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 to boost weight loss. Do the advertising claims and user reviews match what researchers have discovered about this plant? 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 used to heal broken bones. In South Asia, it is traditionally taken as a remedy for hemorrhoids and indigestion [1, 2].

In fact, the plant is sometimes called “Hadjod” in India, meaning “bone setter” [3].

C. quadrangularis is also gaining some popularity as a workout supplement. It is said to reduce joint pain after intense exercise – an appealing effect for athletes and bodybuilders.

And recent research appears to support some of these health claims. Clinical trials have found promising results for bone health, weight loss, and pain relief [1, 2].

Components

What makes Cissus Quadrangularis so great?

The plant owes many of its health benefits to the active components found inside, including [2]:

These plant substances have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties [4, 5, 6].

However, there is one thing to note.

Another compound found inside C. quadrangularis is ketosterone, which is believed to play an important role in bone healing [3].

But beware, recent research suggests that ketosterones actually have no effect on bone health at all [3].

How Does It Work?

C. quadrangularis‘s active compounds act on several deep-seated pathways in the body. We’ll need to dig into the science further to explain these, so bear with us.

For one, C. quadrangularis promotes the growth of bone cells and mineralization. It also blocks the gene expression of cytokines that contribute to bone loss [7, 8, 9].

As far as weight loss goes, extracts can block the expression of genes that increase fat storage. As a result, cissus might enhance fat-burning. And by boosting serotonin levels, this plant may also help control appetite, improve mood, and relieve pain [10, 11].

That brings us to the last but not least important mechanism of this plant: pain and inflammation relief.

Cissus reduces inflammation and pain by lowering cytokines (TNF-alpha and IL-6) and blocking inflammatory enzymes and pathways (including the master controller of inflammation NF-κB and COX). What makes it unique is its ability to safely activate opioid pathways, which are crucial in controlling pain [12, 13].

Snapshot

PROs

  • Promotes bone health
  • Burns fat
  • Relieves pain and inflammation
  • May help control diabetes
  • May help protect the stomach
  • Antioxidant
  • May fight bacterial infections

CONs

  • Not well studied in humans
  • Supplements are not standardized
  • Not effective for hemorrhoids

Health Benefits

1) Improves Bone Health

Cissus quadrangularis is often marketed as a strong promoter of bone and joint health.

Initial clinical research appears to support these claims.

For instance, a large review of 9 studies including over 1K people was recently performed. Researchers found that C. quadrangularis significantly reduces pain after a bone fracture. It also improves swelling, tenderness, and mobility [2].

Another recent pilot study of 9 people looked at its effect on facial bone fractures. Likewise, C. quadrangularis decreased pain, swelling, and immobility. Higher levels of calcium and phosphorus were also detected in those who took the supplement [14].

Imaging analysis shows that it accelerates fracture healing time as well [14].

Animal studies have found similar results.

For example, a rat study suggests that C. quadrangularis may protect against bone loss after menopause. It might also protect against bone loss associated with diabetes [15, 16, 17].

In summary, C. quadrangularis does help heal bones and joints after fractures. And while it might also maintain bone health in people who are at risk of osteoporosis, the evidence is weaker.

2) Boosts Weight Loss & Fat Burning

Cissus quadrangularis extract may be an option for those struggling with their weight.

The extract reduces weight, fasting blood glucose, total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides. At least that’s what a study of 123 overweight and obese individuals has revealed [18].

Another study of 168 people found similar results plus an increase in HDL (the good kind of cholesterol) [11].

It gets better.

There may be a synergistic fat-burning effect when combined with Irvingia gabonensis, also known as African mango or dika [19].

A study of 72 overweight individuals found that the combination reduces body fat, LDL, and blood glucose – even more than C. quadrangularis alone [19].

What’s causing this fat loss?

According to one cell study, C. quadrangularis reduces the expression of genes that create fat cells [10].

3) Relieves Tendonitis, Pain & Inflammation

A small study of 29 exercise-trained men shows that C. quadrangularis reduces joint pain after intense exercise [20].

Therefore, it may be an option for athletes and bodybuilders seeking natural remedies that reduce pain and speed up recovery after strenuous exercise, tendonitis, or joint injuries.

Those who suffer from arthritis might see similar benefits. In a study of arthritic rats, C. quadrangularis reduced joint swelling and inflammatory lab markers [21].

How does it work?

C. quadrangularis reduces cytokines and pathways that are involved in inflammation, like TNF-alpha, IL-6, and NF-κB [12].

It also blocks COX-1 and COX-2, similar to how NSAID drugs like aspirin work [13].

But unlike NSAID drugs, this plant’s pain-relieving effect is linked to more than just lowering inflammation. For example, a mouse study reveals that serotonin and opioid pathways are also involved [22].

4) Helps Control Diabetes

A series of studies have explored the use of C. quadrangularis stem extract in diabetic rats [23, 12, 24].

Researchers discovered that this stem extract reduces blood glucose and HBA1c a marker that points to long-term sugar levels while improving lab markers of liver injury [23, 12, 24].

On top of that, C. quadrangularis may also improve insulin sensitivity [25, 12].

While these studies are promising, clinical studies have yet to be carried out.

5) Protects the Stomach

Research suggests that Cissus quadrangularis may have several beneficial effects on the gut.

For instance, a cell study found that C. quadrangularis increased the growth and life span of cells that line the stomach. It also enhances the secretion of mucin, the main component of stomach-protective mucus [26].

Other studies investigated its ability to reduce gut damage from NSAID medications, such as aspirin. In rats, C. quadrangularis protects against ulcers caused by aspirin and repairs stomach cells [27, 28, 29, 30].

