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Ayurvedic Herbs A-Z

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Ayurvedic Medicine


Gokshura, 'cow-scratcher'


Botanical Name: Tribulus terrestris, Zygophyllaceae

Latin Name: Tribulus terrestris- Semen (Zygophyllaceae)

Common Name: Gokharu (H), Nerinci(T), Calthrops (E)

Sanskrit Name: Gokshura

Part Used: fruit

Constituents: Tribuloside, Saponin, Alkaloids, Potassium nitrate, Flavonoid- kaempferol, aspartic and glutamic acids.1

Dravyguna: fruit.
ˇRasa: madhura
ˇVipaka: madhura
ˇVirya: shita
ˇKarma: balyam, cleanses and tonifies the lower abdominal organs (i.e. basti, urinary bladder, prostate etc.), Vata-pittaharam, diuretic, anthelminthic, expectorant, anodyne, anti-inflammatory, aperient, cardiotonic, styptic, lithotriptic, alterative
ˇPrabhava: sattvic, promotes clarity of mind (Frawley and Lad 1986, 169; Nadkarni 1976, 1230; Varrier 1996, 311)

Indications: cough, dyspnea, asthma, dysuria, hematuria, urinary lithiasis, cystitis, nephritis, urinary tenesmus, hemorrhoids, parasites, cardiovascular disease, gout, rheumatism, lumbago, sciatica, spermatorrhea, impotence, menorrhagia, postpartum hemorrhage, frigidity, infertility, anemia, venereal diseases, diabetes, opthalmia, headache, insufficient lactation, hives (Bensky and Gamble 1993, 425; Frawley and Lad 1986, 169; Kirtikar and Basu 1993, 421; Nadkarni 1976, 1230; Varrier 1996, 311)


URINARY: Bladder or kidney infections, stones pain, retention, cloudy, bleeding. It soothes the urinary tract membranes and promotes urination. Specific for prostate problems, urinary retention or obstructed urinary flow.2

REPRODUCTIVE: As a tonic herb it nourishes the shukradhatu- it increases virility, fertility, sperm production and lactation. It rejuvenates the reproductive system- especially the uterus and the gonads. Used in infertility and impotence.3

NERVE: Useful in all aggravations of the nervous system and vata. It draws all three dosha downwards- headaches, hives, itchy skin, eye inflammations.

Contraindications: dehydration (Frawley and Lad 1986, 169); pregnancy (Bensky and Gamble 1993, 425)

Ayurvedic Energetics
Rasa (taste): Sweet, Bitter
Virya (action): Cooling
Vipaka (post-digestive effect): Sweet
Guna (quality): Heavy, Unctuous
Dosha effect: VPK=, primarily PK-
Dhatu (tissue): Plasma, Blood, Nerve,Reproductive
Srota (channel): Urinary, Nerve, Reproductive,Respiratory

Ayurvedic Action
Mutra virechana- diuretic, Mutrakricchraghna- dispels dysuria, Ashmarihara- lithotriptic, Vrishya- increases sexual appetite, Shukra shodhana- sperm purifier
(Charaka, Sushruta, Ashtanga Hridaya Samhita, Bhavaprakasha)

Toxicity: The LD50 of a liopihilized saponin extract was 813 mg/kg (mice, intraperitoneal) (Arcasoy et al. 1998). This plant is the cause of geeldikkop in sheep and other small livestock, a condition characterized by edema of the head, fever, and jaundice (Kirtikar and Basu 1993, 423). Photosensitization and cholangiohepatopathy have been noted in sheep grazing Tribulus terrestris. (Tapia et al. 1994). Two beta-carboline indoleamines (harmane and norharmane) isolated from the plant material of Tribulus terrestris have been implicated in causing central nervous system effects in sheep that have grazed on Tribulus over a period of months. Researchers proposed that harmane and norharmane accumulate in tryptamine-associated neurones of the central nervous system and gradually interact irreversibly with a specific neuronal gene DNA sequence (Bourke et al 1992).

ˇChurna: 500 mg ­ 1 g t.i.d.
ˇKashaya: 100 mL t.i.d.
ˇTincture: dried fruit, 1:5, 50%; 1 ­ 2 mL t.i.d.

Medical research:
ˇAntispasmodic: A liopihilized saponin extract of dried and powdered Tribulus terrestris caused a significant decrease in peristaltic movements of isolated sheep ureter and rabbit jejunum preparations in a dose-dependent manner. The same extract had no effect on isolated rabbit aorta and its contractile response to KCl or noradrenaline (Arcasoy et al. 1998).
ˇCardioactive: The methanol extract of the aerial parts of Tribulus cistoides was found to contain nine steroid saponins, among them the cardioactive cistocardin. (Achenbach et al. 1994). The results of a clinical trial in 406 cases of coronary heart disease treated with the saponin fraction of Tribulus terrestris resulted in the remission of 82.3% of the cases. The saponin fraction of Tribulus terrestris dilates the coronary artery and improves coronary circulation. No adverse affects were noted (Wang et al. 1990).

ˇHepatoprotective: Tribulusamides A and B isolated from the fruits of Tribulus terrestris prevented cell death in cultured mouse hepatocytes induced by D-galactosamine (D-GalN)/tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) (Li et al 1998).

