Tribulus Terrestris: An Herb to Enhance Physical Strength (Caltrops)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Common Names

3. Vernacular Names

4. Synonyms

5. Classical Categorization

6. Distribution

7. Morphology

8. Ayurvedic Properties

9. Chemical Constituent

10. Identity, Purity, and Strength

11. Ayurvedic and Pharmacological Actions

12. Health Benefits

13. Therapeutic Uses

14. Official Part Used

15. General Doses

16. Formulations

“The herb is widely used by athletes and bodybuilders to enhance their physical strength and is enlisted in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods for the relief of menopausal and premenstrual tension.”

1. Introduction

Tribulus Terrestris is derived from Tribulus a Latin word which means caltrop. Caltrop refers to a spiky iron weapon suggesting the spinous nature of its fruit. In Greek Tribulus means water chestnut, suggesting the shape of its fruit like the water chestnut.

Gokshura has a 5,000-year-old history of medicinal use in different cultures throughout the world. In Shem-Nong’s Chinese Pharmacopoeia it is described as a valuable drug to detoxify liver, kidney, for treatment of abdominal distention, mastitis, acute conjunctivitis, pruritis, infertility, sexual dysfunction, headache and vertigo.

In Bulgarian folk medicine it is recommended for blood purification and for treating piles and infertility. In South Africa it is used as a tonic and for treating diarrhea, throat and eye-infections. In folk medicine of Turkey, it is used in colic pains, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia.

In classical Ayurveda texts Tribulus Terrestris is described as a potent anti-inflammatory formulation, dashmool and kantakapanchmool, which are used in urogenital disease.

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2. Common Names

Family – Zygophyllaceae

Hindi Name – Gokhuru

English Name – Tribulus Terrestris

3. Vernacular Names

Assamese – Gokshura, Gukhurkata

Bengali – Gokshura, Gokhri

Gujrati – Nana gokharu

Kannada – Sannannaggilu, Neggilu

Kashmiri – Michirkand

Malayalam – Nerinji

Marathi – Sarate, Gokharu

Oriya – Gukhura, Gokhyura

Punjabi – Bhakhra, Gokhru

Tamil – Nerinjil

Telugu – Palleruveru

4. Synonyms

Gokantak – The fruit is armed with spines which injure the grazing animal.

Ikshuganhika – The root smells loke sugarcane.

Swadukantaka – The fruit is Madhura rasa pradhana.

Swadi – The predominant rasa in it is Madhur.

Vanshringataka – The fruit resembles water chestnut and occurs widely.

5. Classical Categorization

Charaka Samhita – Krimighna, Shothahara

Sushrut Samhita – Vidarigandhadi, Veertarvadi 

Ashtang Hridaya – Vidaryadi gana

Dhanvantari Nighantu – Guduchyadi varga

Madanpal Nighantu – Abhyadi varga

Kaiyadev Nighantu – Oushadi varga

Raj Nighantu – Shatavahadi varga

Bhavaprakasha Nighantu – Guduchyadi varga

6. Distribution

Tribulus Terrestris is widely distributed in warm regions of Europe, Asia, America, Africa and Australia. It grows almost in every part of India as a common weed. They are wildly available in pastureland, fields, wastelands, and gardens and on roadsides in dry warm, sandy regions of Rajasthan, Gujrat, Haryana and Punjab.

7. Morphology

It is perennial, prostate much branched, summer annual herb, densely covered with minute silky hair. Stems are often 30 to 70 cm long simple or freely branched, prostrate forming flat patches.

Leaves – Pinnately compound, opposite, paripinnate, leaflets five to eight pairs, up to 8 cm long, subequal, oblong to linear-oblong, mucronate apex, pubescent on both surfaces.

Flowers – Solitary, axillary, five petals, lemon yellow to white yellow.

Fruits – A depressed schizocarp, globose, hairy, spinous, or tuberculate unripe green, fully mature yellowish-brown, each coccus has four pointed rigid spines. Out of which two are long and two are short. Larger spines are directed toward the apex and the smaller ones are directed downward. Each coccus has many seeds. Fruits often cling to clothes and bodies of animals and humans.

Root – Slender, fibrous, cylindrical and light brown in color. The plant is propagated by seeds.

