Cissus quadrangularis has been used for ages by Indian and Asian cultures to heal bones and relieve pain. Nowadays, athletes and bodybuilders are using it as a post-workout recovery supplement, while others take it for weight loss. Are these health claims supported by research? Read on to find out.
What Is Cissus Quadrangularis?
Cissus quadrangularis, a member of the grape family, is a plant native to Asia and Africa. Other common names include veldt grape, devil’s backbone, and adamant creeper.
A number of cultures have long prized C. quadrangularis as a medicinal plant. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is a popular remedy for broken bones. In South Asia, it is traditionally taken for hemorrhoids and indigestion [1, 2].
In fact, the plant is sometimes called “Hadjod” in India, meaning “bone setter” .
- quadrangularis is also gaining some popularity as a workout supplement. It is said to reduce joint pain after intense exercise.
According to research, C. quadrangularis may possibly be effective for weight loss. However, there is less evidence to support its other purported health benefits [1, 2].
- May be effective for weight loss
- May help with bone fractures
- May relieve joint pain
- May help with hemorrhoids
- Lack of clinical research
- Studies are based on different formulations
- Supplements are not standardized
There are a number of active components in C. quadrangularis that may have biological effects, including :
- Carotenoids (provitamin A)
- Vitamin C
Another compound found inside C. quadrangularis is ketosterone. According to some researchers, this compound may play an important role in bone healing. However, there is also evidence that suggests ketosterones may have no effect on bone health at all .
How Does It Work?
There’s some evidence from animal and cell studies that C. quadrangularis may promote the growth of bone cells and mineralization. It also may block the gene expression of cytokines that contribute to bone loss [4, 5, 6].
Cell studies show that extracts may block the expression of genes that increase fat storage. Some researchers also suggest that C. quadrangularis may increase serotonin levels, which may help control appetite and improve mood [7, 8].
Cissus may reduce inflammation and pain by potentially lowering cytokines (TNF-alpha and IL-6) and blocking inflammatory enzymes and pathways (including NF-κB and COX) [9, 10].
Purported Health Benefits
Possibly Effective For:
There is evidence that Cissus quadrangularis may be possibly effective for moderate weight loss.
One randomized placebo-controlled trial of 168 overweight and obese individuals found that a proprietary extract of C. quadrangularis may reduce body weight, fasting blood glucose, LDL, and triglycerides, as well as potentially increase HDL levels .
A similar study including 123 overweight and obese individuals also found that C. quadrangularis may lower body weight, fasting blood glucose, LDL, and triglycerides, even when controlling for different types of diet .
Several other clinical trials have found similar potential weight loss effects in overweight people [12, 13, 14].
A systematic review of 9 studies including 1108 patients suggests that C. quadrangularis may be effective for weight loss for those that are overweight or obese. However, this benefit was only shown in combination products that also contained other compounds .
It’s important to note that it’s not clear if this weight loss is clinically significant. Most of these studies reported less than a 10% decrease in body weight.
Insufficient Evidence For:
The following purported benefits of C. quadrangularis are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of C. quadrangularis for any of the uses listed below. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking C. quadrangularis. It should never be used as a replacement for approved medical therapies.
A small pilot study of 9 people with facial bone fractures found that C. quadrangularis oral capsules may decrease pain, swelling, and immobility. Imaging analysis suggests that it may accelerate fracture healing time as well .
According to a study of 60 patients with jaw fractures, C. quadrangularis oral capsules may increase the expression of osteopontin, a protein that plays a role in bone formation .
A systematic review of 9 studies including 1108 patients suggests that C. quadrangularis may have a benefit for bone fractures, but researchers state that the quality of evidence is low .
A small pilot study of 29 men shows that C. quadrangularis may reduce joint pain after intense exercise .
Cissus quadrangularis is a popular traditional remedy for hemorrhoids. It has even been called the “hemorrhoids vine”.
According to a trial of 570 patients, there is no difference between C. quadrangularis and placebo for improving hemorrhoid symptoms .
The previously mentioned systematic review of 9 studies also suggests that C. quadrangularis may not be effective for hemorrhoids .
Animal And Cell Research (Lacking Evidence)
No clinical evidence supports the use of Cissus quadrangularis for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
A series of 3 rat studies found that C. quadrangularis stem extract may reduce blood glucose and HBA1c in diabetic rats [19, 9, 20].
A different rat study suggests that C. quadrangularis stem extract may also improve insulin sensitivity .
One cell study found that C. quadrangularis may increase the growth and life span of cells that line the stomach. It also may enhance the secretion of mucin, the main component of stomach-protective mucus .
Several studies in rats show that C. quadrangularis may protect against ulcers caused by the toxic effects of aspirin [23, 24, 25, 26].
Several cell studies have found that compounds inside C. quadrangularis may have antimicrobial properties against multiple strains of bacteria [27, 28].
Another cell-based study suggests that extracts may also be effective against Haemonchus contortus, a common kind of parasite .
Based on studies performed in rats with liver damage, extracts from C. quadrangularis may improve lab markers associated with liver injury, including ALT, AST, and bilirubin [30, 31, 21].
Anxiety & Epilepsy
A mouse study found that C. quadrangularis may reduce the number and duration of seizures .
The same study suggests that C. quadrangularis may improve anxiety, based on mouse behavioral tests .
Limitations and Caveats
It’s important to note that studies use different formulations of C. quadrangularis. This means that the concentrations of active compounds can vary as different extraction processes are used. Certain purported health benefits may be specific to the formulation used.
Safety and Side Effects
Cissus quadrangularis is considered possibly safe when taken orally and for a short duration. Clinical trials have used the supplement for up to 2 months and no safety concerns were reported [8, 11].
There is insufficient evidence to determine if C. quadrangularis is safe for long-term use
There is also insufficient evidence to determine if it is safe to use during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Reported side effects include [33, 2]:
- Dry mouth
- Abdominal pain
There is also a case report of a transplant recipient developing thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet levels) after taking C. quadrangularis. Platelets returned to normal levels once C. quadrangularis was stopped .
If you decide to take C. quadrangularis (or any other supplement) let your doctor know as there may be unexpected and potentially dangerous interactions with your other medications or health conditions. The drug interactions of C. quadrangularis are not well researched and there may be more potential interactions beyond the ones discussed here.
There is some evidence that C. quadrangularis may lower fasting blood glucose levels. Those taking medications for diabetes should avoid supplementing with C. quadrangularis as it theoretically may cause hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels).
In the following sections, we’ll discuss the common forms and dosages of Cissus quadrangularis that are commercially available. C. quadrangularis is not approved by the FDA for medical use. Regulations set manufacturing standards for C. quadrangularis, but that does not guarantee that it is safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.
Cissus quadrangularis supplements are available as capsules and powder.
Supplements are sometimes referred to simply as cissus or cissus extract.
Manufacturers will usually report the source of the extract, such as the root or stems.
Some products also list the concentration of ketosterones or 3-ketosterones, which are purported to improve bone health. However, it’s not clear if ketosterones have any biological activity on the bones .
There is currently insufficient evidence to determine what a safe and effective dose of Cissus quadrangularis is.
Commercially available C. quadrangularis supplements typically range from 1,000 to 1,600 mg, which is to be taken once or twice a day.
Doses used in clinical trials typically range from about 1,000 to 1,500 mg total per day [15, 33, 35].
Cissus quadrangularis has long been used as a medical plant in many cultures. There is some evidence that suggests it may be possibly effective for losing modest amounts of weight.
There isn’t enough research to support other purported health benefits, such as bone healing, joint pain relief, and relief from hemorrhoid symptoms.