ˇUrinary: An ethanolic extract of the fruits of Tribulus terrestris showed significant dose dependent protection against uroliths induced by glass bead implantation in albino rats. The extract provided significant protection against deposition of calculogenic material around the glass bead, and also protected leucocytosis and elevation in serum urea levels (Anand et al 1994).

ˇNutritional: Tribulus terristris was found to be a rich source of calcium (Duhan et al. 1992).

Comments: Gokshura is an outstanding remedy in urogenital disease, promoting urine flow, soothing the mucosa, and aiding in the excretion of stones and calculi (Frawley and Lad 1986, 170). Unlike diuretics such as Bearberry (Artostaphylos uva ursi leaf), Gokshura pacifies Vata and will not promote secondary effects such as dry skin. Nadkarni mentions that both the plant and seeds are used in decoction or infusion in the treatment of spermatorrhea, impotence, phosphaturia, dysuria, gonorrhea, gleet, chronic cystitis, renal calculi, incontinence, gout, post-partum hemorrhage, and to ensure fecundity (1976, 1230). In most cases of cystitis a simple decoction of the fruit or the tincture will suffice, although in severe cystitis botanicals such as Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis root) can be used in combination.

In severe tenesmus and pain it may be used along with Kava (Piper methysticum root) or Henbane (Hyocyamus niger herb) (TOXIC). For urinary lithiasis Gokshura may be combined with Buchu (Barosma betulina herb) and Gravel root (Eupatorium purpurea). For urinary incontinence and bedwetting a combination of Gokshura and Mullein (Verbascum thapsus root) is effective in strengthening the trigone muscle of the bladder.

Gokshura is also highly esteemed as a vajikarana rasayana. In the treatment spermatorrhea and impotence equal parts of the powders of Gokshura, Tila (Sesamum indicum), Kapikachu (Mucana pruriens) and Ashvagandha may be taken with honey, ghrita and goat's milk, 3 g b.i.d. on an empty stomach at dawn and at dusk. For frigidity and infertility Gokshura may be taken in equal parts Shatavari (Asparagus racemosa root) and Damiana (Turnera diffusa root), 1 ­ 2 g t.i.d.

Frawley and Lad consider Gokshura to be a rasayana for Pitta, and say that it is effective in Vatakopa conditions (Frawley and Lad 1986, 170). The presence of harmine alkaloids as well as other constituents are most likely responsible for Gokshura's sedative properties. It may be taken with Ashvagandha as a tonic nervine in Vattic disorders such as nervousness and anxiety.

For lumbar pain Gokshura may be combined with Ginger (Zingiber officinalis), Pippali (Piper methysticum root) or Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa). Varrier mentions that the ash of the whole plant is good for external application in rheumatoid arthrtis (1996, 311). Topically the oil of the seed is used in the treatment of Alopecia (Frawley and Lad 1986, 170).

In Traditional Chinese medicine Gokshura is used in the treatment of headache, vertigo and dizziness due to ascendant Liver yang, and dispels Wind-heat for red eyes and excessive tearing, promotes lactation, and is used in the treatment of hives.

1 Paranjape
2 Bhavaprakasha
3 Bhavaprakasha. Frawley and Lad

Achenbach, H. 1994. Cardioactive steroid saponins and other constituents from the aerial parts of Tribulus cistoides. Phytochemistry. Apr;35(6):1527-43
Anand, R. et al. 1994. Activity of certain fractions of Tribulus terrestris fruits against experimentally induced urolithiasis in rats. Indian J Exp Biol. Aug;32(8):548-52
Arcasoy, H.B. et al. 1998. , Effect of Tribulus terrestris L. saponin mixture on some smooth muscle preparations: a preliminary study. Boll Chim Farm Dec;137(11):473-5
Bensky, D. and A. Gamble. 1993. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. Revised edition. Seattle: Eastland Press.
Bourke, C.A. et al. 1992. Locomotor effects in sheep of alkaloids identified in Australian Tribulus terrestris. Aust Vet J. Jul;69(7):163-5
Duhan, A et al. 1992. Nutritional value of some non-conventional plant foods of India. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. Jul;42(3):193-200
Frawley, David and Vasant Lad. 1986. The Yoga Of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine. Santa Fe: Lotus Press.
Kirtikar KR and BD Basu. 1993. Indian Medicinal Plants. 2nd ed. Vol. 1-4. 1935. Reprint. Delhi: Periodical Experts.
Li, J.X. et al 1998. Tribulusamide A and B, new hepatoprotective lignanamides from the fruits of Tribulus terrestris: indications of cytoprotective activity in murine hepatocyte culture. Planta Med. Oct;64(7):628-31
Nadkarni, Dr. K.M. 1976. The Indian Materia Medica, with Ayurvedic, Unani and Home Remedies. Revised and enlarged by A.K. Nadkarni. 1954. Reprint. Bombay: Bombay Popular Prakashan PVP.
Tapia, M.O. 1994. An outbreak of hepatogenous photosensitization in sheep grazing Tribulus terrestris in Argentina. Vet Hum Toxicol Aug;36(4):311-3
Varrier, P.S. 1996. Indian Medicinal Plants: A Compendium of 500 species. Edited by PK Warrier, Vata / Pitta / Kapha Nambiar and C Ramankutty. vol 5. Hyderabad: Orient Longman.
Wang, B. et al 1990. 406 cases of angina pectoris in coronary heart disease treated with saponin of Tribulus terrestris. Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih. Feb;10(2):85-7, 68


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