Tylophora indica is a climbing perennial plant indigenous to India, where it grows wild in the southern and eastern regions and has a long-standing reputation as a remedy for asthma (hence the name, T. asthmatica ).
The leaves and roots of tylophora have been included in the Bengal Pharmacopoeia since 1884. It is said to have laxative, expectorant, diaphoretic (sweating), and purgative (vomiting) properties. It has been used for the treatment of various respiratory problems besides asthma, including allergies, bronchitis and colds, as well as dysentery and oseteoarthritis pain.
Tylophora has become an increasingly popular treatment for asthma , based on its traditional use for this purpose, and several studies performed in the 1970s. However, the studies that found it effective were poorly designed, and a better designed study found no benefits.
Weak preliminary evidence hints that tylophora might have anti-inflammatory, antiallergic, and antispasmodic actions. 9–12 All these effects could make it useful for the treatment of asthma. However, only double-blind, placebo-controlled studies can actually show a treatment effective. For tylophora and asthma, the evidence from this type of study is mixed at best.
In 1972, researchers reported the results of a a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover trial of 195 individuals with asthma who were given either placebo or 40 mg of a tylophora alcohol extract daily for 6 days. 13 The results showed that people taking tylophora had less asthma symptoms, and the benefits endured for months after use of the herb was stopped. Similarly long-lasting results were seen in two double-blind placebo-controlled studies involving over 200 individuals with asthma. 14,15
Even the researchers involved in these trials expressed surprise that short term use of tylophora could produce long lasting benefits; to outside observers, such findings make the results difficult to believe at all. Furthermore, most of these studies suffered from poor design and reporting. In 1979, researchers published the results of a double-blind study designed to remedy these problems. 16 A total of 135 people with asthma were given either tylophora or placebo. No benefits were seen, and tylophora has not undergone much study since then.
The bottom line: Better studies that show benefit will be necessary to before tylophora can be considered a promising herb for asthma.
The typical dosage of tylophora leaf in dried or capsule form is 200 mg twice daily or 400 mg total in 2 doses.
In the second study mentioned above, tylophora caused nausea, vomiting, mouth soreness, and alterations in taste sensation in more than half of the participants. The other two studies found similar side effects, but far less frequently. The difference may have been because the second study had people chew the whole leaves from the plant, whereas other studies have used dried leaves or powdered extract in capsule form.
Preliminary studies on animals have found tylophora extracts to be toxic only in extremely high doses; these extracts were apparently safe in the far smaller doses needed to produce a therapeutic effect. 17
Due to the lack of comprehensive safety studies on tylophora, the herb should not be used by children, pregnant or nursing women, or individuals with severe kidney or liver disease. Whether tylophora interacts with any drugs is unknown.
9. Gopalakrishnan C, Shankaranarayanan D, Nazimudeen SK, et al. Effect of tylophorine, a major alkaloid of Tylophora indica, on immunopathological and inflammatory reactions. Indian J Med Res. 1980;71:940–948.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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