6) May Help Fight Infections

Cissus quadrangularis was effective against several strains of bacteria in test tubes [31].

This antibacterial effect may be due to cysteine proteases, enzymes found in both animals and plants, such as papaya and pineapple. For example, papain from papaya is a cysteine protease. A study found that cysteine protease extracted from C. quadrangularis stems is a strong antibiotic [32, 33].

And it appears bacteria aren’t the only microbes affected.

A cell-based study suggests that extracts are effective against Haemonchus contortus, a common parasite. It reduces the hatching of parasite eggs by 88% [34].

To top it off, researchers are also exploring the use of C. quadrangularis in nanotechnology.

Let us explain.

Nanoparticles are, as the name implies, microscopic particles that have many potential applications. One such function is using metal nanoparticles to destroy bacteria [35].

The manufacturing process of nanoparticles usually involves several toxic agents. Using plant compounds instead can be a non-toxic and eco-friendly alternative [36].

One study found that nanoparticles made with C. quadrangularis are effective against many common bacteria [37].

Extracts have also been used to create copper nanoparticles that are effective against certain fungi [36].

7) Protects the Liver

In rat studies, extracts from this plant improved lab markers like ALT, AST, and bilirubin after liver injury. They also increased antioxidants, like glutathione and catalase, which help protect the liver [38, 39, 25].

8) May Help With Anxiety & Epilepsy

Based on one study in mice, Cissus quadrangularis may have beneficial effects on anxiety and epilepsy [40].

In the study, C. quadrangularis reduced the number and duration of seizures. The mice also performed better on tests that measure anxiety. This effect may be due to its ability to boost antioxidants and the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain [40].

Does Cissus Help with Hemorrhoids?

Cissus quadrangularis is a popular traditional remedy for hemorrhoids. It has even been called the “hemorrhoids vine” [2].

However, it probably doesn’t work for this purpose [2].

A large trial of 570 patients found no difference between C. quadrangularis and placebo for hemorrhoids [41].

Another analysis looking at 9 different studies confirmed its lack of effectiveness [2].

Formulations & Dosage, Side Effects, Limitations

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. These components are believed to be responsible for the benefits on bone health.

However, this might not be accurate.

Recent research suggests that ketosterones have no biological activity on our bones [3].

Simply put, the percentage of ketosterones on the label might not mean anything when selecting a supplement [3].

Dosage

Research has yet to identify the optimal dosage of Cissus quadrangularis.

However, the handful of human studies that have been performed give us some insight.

For example, a study on bone fractures used a dose of 500 mg taken 3 times per day (for a total daily dose of 1,500 mg) [14].

Other studies on weight loss used a dose of 1,028 mg per day, divided into either 1 or 2 doses each day [42, 43].

These study doses were used for up to 8 weeks without any reported safety concerns [42].

C. quadrangularis supplements typically range from 1,000 mg to 1,600 mg, which is to be taken once or twice a day.

Side Effects

Cissus quadrangularis is generally considered safe.

Reported side effects include [42, 2]:

  • Headache
  • Flatulence
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Insomnia

However, these side effects actually occurred more frequently with placebo. This implies that C. quadrangularis likely has very few side effects, if any [42, 2].

A study in rats evaluated long-term safety risks. Rats were given doses of C. quadrangularis as high as 2500 mg/kg for 90 days. No safety issues or abnormal lab results were reported. Genetic analysis also did not reveal any significant changes to DNA [44].

A large review of 9 studies and 1108 patients did not find any safety concerns or serious side effects [2].

But there is one issue.

There is a case report of a man developing thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet levels) after taking C. quadrangularis [45].

The case is complicated by the fact that the man recently received a kidney transplant and was on transplant medications. But once C. quadrangularis was stopped, his platelets returned to normal levels [45].

If you suffer from a serious illness or take prescription medication, consult your doctor before supplementing.

Limitations and Caveats

The number of human studies on Cissus quadrangularis is lacking. Additionally, the safety of taking supplements long-term is unclear.

It’s also important to note that studies use different formulations of C. quadrangularis.

This means that the concentrations of active compounds can vary.

Also, different extraction processes are used, which can further alter health effects. Some studies show that specific methods, like using acetone, create better extracts for certain conditions [46].

What does this all mean?

The health benefits of a C. quadrangularis extract may be specific to that formulation.

This also means that consumers should be aware that supplements are not standardized. Different products may contain different concentrations of active ingredients.

Reviews

Online reviews of Cissus quadrangularis are mainly positive.

By far, most users take these supplements for joint pain and bone health. Many users report improved shoulder and elbow joint pain. Others report using the supplement to control inflammation caused by other health conditions.

C. quadrangularis is also popular as a bodybuilding supplement. Users enjoy the reduced joint pain after heavy exercise, while the fat-burning effects are an added bonus.

Negative reviews come from users who saw little to no benefit from supplements.

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Takeaway

Cissus quadrangularis has long been used as a medical plant in many cultures.

Based on clinical trials, potential health benefits include:

  • Bone healing
  • Weight loss
  • Joint pain relief

C. quadrangularis has been traditionally used for hemorrhoids as well. However, studies show it may not be effective for this purpose.

Side effects appear to be minimal, but further studies are needed to evaluate the long-term risks.

Reviews of C. quadrangularis supplements are generally positive. Many users say it greatly reduces their joint pain and inflammation.

About the Author

Mathew Eng, PharmD

PharmD

Mathew received his PharmD from the University of Hawaii and an undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Washington.

Mathew is a licensed pharmacist with clinical experience in oncology, infectious disease, and diabetes management. He has a passion for personalized patient care and believes that education is essential to living a healthy life. His goal is to motivate individuals to find ways to manage their chronic conditions.

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