Facts about Cocculus

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Cocculus Quick Facts
Name: Cocculus
Scientific Name: Anamirta cocculus
Origin Southeast Asia from India, Sri Lanka, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Thailand, Indo-China
Colors Initially white turning red, finally dark purple
Shapes Round and kidney shaped drupe, 9-11 mm long
Taste Bitter
Health benefits Good for fevers, dyspepsia, ringworm, menstrual problems, headache, stomach-ache, skin diseases, ulcers, scabies, convulsions, neurological disorders and psychosis-related fear
Anamirta cocculus commonly known as Cocculus, Levant nut or fish berry, are a Southeast Asian and Indian climbing plant of the family Menispermaceae and the only species of the genus Anamirta. The plant is native to Southeast Asia from India, Sri Lanka, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Thailand, Indo-China, through Sumatra, Java, Lesser Sunda Islands, the Moluccas, to the Philippines and New Guinea. Its fruit is the source of picrotoxin, a poisonous compound with stimulant properties. The name “fish berry” comes from the use of the dried fruit as a method of fishing, in which the fish is “stupified and captured”; this method, however, is considered “unsportsmanlike”. Apart from Cocculus it is also known as Levant nut, fish berry, poison berry, Crow killer, Indian berry, Malayan fishberry and Indian Cockle.

Plant Description

Levant nut is a large, woody, dioecious climbing plant that normally grows about 15 m tall with stout, smooth branches, young stems and petioles pale straw-colored when drying, striate, wood white or yellowish, exuding white milky sap when cut. The plant is found growing in moist deciduous, evergreen forests, sacred groves in the plains, in forest, forest fringes, in thickets, on river banks, near streams and in savannah. It grows best on volcanic basalt, limestone, calcareous rocks and sandy soils.  The plant has ash-colored thick bark, vertically furrowed or corrugated. Stems are sometimes 10 centimeters thick, longitudinally wadded, porous, with stout, smooth branches. These stems scramble over the ground and twine into other plants for support, the stems twining to the left. The plant is not usually cultivated, but is often harvested from the wild for its medicinal uses.

