGER.
MERRILL (1918, under T. rumphii) stated that this is perhaps the most generally used medicinal plant in the Philippines. It contains an extremely bitter principle and it is known in the Philippines together with the more common T. glabra as makabuhay, but T. crispa is more effective in use. The bitter principle of makabuhay has been investigated by MARANON (), who found it to be glucosidal. QUISUMBING'S account of the species (as T. rumphii) and its uses in his deals in part with T. glabra.
According to THORNBER (), berberine has been reported in T. crispa, but this could be based on misidentified material of T. glabra.


Female flowers and fruit were described from extra-Mal. specimens as they are as yet unknown from Malesia. Even in continental Asia fruits are rare, at least rarely collected.
Writing at the end of the 17th century, RUMPHIUS gave a long and detailed account of this species accompanied by an illustration showing the characteristic broad, deeply cordate and long-acuminate leaves, together with the stem densely covered in raised tubercles, which the artist had incorrectly arranged in longitudinal lines. RUMPHIUS stated that this climber was brought to Amboina around 1690 and it flowered, when leafless, in Nov. 1691. He mentioned its bitter sap and explained that the Javanese and Balinese names meant 'bitter rope', and therefore he gave it the Latin name Funis felleus. He also described the medicinal uses of the plant in Java and Bali.
The confusion about the application of the name Menispermum crispum L., lasting for two centuries, originated from LINNÉ, who cited the correct plate in RUMPHIUS, but the wrong name, Tunis quadrangularis', which is a Cissus (Vitaceae).
As a result of intensive searches in Thailand, Dr. BANZIGER finally succeeded in collecting the fruits of T. crispa, which proved to be clearly different from those of T. baenzigeri.
The stems have a remarkable capacity when cut into pieces to remain succulent and alive for a long period: the dried sap effectively seals the cut ends. RUMPHIUS stated that when originally brought to Amboina about 1690, the coiled stems had been in a closed box for some months, and when planted they soon produced shoots. In confirmation of this property, several portions of stem some 15 cm long were received at Kew in Oct. 1977, collected by Dr. BANZIGER in Thailand some 10 to 12 months previously, yet some were still green and succulent, the tissue apparently still living.
In Thailand, according to BÄNZIGER, leaves are present during the rainy season April-May to Nov.-Dec. or later if growing in a humid place. Plants flower late Jan.-March; the flowers are scented. Fruits were collected in April and May.
The typical number of petals in this species is 3, only the outer whorl developing, contrasting with 6 in the closely allied T. baenzigeri. There are, however, specimens which have in addition 1 to 3 petals of the inner whorl (usually reduced) together with the warty stems characteristic of T. crispa. It could be that there has been some hybridisation between the two species, whose areas of distribution overlap in Central Thailand.


Diels 1910 – In: Pfl. R.: 135
BURK. 1935: Diet.: 2164
SANTOS 1928: p. 187. – In: Philip. J. Sc.: t. 1
CREVOST & PETELOT 1929: p. 30. – In: Bull. Écon. Indoch. n.s.: with accompanying plate and figure
FORMAN 1981: p. 394. – In: Kew Bull.: f. 3A-C
QUIS. 1951: Medic. Pl. Philip.: 300
MLERS 1871 – In: Contr. Bot.: 34
BACK. & BAKH.f. 1963 – In: Fl. Java: 158
KLRTIKAR& BASU 1918: p. 48. – In: Indian Medic. Pl.: t. 34
GAGNEP. 1908 – In: Fl. Gén. I.-C.: 132
Merr. 1938 – In: J. Arn. Arb.: 341
Merr. 1917: Int. Rumph.: 220
BOERL. 1923 – In: En. Philip.: 146
HOOK.f. & TH. 1984 – In: Kew Bull.: 113
LIEN 1975 – In: Acta Phytotax. Sin.: 37
BOERL. 1918: Sp. Blanc.: 145