The herb Tinospora cordifolia has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine (the traditional medicine of India). It has been used to treat convalescence from severe illness, liver disease, arthritis, urinary problems, eye diseases, cancer, anemia, diabetes, and diarrhea. It is said to help remove toxins from the body, and on this baisis is often added to herbal formulas claimed to improve general health. Both the stem and the root are used medicinally.

What Is Tinospora cordifolia Used for Today?

According to some herbalists, tinospora has adaptogenic effects, a term that indicates it helps the body adapt to stress. However, there is no meaningful evidence to support this claim. Only double-blind, placebo-controlled studies can prove a treatment effective, and the only such study performed on tinospora tested other effects.

In this study, 75 people with allergic rhinitis (hayfever) were given either tinospora or placebo for 8 weeks.1 According to the investigators, use of tinospora significantly decreased every measured symptom of allergic rhinitis in the majority of participants; in comparison, use of placebo provided almost no benefit at all. These results may sound promising, but they are in fact so excessively dramatic as to raise doubts about the study’s overall validity. It is unusual for so few benefits to be seen in the placebo group of a study on a treatment for allergic rhinitis, and it is nearly as unusual for almost universal benefits to be reported in the treatment group. Independent confirmation will be required to overcome the skepticism raised by these apparently “too good to be true” findings.

Besides anti-allergy effects, weak evidence hints that tinospora may have anti-cancer,2,3 immune stimulating,4 nerve cell protecting,5 anti-diabetic,6-9 cholesterol-lowering,8 and liver-protective10 actions. Tinospora has also shown some promise for decreasing the tissue damage caused by radiation 11-13, the side effects of some forms of chemotherapy,14 and speeding healing of diabetic foot ulcers.16 However, all these findings are far too preliminary to be relied upon.

Safety Issues

Use of tinospora has not been associated with significant side effects. However, comprehensive safety testing has not been conducted. One animal study found evidence that use of tinospora might decrease male fertility.15 Safety for pregnant or nursing women, young children, or individuals with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.