Cocculus Facts

Name Cocculus
Scientific Name Anamirta cocculus
Native Southeast Asia from India, Sri Lanka, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Thailand, Indo-China, through Sumatra, Java, Lesser Sunda Islands, the Moluccas, to the Philippines and New Guinea
Common Names Levant nut, fish berry, poison berry, Crow killer, Indian berry, Malayan fishberry, Indian Cockle
Name in Other Languages Arabic: Mahijehreh, mahie zahraj , eanibiat hawriat al’awraq (عنيبية حورية الأوراق)
Assamese: Kakmari
Cambodia: Seg dom
Chinese: Yin du mu fang ji
Czech: Kebule korková
English: Levant nut, fish berry, poison berry, Crow killer, Indian berry, Malayan fishberry, Indian Cockle
Finnish: Intiananamirta, bois enivrant
French: Coque du Levant
Hindi: Kakamari (काकमारी) , Vatoli, Nanchuvalli, Pollakai, Kollakkaya
Indonesian: tuba biji, oyod peron, bori, jermae, kakamari, kakmari, kakmari-ke-binj
Irula: Kallekkodi
Kannada: Kāge māmbaḷḷi (ಕಾಗೆ ಮಾಂಬಳ್ಳಿ), chiplothi, chippula kaayi, chipula koll, chiplothi, chippula kaayi, chipula kolli, chipulu, ciplotte, cipullukolli, cipulu, garuda phala, haenu beeja, kaage maari, kaagemaari, kaaka maari, kaakamaari, kaaki soppu gadde, kaakkisoppu gade, kagemari, kakamari, kakamari-bija, kakisoppugadde, kakkisoppugade
Malayalam: Pealla (പൊള്ള), Kaipalathumka, Garaphala, Pollakai, Kollakkaya, Pechuvalli, Nanchuvalli, Polla, Pettumarunna, anakrytu, anamrytu, garalaphala, ആനയമൃത് (Anamrytu), Pealla (പൊള്ള),  Pettumarunnu (പെട്ടുമരുന്നു), anakrytu, anamrytu, garalaphala, garaphala, kaandakaconuveh, kantakakonnuveli, kantakakunavam, karanta-kattin-kaya, karantakam, kollakkaya, minnannu, miunannu, nacattinkayi, naccattinkaya, nanjukuru, nanninkuru, pettumarunnu, polla, pollaconuveh, pollak-kaya, pollakkaya, pullukunavam, meenanu, nanjinkuru, pellakkaya
Marathi: Kakmari (काकमारी), kaarvi, kadu-phal, garudaphal, kaakmaaari, kaarvi, kadu-phal, kakmari, karwi
Mindanao: Ligtang, aria
Persian: Mahijehreh
Philippines: Arai, lagtang, ligtang
Russian: Anamirta kokkulyusovidnaya (Анамирта коккулюсовидная)
Sanskrit: Dhvankshanakhi, garalaphala, kakadani, kakahva, kakamari
Spanish: Coca de Levante
Swedish: Kockel-lian
Tagalog: Bayati
Tamil: Kakka kolyvirai, cantiropam, kakamari, kakanacam, cantiropam, kakamari, kakanacam, kakkai kolli, kakkai-k-kolli, kakkaikolli, kakkakolivirai, kakkakolyvirai, kakkay-k-kolli, kakkay-kolli-virai, kakkayk kolli, kakkaykkolli, kakkaykolli, kakkaykollivirai, muratayam, naicikam, nancukkottai, pen kottai, pen-kottai, penkottai, vayacam, kakakulli, kakacollie verei, kakkakoly virai
Telugu: Kaaka maari, kaaki chempa, kaaka maari, kaaki chempa, kaka-mari, kakamari, kaki-champa, kakichempoo, kodi thige, koditige, thippathige, tippatige, kakmari, koditeega, tippateega
Thailand: Khamin khruea, om phanom, waai din
Urdu: Mahijehreh
Vietnam: Dây táo, dây dông cầu
Plant Growth Habit Large, woody, dioecious climbing plant
Growing Climates Moist deciduous, evergreen forests, sacred groves in the plains, in forest, forest fringes, in thickets, on river banks, near streams, in savannah
Soil gGrows best on volcanic basalt, limestone, calcareous rocks and sandy soils
Plant Size Up to 15 m tall
Bark Ash-colored thick bark, vertically furrowed or corrugated
Stem Stems are sometimes 10 centimeters thick, longitudinally wadded, porous, with stout, smooth branches
Leaf Alternate, simple, ovate to broadly ovate, 16-18 cm long and  10-24 cm wide, base cordate to truncate, apex shortly acuminate, margin entire, palmately 3-7 veined at base with 4-5 pairs of lateral veins
Flower Yellowish, sweet-scented, 6 to 7 millimeters across, crowded on 3- to 4.5 centimeters long, pendulous panicles
Fruit Shape & Size Round and kidney shaped drupe, 9-11 mm long.  Outer coat is thin, dry, browny, black and wrinkled, inside a hard white shell divided into two containing a whitish seed
Fruit Color Initially white turning red, finally dark purple
Propagation By seed
Plant Parts Used Dried fruit, fruits, leaves
Taste Bitter
Culinary Uses
  • In the past the fruit was sometimes used fraudulently in the United Kingdom to flavor beers with its bitterness.

Leaves

Leaves are alternate, simple, ovate to broadly ovate, 16-18 cm long and  10-24 cm wide, base cordate to truncate, apex shortly acuminate, margin entire, palmately 3-7 veined at base with 4-5 pairs of lateral veins running parallel with the main pair of basal veins, lower surface with reticulum clearly visible and slightly raised, midrib very prominent, glabrous on both surfaces apart from hairy patches (domatia) in the axils of the secondary and main veins, thinly coriaceous; petiole 8- 26 cm long, glabrous, swollen at both ends, geniculate at base; stipules absent.

Flower

Flowers are shortly pedicellate, unisexual, petals absent, strongly fragrant. Male flowers with glabrous pedicels up to 2-3 mm long, sepals white, yellow or pale green, outer sepals 2, scarcely 1 mm long, inner sepals 6, broadly elliptical, 2.5-3 mm long and 2 mm wide, glabrous apart from often minutely papillose margin, stamens 30-35, filaments more or less connate, anthers in a stalked cluster. Female flowers with pedicels and sepals as in male flower, staminodes 6, carpels 3(-4), curved-ellipsoid, 1.5-2 mm long, stigma thick, recurved. Infructescence with lateral branches up to 15 cm long, gynophore 6-16 mm long, shortly branched below the drupes, continuous with pedicel, 8-20 mm long.

Fruits

Fertile flowers are followed by round and kidney shaped drupe, 9-11 mm long.  Outer coat is thin, dry, browny, black and wrinkled, inside a hard white shell divided into two containing a whitish seed. Fruits are initially white turning red, finally dark purple, glabrous, smooth and hard when dry. Seeds are deeply cup-shaped and very oily, with endosperm; embryo with foliaceous, divaricate cotyledons.

