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Cuscuta reflexa (Giant Dodder, Amarabela, Moodillathali, Akashbel)

Category: Medicines - plant based



Introduction and description

Cuscuta (dodder) is a genus of yellow, orange, or red (rarely green) parasitic plants. Formerly treated as the only genus in the family Cuscutaceae, it is now  accepted as belonging in the morning glory family, Convolvulaceae

Cuscuta reflexa, the giant dodder, is one of 100-170 species in the genus Cuscuta. It may also be called hell weed, devil’s gut, and beggar weed, strangle tare, scald weed, dodder of thyme, and greater dodder. 

Other Vernacular names include

  • Tamil : Verillakothan
  •  English : Giant Dodder
  • Hindi : Amarabela
  • Sanscrit : Akasavalli,Amaravalli,Khavalli
  •  Punjabi : Zarbut
  • Malayalam : Moodillathali
  • Urdu : Akashbel
  • Bengali : Akashbel

This species is used in treating numerous diseases in traditional medicine.


The genus Cuscuta is found throughout the temperate and tropical regions of the world, with the greatest species diversity in subtropical and tropical regions; the genus becomes rare in cool temperate climates, with only four species native to northern Europe.

Cuscuta reflexa is common in the Indian Subcontinent, throughout the plains of India.  It can be found in India, China, E.Asia and Afghanisthan.  In India it is distributed throughout the country up to 3000 m


Dodder can be identified by its thin stems appearing leafless, with the leaves reduced to minute scales. From mid-summer to early autumn, the vines can produce small fruit that take the same colour as the vine, and are approximately the size of a common pea.  The genus Cuscuta has very low levels of chlorophyll; although the species Cuscuta reflexa can photosynthesize slightly.

Giant Dodder has the same leafless twining sprawling thin vine appearance as other Dodders and grows over the host plant. It is capable of producing numerous branches which can cover the host plant within a very short period of time and suck life out of the host plant.   The stem’s thread like filaments attach themselves to nearby host plants and in nature the plant lives its entire life without attachment to the ground.  Flowers are small, bell shaped and white in colour with yellow filaments. Fruits and seeds are produced from the flower.  The flowering time is April to July.

Medicinal uses

Cuscuta reflexa Roxb.’s stem and seeds have highly important medicinal uses.  It is used in Ayurvedic medicine.  Research studies with the Indian tribes and other traditional communities that use this plant, have seen it used as a purgative, carminatives and in external application for skin diseases.  The stem decoction is used for constipation and liver complaints. In vitro studies have showed that the stem extraction has antiviral and ‘anti cancerous’ activities.

Despite the extensive use made of the plant in traditional medicine there is a very sad lack of published medical papers on it.  One research study identified only 11 research papers in the Indian journals.  As they said “From these articles, we observed that a minimum amount of research activities [have been] carried out on this miracle plant. “

It is made that much more tragic when one considers that the scientific information gathered from these research articles supported the traditional usage of the plant and confirmed its pharmacological activity.

Cuscuta reflexa ROXB. – A Wonderful Miracle Plant in Ethnomedicine

The plant is used for headache, body ache and itches. IUCN 2004 (International Union for Conservation of Nature) report says that the plant is also used for asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism and skin diseases. Whole plant extract is considered as an antiviral activity and analgesic. This plant extract has diaphoretic, demulcent, laxative and tonic properties. Cuscuta is an antifertility agent.

Contemporary Chinese herbalists use the genus Cuscuta in formulas to treat a range of conditions, including: impotence premature ejaculation ,sperm leakage ,frequent urination ,ringing in the ears ,lower back pain ,sore knees ,white discharge from the vagina (leucorrhea) ,dry eyes ,blurred vision ,tired eyes. Cuscuta is one of nine herbs included in the manufacture of Equiguard, a Chinese herbal medicine recommended for kidney and prostate disorders. Research performed at New York Medical College indicates that the combination of ingredients in Equiguard may well be effective in the treatment of prostate cancer. The preparation inhibited the growth of cancer cells, increased the rate of self-destruction (apoptosis) of cancer cells, and prevented the surviving cells from forming colonies.

More details are found in the observations.  Equiguard uses Cuscuta chinensis found elsewhere on the site.


Seeds of Giant Dodder (Cuscuta reflexa) as a Function of Extract Procedure and Solvent Nature.

Seeds of a renowned medicinal plant, giant dodder (Cuscuta reflexa), were assessed to appraise the effect of solvent and extraction technique variation on antioxidants potential.
Dodder seed, also called cuscuta seed, has been considered superb tonic in traditional herbal medication for eyes, liver, spleen and kidney. Results show that selected solvent and procedure plays a key role in the composition and activity of extractable material.
Three extraction procedures Orbital shaker, Decoction and Ultrasonic assisted extraction and five different solvents n-hexane, ethyl acetate, 100% methanol, 80% methanol and 60% methanol were used to get optimized conditions.
Total phenolic and flavonoids content were found maximum in the extracts of aqueous organic system containing 80% methanol in Ultrasonic assisted extraction method but in case of tannins ethyl acetate and Orbital shaker extraction was found more suitable partner.
Antioxidant estimation assays showed a little bit variation as DPPH and ABTS exhibited maximum inhibition in 80% methanol and Ultrasonic assisted extraction but 100% methanol was found better for FRAP assay. Decoction results were mostly in between the both Orbital shaker and Ultrasonic assisted extraction.
Overall results indicate that coexistence of polar solvents and Ultrasonic assisted extraction gives a better choice for extractability of potent antioxidants from seeds. HPLC analysis confirmed presence of valuable phenolic acids. Pearson’s correlation coefficient reveals a significant relationship between extracted components and antioxidant capacity P< 0.05 or 0.01.