8. Ayurvedic Properties

Rasa (Taste) – Madhur

Virya (Potency) – Sheeta

Guna (Qualities) – Guru, Snigdh

Vipaka (Post-digestive Effect) – Madhur

9. Chemical Constituent

The plant is reported to have steroidal glycoside, steroidal saponin, flavonoids, alkaloids and cinammic acid amides. The fruits have steroidal saponins terrestrosins A, B, C, D and E, diosgenin, gitonin, gitnin, chlorogenin, rutin, and rhamnose. The stem contains starch, fructose, sucrose, harmalol, harmaline, harmine, norharman, harmalol. The leaves contain moisture, protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin C, and saponins. The root contains alkaloid, stigmasterol, resins, nitrate, and fixed oil. Other constituents include fatty acids, polysacchardies, protein, tannins, amino acids and calcium, potassium salts.

10. Identity, Purity, and Strength

For Root

Foreign Matter – Not more than 2%

Total Ash – Not more than 13%

Acid-insoluble ash – Not more than 3%

Alcohol-soluble extractive – Not less than 4%

Water-soluble extractive – Not less than 10%

(Source: The Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia of India 1989)

11. Ayurvedic and Pharmacological Actions

Ayurvedic Actions

Various Nighantus have described it as sweet, strength promoting, urinary depurative, diuretic, body mass increasing, appetizer, aphrodisiac, nutritive, cardioprotective, analgesic, laxative, pacify rakta and pitta, sweeling reducing, anti-tussive, promote fertility, aphrodisiac.

  • Doshakarma – Vatta pitta shamaka
  • Dhatukarma – Rasayana, balaya
  • Malakarma - Mutral

Pharmacological Actions

Tribulus Terrestris is reported to exhibit antiurolithic, diuretic, aphrodisiac, antidiabetic, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiaging, memory enhancer, antitumor, antimicrobial, hypolipidemic, anticancer, anti-infertility, neuroprotective, antifatigue, anticarious and absorption enhancer activities.

12. Health Benefits

In Ayurveda classics Tribulus Terrestris is reported to be used in the treatment of dysuria, burning sensation, renal calculi, diabetes, asthma, cough, piles, pain cardiac disease, and disorders caused by aggravated vata.

In other traditional system of medicine, the plant and fruits are used in the treatment of spermatorrhea, impotence, infertility, sexual dysfunction, gonorrhea, gleet, chronic cystitis, gout, hemorrhage, skin disease, eye trouble, edema, abdominal distention, ulcerative stomatitis, typhoid fever and general debility.

13. Therapeutic Uses

External Uses

Hair Growth – Application of paste prepared with Tribulus Terrestris and Sesame flower mixed with honey and ghee in the root hairs promotes hair growth.

Internal Uses

Calculus – Roots of Tribulus Terrestris, Kokilaksha, Eranda and brahati dvya pounded together with milk and dissolved in sweet curd help to dissolve calculus.

Dysuria – Decoction of Tribulus Terrestris seeds mixed with Yavashara is given in dysuria, gravel and calculus.

Blood in Urine – intake of milk cooked with Shatavari, Gokshura and four parni, shalaparni, prishanparni, mugdaparni, mashaparni.

Cough – Powder of Tribulus Terrestris fruit and Ashwagandha mixed with honwy when taken with milk alleviates cough.

Arthritis – Regular use of decoction of ginger and Tribulus Terrestris in the morning, reduces pain and inflammation in arthritis and backache.

Aphrodisiac – Powder of Tribulus Terrestris, Ikshuruka, Shatavari, Kaunch Beej, Nagbala and Atibala taken with milk every night cures infertility and acts as a good aphrodisiac.

Rejuvenator - Intake of Tribulus Terrestris powder pounded with Tribulus Terrestris swaras with milk followed by diet and milk gives rasayana effect.

14. Official Part Used

Whole Plant, roots, fruit

15. General Doses

  • Powder – 3 to 6g
  • Decoction – 40 to 100ml

16. Formulations

Gokhuradi guggulu, Dashmoolarishta, Gokshuradi churna, Trikantakadi ghrita, Trikantakadi churna, Sahcharadi taila, Abhyarishta kashaya, Dashmool kwath.


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