The Benefits of Cissus Quadrangularis

Herbal remedy believed to aid in bone health and weight loss

In This Article

Personal trainer guiding woman on exercise equipment at gym
Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Getty Images

Cissus quadrangularis (CQ) is a plant whose extracts have long been used in folk medicine, including Ayurveda and in traditional African and Thai medicine. Cissus quadrangularis is a perennial plant of the grape family native to tropical Asia, the Middle East, and much of Africa. The name quadrangularis was used because of the angular, four-sided shape of the plant's stem.

Available as a dietary supplement, CQ is said to offer a variety of health benefits. Among them, CQ is believed to promote the healing of broken bones and injured joints. Because of this, CQ is referred to as asthisamharaka (that which prevents the destruction of bones) by the Assam people of India, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia.

Commonly Known As

  • Adamant creeper
  • Asthisamharaka (Assam)
  • Devil's backbone
  • Hadjod (Ayurveda)
  • Pirandai
  • Veld grape

Health Benefits

Proponents claim that CQ offers a vast range of health benefits. In addition to promoting bone and dental health, the herbal remedy is believed to aid in the treatment of the following medical condition:

Cissus quadrangularis extracts can also be found in some bodybuilding supplements, where it is considered an alternative to steroids due to its purported anabolic effects.

Despite these and other health claims, there is little evidence that CQ works in preventing or treating any medical condition. Of the research that does exist, the conclusions are often limited by the small size of the study or the lack of appropriate measures and controls.

Bone Health

Cissus quadrangularis shows promise in the prevention of osteoporosis, suggests a 2011 study published in La Clinica Terapeutica. The study involved mice that were given either the osteoporosis drug raloxifene or a combination of raloxifene and a CQ extract.

While there were no significant changes in blood calcium levels after one month, the rats given raloxifene and the CQ extract had greater increases in cortical bone (the hard exterior portion of bone) and trabecular bone (the "spongy" interior bone) than those given raloxifene only.

In a related study published in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, scientists reported that an accelerated production of osteoblasts in human bone cells exposed to CQ in the test tube. Osteoblasts are cells that excrete hormones, enzymes, and growth factor to help maintain and rebuild bone.

Despite the positive findings, there has yet to be any evidence that the administration of CQ can speed bone healing or aid in the repair of bone fractures.

Joint Pain and Arthritis

Cissus quadrangularis is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve joint pain. Researchers from the University of Memphis tested the hypothesis in 29 healthy, young men who reported chronic joint pain as a result of strenuous exercise.

After receiving 3,200 milligrams of a CQ supplement daily for eight weeks, the men reported a subjective decrease in joint pain, swelling, and stiffness (although no clinical changes were noted). The conclusions were limited by the lack of a placebo control group.

A similar study in rats, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, found that an alcohol-based CQ extract reduced levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), an inflammatory cytokine associated with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Test tube studies have also suggested that CQ can inhibit cyclooxygenase 1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) enzymes in the same way that many anti-inflammatory drugs do.

Whether these effects are robust enough to provide arthritis relief has yet to be proven.

Weight Loss

Extracts of Cissus quadrangularis may support weight loss efforts, according to a small study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2019.

According to the researchers, a water-based extract of Cissus quandrangularis (called CQR-300) was used in 35 adults with metabolic syndrome, while a cornstarch placebo was given to a matched group of 32 adults.

After eight weeks, adults given 300 milligrams of CQR-300 daily had an 8.9% loss in body fat versus 1.05% in the placebo group.

The CQR-300 users also experienced a drop in blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and fasting blood glucose as well as increases in "good" HDL cholesterol (although these effects are attributed more to weight loss than the effects of the supplement).

Despite the positive findings, it is worth noting that cornstarch hinders weight loss and that 300 grams (10 ounces) equal no less than 1,000 extra calories per day.

Hemorrhoids

Although Cissus quadrangularis has a long history of use as a treatment for hemorrhoids, a 2010 study published in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand found that it failed to aid in hemorrhoid treatment.

Among the 570 people enrolled in the study, half of whom received a topical CQ ointment for seven days, none reported any greater or lesser relief of hemorrhoids than those provided a placebo.

Possible Side Effects

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the long-term safety of Cissus quadrangularis. The herbal remedy appears to be safe for short-term use (six to 12 weeks). Common side effects tend to be mild and may include headaches, dry mouth, intestinal gas, diarrhea, and insomnia. There is also evidence that CQ can lower blood glucose levels and have sedative and muscle-relaxing effects at higher doses.

Given the limited research on its use during pregnancy, it is best to avoid Cissus quadrangularis in any form if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Cissus quadrangularis may interact with diabetes medications, causing an abnormal drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia). If you have diabetes, it is important to advise your doctor if you are taking a CQ supplement and to regularly monitor your blood sugar for any abnormal changes.

Dosage and Preparation

Cissus quadrangularis is available as a dietary supplement, typically in capsule form in doses ranging from 500 milligrams (mg) to 1,000 mg. There are also CQ powders you can add to protein drinks and juices.

There is no universal guideline as to the appropriate use of Cissus quadrangularis. Various studies have suggested that it can be used safely in doses as high as 3,200 milligrams per day, although studies were generally limited to around eight weeks.

Due to the lack of research, CQ supplements should not be used on an ongoing basis to prevent osteoporosis as you might with calcium or vitamin D supplements.

Cissus quadrangularis is rarely sold fresh outside of Southeast Asia as it is difficult to grow and tends to thrive in indigenous environments.

What to Look For

Because dietary supplements aren't strictly regulated in the United States, their quality and safety can vary from one brand to the next. This is especially true of imported traditional remedies which have been known on occasion to be tainted with heavy metals, animal byproducts, pesticides, and drugs.

To better ensure quality and safety, opt for well-known supplement brands that are more likely to contain the amount of ingredient listed on the product label.

Better yet, check the label to see if the supplement has been tested by an independent certifying body like U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International. The stamp of approval does not mean that the supplement is safe or effective, only that it contains the listed ingredients in the correct amounts.

As a rule of thumb, avoid brands that make overt health claims or promises of cures. Not only is this illegal, but it should serve as a warning that the manufacturer—and their product—may be less than trustworthy.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  1. Stohs SJ, Ray SD. A review and evaluation of the efficacy and safety of Cissus quadrangularis extracts. Phytother Res. 2012 Aug;27(8):1107-14. doi:10.1002/ptr.4846.

  2. Bloomer RJ, Farney TM, McCarthy CG, Lee SR. Cissus quadrangularis reduces joint pain in exercise-trained men: a pilot study. Phys Sportsmed. 2013 Sep;41(3):29-35. doi:10.3810/psm.2013.09.2021.

  3. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Traditional Chinese Medicine: What You Need To Know. Bethesda, Maryland; April 29, 2019.

Additional Reading