References and further reading

  • Cuscuta reflexa ROXB. – A Wonderful Miracle Plant in Ethnomedicine
    Article (PDF Available)  · January 2011 - S.Vijikumar Sahadevan; Ramanathan.K;   
    B.Parimala Devi
  • List of All Chemicals - Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases
  • Ashish Ghosh, (2008), “Ethnomedicinal Plants used in West Rarrh region or West Bengal”Indian Journal of  Traditional Knowledge- Natural Product Radiance vol - 7 (5).
  • Atiqur Rahman M. (2007), “Medicinal Plants used by Chakma tribe in Hill Tracts District of Bangladesh. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge. Vol.3, (33).
  • Boericke, (2000), Indian Materia Medica , Jain Publication, New Edition New Delhi Vol.1 (33).
  • Chevallier, Andrew (1996), Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. New York: DK Publishing, Inc.
  • Datta BK. et al(2006), “Medicinal plants prescribed by different tribal and non-tribal medicine in Tripura State”. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge.
  • Dinesh Jadhav MP(2006), “Ethnomedicinal Plants used by Bhil tribe of Bibdod” Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge April 2006.
  • Hsieh, T. C., X. Lu, J. Guo et al(’20 April 2002),. "Effects of Herbal Preparation Equiguard on Hormone-Responsive and Hormone-Refractory Prostate Carcinoma Cells: Mechanistic Studies. "International Journal of Oncology’ .Helena T Funk ,(22 August 2007),
  • Katewa SS(April 2008). “Poisonous Plants of the Southern Aravalli Hills of Rajasthan. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, vol.5, 9.
  • Mahajan SK(April 2007). “Traditional herbal remedies among the tribes Bijagarah of West Nimar Dist. MP.Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge Vol. 5, 6.
  • Mahanta J.(2006),“Traditional Medicine in the Treatment of GIT Disease in Upper Assam” Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge Vol.1(2-4).
  • Mukherjee KR(2009). “Some abortifacient plants used by the tribal people of West Bengal” Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge - Natural Product Radiance, Vol-8 (2)
  • Misra MK (2006), “Medicinal Plants used by the Kandhar of Kandhamal”- Dist Orissa, Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge Vol.2,372-380
  • Mohamed Bnouham(1990-2000), (2006), Medicinal plants with potential antidiabetic activity - A review of ten years of herbal medicine research .27(3),547.
  • Pande PC.(2007), “Ethnovetrinary Plants of Uttaranchal’’, Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge Vol.5,921-935.
  • Saroj verma(2007), “Indigenous Medicinal Plants Knowledge of Kunihar forest Division Solan District-HP”. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge Vol.4,228-233.
  • Wadkar K.A(2008), Anti-Diabetic Potential And Indian Medicinal Plants Vol.2;120-125.
  • Pal DK, Mandal M, Senthilkumar GP, Padhiari A (2006). Antibacterial activity of Cuscuta reflexa stem and Corchorus olitorius seed. Fitoter., 77: 589-591.
  • Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. (1986-00-00)
  •   Medicinal Plants of Nepal Dept. of Medicinal Plants. Nepal. (1993-00-00)
  •   Manandhar. N. P. Plants and People of Nepal Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-527-6 (2002-00-00)
  •   Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London ISBN 9-780751-303148 (1996-00-00)
  •   Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
  •   F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)


  • Seeds of Giant Dodder (Cuscuta reflexa) as a Function of Extract Procedure and Solvent Nature. Available from: [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324236069_Seeds_of_Giant_Dodder_Cuscuta_reflexa_as_a_Function_of_Extract_Procedure_and_Solvent_Nature]    Shazia NOUREEN1, Sobia NOREEN1*, Shazia Akram GHUMMAN2, Fozia BATOOL1, Mahira ARSHAD1, Fozia NOREEN3, Umair ISHTIAQ4, Syed Nasir Abbas BUKHARI5*
  • 1University of Sargodha, Department of Chemistry, Sargodha 40100, Pakistan; shazianoureen11@gmail.com; sobianoreen@uos.edu.pk (*corresponding author); fozia.batool@uos.edu.pk; mahira.arshad321@gmail.com
  • 2University of Sargodha, Faculty of Pharmacy, Sargodha 40100, Pakistan; shaziaghuman33@gmail.com
  • 3University of Gujarat, Department of Chemistry, Sialkot Campus, Sialkot-5130, Pakistan; fouzia.noreen@uogsialkot.edu.pk
  • 4Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Department of Petroleum Engineering, Bandar seri Iskandar 32610, Darul Ridzuan Perak, Malaysia; umairishtiaq_@hotmail.com
  • 5  Jouf University, College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Aljouf, Sakaka 2014, Saudi Arabia; snab_hussaini@yahoo.c

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