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Tylophora

Common name: Indian ipecac

Botanical names: Tylophora indica, Tylophora asthmatica

Parts used and where grown

Tylophora is a perennial climbing plant native to the plains, forests, and hills of southern and eastern India. The portions of the plant used medicinally are the leaves and root.1

Tylophora has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):

Science Ratings Health Concerns
2Stars

Asthma

1Star

Diarrhea

Hay fever

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)

This plant has been traditionally used as a folk remedy in certain regions of India for the treatment of bronchial asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism, and dermatitis. In the latter half of the 19th century, it was called Indian ipecacuahna, as the roots of the plant have often been employed as an effective substitute for ipecac. The use to induce vomiting led to tylophora’s inclusion in the Bengal Pharmacopoeia of 1884.2

Active constituents

The major constituent in tylophora is the alkaloid tylophorine. Laboratory research has shown this isolated plant extract exerts a strong anti-inflammatory action.3 Test tube studies suggest that tylophorine is able to interfere with the action of mast cells, which are key components in the process of inflammation.4 These actions seem to support tylophora’s traditional use as an antiasthmatic and antiallergic medication by Ayurvedic practitioners.

These historical and laboratory findings have been supported by several human clinical trials using differing preparations of tylophora, including the crude leaf, tincture, and capsule. One clinical trial with asthma sufferers, found that tylophora leaf (150 mg of the leaf by weight) chewed and swallowed daily in the early morning for six days led to moderate to complete relief of their asthma symptoms.5 In a follow-up trial with asthma patients, an alcoholic extract of crude tylophora leaves in 1 gram of glucose had comparable effects to that of chewing the crude leaf.6 Another trial found similar success in reducing asthma symptoms using a tylophora leaf powder (350 mg per day.)7 However, the tylophora was not as effective as a standard asthma drug combination. One double-blind trial failed to show any effect on asthma for tylophora.8

How much is usually taken?

Tylophora leaf—200 to 400 mg of the dried leaf per day or 1 to 2 ml of tincture per day—can be used to treat asthma.9

Are there any side effects or interactions?

Patients using tylophora may experience temporary nausea and vomiting, soreness of the mouth, and loss of taste for salt, particularly with the fresh leaf and tincture.10 11 12 The herb’s safety for use during pregnancy and breast-feeding has not been established. People with asthma should be closely monitored by a qualified healthcare professional.

At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with tylophora.

References:

1. Bhavan BV. Selected Medicinal Plants of India. Bombay, India: Tata Press, 1992, 333–6.

2. Nadkarni K. Indian Materia Medica vol 1, Bombay, India: Popular Prakashan, 1976, 1252.

3. Gopalakrishnan C, Shankaranarayan D, Kameswaran L, et al. Pharmacological investigations of tylophorine, the major alkaloid of Tylophora indica. Indian J Med Res 1979;69:513–20.

4. Gopalakrishnan C, Shankaranarayan D, Nazimudeen SK, et al. Effect of tylophorine, a major alkaloid of Tylophora indica, on immunopathological and inflammatory reactions. Ind J Med Res 1980;71:940–8.

5. Shivpuri DN, Menon MPS, Prakash D. A crossover double-blind study on Tylophora indica in the treatment of asthma and allergic rhinitis. J Allergy 1969;43:145–50.

6. Shivpuri DN, Singhal SC, Parkash D. Treatment of asthma with an alcoholic extract of Tylophora indica: a cross-over, double-blind study. Ann Allergy 1972;30:407–12.

7. Thiruvengadam KV, Haranatii K, Sudarsan S, et al. Tylophora indica in bronchial asthma: a controlled comparison with a standard anti-asthmatic drug. J Indian Med Assoc 1978;71:172–6.

8. Gupta S, George P, Gupta V, et al. Tylophora indica in bronchial asthma—a double blind study. Ind J Med Res 1979;69:981–9.

9. Bone K. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs. Warwick, Queensland, Australia: Phytotherapy Press, 1996, 134–6.

10. Shivpuri DN, Menon MPS, Prakash D. A crossover double-blind study on Tylophora indica in the treatment of asthma and allergic rhinitis. J Allergy 1969;43:145–50.

11. Shivpuri DN, Singhal SC, Parkash D. Treatment of asthma with an alcoholic extract of Tylophora indica: a cross-over, double-blind study. Ann Allergy 1972;30:407–12.

12. Bone K. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs. Warwick, Queensland, Australia: Phytotherapy Press, 1996, 134–6.

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