Its crushed seeds are an effective pediculicide (anti-lice) and are also traditionally used to stun fish or as a pesticide. The name “fishberry” comes from the use of the dried fruit as a method of fishing.

Traditionally and benefits of Cocculus

  • Powdered berries are occasionally used as an ointment for destroying lice.
  • Entire fruits are used to stupefy fish, being thrown on the water for that purpose.
  • It is an antidote in Morphine poisoning.
  • Its crushed seeds are an effective pediculicide (anti-lice) and are also traditionally used to stun fish or as a pesticide.
  • Experiments based on ethno-botanical practices have shown that the plant can be effective in treating ringworm.
  • It encourages the central nervous system, mostly the medulla oblongata and respiratory center.
  • An infusion of the roots is used to treat fevers, dyspepsia and menstrual problems.
  • An extract of the stem is added to native wine and is drunk to make the blood strong.
  • Leaves may be used as a poultice for headache, stomach-ache or delayed menstruation.
  • Fruit is used in very small doses to treat eruptive fevers, whilst the powdered fruit is used to treat acute barbiturate poisoning.
  • Applied externally, the fruits and seeds are made into an ointment to treat skin diseases.
  • Juice of the fruits is applied externally to ulcers and scabies.
  • The fruits are an ingredient of many homeopathic formulations.
  • Bitter berries are sometimes used in the form of an ointment.
  • Fresh leaves are used in Bengal as a snuff in the treatment of quotidian ague.
  • Cocculus is used internally as a homoeopathic medicine for convulsions, neurological disorders and psychosis-related fear.
  • In the Philippines, an infusion of the roots of A. cocculus is used to treat fevers, dyspepsia and menstrual problems.
  • The fruit paste is applied topically to treat tinea/ringworm.
  • For itch, and herpes, the fine powder of seeds are mixed with castor oil, and applied topically.
  • To kill lice, and other parasites, the paste prepared from the seeds (about 5 gram) is mixed with oil (50 ml), and applied.
  • Seeds used as ointment ingredient used for the destruction of hair pediculi.
  • Seeds used for the night sweats of phthisis.
  • In India, fruits used for bronchitis, chronic skin disease, foul ulcers, dermatophytosis, and vertigo.
  • In Thailand, creeping stem used for blood stasis, fever, and to stimulate the central nervous system.
  • Fruit removes intestinal gases and is good for rheumatism.
  • In homeopathic medicine the drug is used for nervous exhaustion, attacks of dizziness, cramps, paralysis, dysmenorrheal and occipital headaches.

 

Other Facts

  • Wood of the plant is used for fuel and carving.
  • Crushed seeds are traditionally used to stun or kill fish and as a pesticide.
  • Fiber from the stem used to make ropes for house construction.
  • Leaves used to keep betel leaves fresh for more days and also as a serving plate.
  • Plant often bears flowers in abundance; the fragrant smell can be detected by people from 50 meters away.
  • The bast- fibers are used for basketry rope and belt making.
  • The poisonous fruit can be used as an insecticide.
  • Fruit of A. cocculus is used mainly as a fish poison and as an insecticidein South East Asia.

Precautions

  • It may cause headache and nausea.
  • Seed, when taken internally, is a powerful poison for all vertebrates affecting the central nervous system, stimulating the motor and inhibitory centers in the medulla, especially the respiratory and vagus centers, acting on the heart and respiration.
  • The poisoning causes vomiting, purging, profuse sweating and intoxication, with extreme giddiness, dimness of vision and unconsciousness.
  • Breathing and the pulse become weak.
  • The poisoning also results in chronic convulsions; during spasms and intervals of relaxations the pupils correspondingly contract or dilate.
  • Death occurs quickly from respiration failure, or slowly from gastro-intestinal symptoms.
  • When taken orally it causes unconsciousness, delirium, convulsions, gastro-enteritis, and stimulation of the respiratory center followed by paralysis.
  • It must not be applied on abraded, ulcerated, cut, bruised or damaged skin

References:

https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/c/coccul79.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anamirta_cocculus

http://www.tn-grin.nat.tn/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=3069

https://indiabiodiversity.org/species/show/225416

https://wikivisually.com/wiki/Anamirta_cocculus

https://es.linkfang.org/wiki/Anamirta_cocculus

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/AMWCO

http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Anamirta+cocculus

https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/indian-medicinal-plants/d/doc213979.html

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?3069

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2636192

https://uses.plantnet-project.org/en/Anamirta_cocculus_(PROSEA)

https://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Fish%20Berry.html

http://www.medicinalplantsindia.com/fish-berry.html

http://www.stuartxchange.org/Lagtang.html

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