Guduchi is an herbaceous vine native from the rainforests of India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. It is part of the Menispermaceae family and its botanical name is Tinospora cordifolia.
It is a vine with simple alternate leaves, which can be exstipulate. The petioles reach a maximum length of 15 cm, both the base and the tips are round and pulvinate. The basal petioles are longer and half-twisted. The leaf laminas are broad, oval or ovate cordate in shape. They have a length of 10 - 20 cm, with a width between 8 and 15 cm. The base is very cordate, with a prominent reticulum, while the top is white, membranous and pubescent. Leaves usually have around 7 nerves. Flowers are grouped based on their sex, the female flowers usually grow alone, while the male ones are grouped in clusters. Every flowers has 6 sepals in two groups of three, the inside ones being larger in size. There are six small petals, with a membranous texture. The orange or scarlet fruits are small in size and grow in groups of one to three.
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Tinospora cordifolia is a climbing vine that looks like a shrub. Its bark is similar to paper, with a white or grey color, while the stems are very succulent. Several aerial roots grow from the shrub, these can reach a length of up to 30 meters and usually climb on mango or neem trees. The shoots are full of leaves shaped like small hearts and yellow axillary flowers. Fruits are red when fully ripe and small in size, similar to peas. The blossom starts in June and the first fruits are mature from November.
Guduchi is common in India, where it inhabits both deciduous and dry forests. It has been known for a long time, it was named guduchi and amrutha in Sanskrit, while the names used in modern Hindi are giloy and gurcha.
The plant seems to have numerous uses in medicine. Its benefits have attracted the attention of modern scientists and this vine that grows on the highest trees is now the focus of several international studies. The vines climbing on neem trees are considered even more powerful than the normal ones and might be effective in the treatment of blood diseases and some forms of cancer. This is because of the healing qualities of the neem tree itself, which are hard to take advantage of because of the very bitter taste of the tree.
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Guduchi has been used as medicine in India since ancient times and it is mentioned in the Ayurvedic texts and in mythical traditions. Ancient doctors used guduchi especially to reduce the recovery period after any kind of severe disease. As a treatment, it was considered potent against anemia, diabetes, arthritis, urinary problems, eye diseases, diarrhea, liver issues and even cancer. Guduchi was also said to have detoxifying effects on the body.
In the Ayurveda, the traditional medicine based on the sacred Vedic texts, Tinospora cordifolia was considered a useful diuretic, antiperiodic and energizer. Ancient Indians used the whole herb as a general tonic, believing it can help youngsters in particular by increasing their intellect and preventing early aging. It was known to reduce fever in cases of malaria and nicknamed "the Indian quinine" because of this quality. Guduchi was also used to treat eye problems, restore damaged tissues, reduce convalescence time, fight headaches, prevent food allergies and control dyspepsia. It was considered effective against fever and allergies in general, regardless of the cause. An extract of Tinospora cordifolia was tested against hay fever with excellent results, reducing after two months all related symptoms like itching, nasal discharge, sneezing and breathing problems.
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Guduchi can boost the activity and response time of the immune system, which is very useful against many diseases. It can for example eliminate or decrease the problems caused by allergic rhinitis but the improved immunity might be beneficial against cancer as well. It can also reduce the effects of diabetes. The improved immunity provided by Tinospora cordifolia benefits patients who suffer from any type of fever or infection. The herb is known for its immuno-modulatory action, even if it's not a strong antipyretic, and can fight all forms of bacterial and viral infections. In severe cases of fever, it also protects the nervous system of the sick person, preventing mental and physical decay, as well as the debility that can be a side effect in such cases.
It is believed that Tinospora cordifolia can balance catecholamine levels, by inhibiting monoamine oxidase (MAO). There are a few other potential mechanisms waiting to be discovered as well. Scientists suspect the guduchi vine has a content of phyto-androgen, in which case it should provide genetic protection, shielding the DNA from radiation damage and other external factors. This herb might also act like an adaptogen.
The essential oil extracted from the herb is used in traditional medicine in a variety of ways. It is considered effective against skin problems, gout and any kind of pain or edema in general. However, the main use is as a general tonic and detoxifier, improving memory, voice, energy, skin tone, overall health, longevity and decreasing the rate of aging.
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Tinospora cordifolia can treat numerous digestive issues, here are just a few examples: loss of appetite, abdominal pain, hyperacidity, colitis, parasite infestations, vomiting and chronic thirst. It is even potent in the treatment of liver diseases. People who suffer from hepatitis can heal faster if they drink fresh guduchi juice, with added brown sugar to give it a better taste. This juice is also recommended in other diseases like anemia, sexual problems, heart issues, splenic disorders or dementia.
In India, the starch extracted from the vine is a well-known traditional cure for fever. Regardless of the cause, the starch decreases the temperature and restores appetite and energy levels. To relieve itching, a Tinospora cordifolia decoct combined with nimba and vasa can be used. The decoct is considered a general panacea, being administered for a wide range of diseases: dysentery, secondary syphilis, tuberculosis, jaundice, dyspepsia, impotency, constipation, leprosy, general debility, cutaneous rashes and weakness in general.
Rheumatic pain and gout can be reduced by drinking a decoct of Tinospora cordifolia mixed with sunthi. A popular cure for leucorrhea is a home-made mixture of guduchi juice and raw cow milk. The same combination can be further enhanced by adding some cumin seeds and then consumed in cases of pitta, reducing the hot sensation.
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All parts of the herb are considered to be useful to combat malaria or any other kind of fever. For external application, the plant's roots and leaves have to be crushed and combined with cold water. The resulting liquid can be applied with a piece of soft cloth directly on the head or under the arms, in order to reduce fever.
A poultice prepared from the Tinospora cordifolia vine can reduce edema and inflammation, relieving the pain in diseases like rheumatism, gout or arthritis. It can also cure skin problems, from wounds or local itching to specific diseases like scabies or the so-called athlete's foot. It can also help people who suffer from anemia, hepatitis, diabetes or circulatory conditions.
The plant's ability to clean the blood and remove toxins appears to be the main reason why it is so useful against skin diseases. People who usually suffer from rashes, sun burns or are sensitive to sunlight should make the best use of this property. It's easy to make at home a mixed juice from guduchi, amla and neem and drink it every day. In time, the juice will eliminate blood toxins and cure skin issues.
Guduchi has been used for thousands of years without any reports of serious side effects. It is known to have a minor constipating effect but only in people who already have slow bowels and consume the plant for a long time.
Like all plants that haven't been tested in depth, it is better to avoid guduchi during pregnancy and while nursing. It is also a good precaution not to consume the vine about two weeks before a surgery, because it modifies the blood flow and can make bleeding control difficult during the procedure.
The main use of guduchi is as a general energizer and detoxifier, mixed with other plants with a similar effect. Popular ingredients used in such combinations are aloe vera juice, shatavari or ashwagandha.