Cyperus refers to a family of marsh-dwelling grass-like plants known as sedges. Perhaps the best known member of this family is the reed, which ancient Egyptians used to make papyrus. However, many other members of this family have proved useful as food and medicine. Cyperus articulatus and Cyperus rotundus are the two species most often associated with healing.
C. articulatus, also called adrue or Guinea rush, is a tall sedge that mainly grows in Jamaica, Turkey, and along the Nile River in Egypt. The medicinal part of the plant is its root or tuber. This part is blackish in color and shaped like a top. Tubers are usually about 0.7-1 in (1.1-2.5 cm) long and about 0.5-0.7 in (1.3-1.7 cm) in diameter. The tubers may be connected in groups of two or three by underground stems. They are harvested and dried for healing. The herb is bitter in taste and aromatic, similar to lavender.
C. rotundus is used primarily in Asia and Africa but also grows in Australia, Europe, and North America. It grows in low, damp places near water. Like C. articulatus, the tuber is the part of the plant used in healing. Its Chinese name is xiang fu and it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. C. rotundus is also called tiririca, nutsedge, nut grass, musta, mutha, and a host of other local names.
C. articulatus is used mainly for digestive disorders. It is an antiemetic, meaning that it suppresses vomiting. This is useful in reducing the symptoms of morning sickness during pregnancy. Because it gives the body a general feeling of warmth, C. articulatus is sometimes used as a sedative, generally in connection with suppressing
There are few scientific studies of C. articulatus. An Argentinian study conducted in 1995 looked at the bacteria-killing properties of the herb. It concluded that decoctions of C. articulatus completely inhibited the growth of one species of Staphylococcus bacteria and partially inhibited the growth in one species of Pseudominas bacteria. Both of these bacteria strains are capable of causing severe, and sometimes fatal, infections. It was ineffective against five other infection-causing organisms tested.
Another study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 1996 by Swiss investigators found that extracts of C. articulatus reduced certain types of spontaneous neuron firings in the brains of rats. These scientists suggested that this suppression might be the basis for C. articulatus's effectiveness in treating headache and epilepsy.
C. rotundus is used in Chinese medicine and Japanese Kampo formulations. It is rarely used alone and can be found in formulas that relieve pain, especially pain associated with menstruation. It is also used in formulas for stomachache and diarrhea, to improve menstrual function, to treat impotence or heighten sexual potency, to treat bacterial infections, dry or tired eyes, and in tonics for general wellness. In other Asian and African countries, C. rotundus is also used as a diuretic and to treat high blood pressure. It is also spread on the skin as a bactericide and a fungicide to prevent infection of wounds, but these properties have not been studied extensively in the laboratory. In two studies, one done in Thailand and the other in Tanzania, compounds found in extracts from the root of C. rotundus were isolated and several were found to have antimalarial properties. A recent Japanese study indicates that cyperus extract acts as an anticoagulant by preventing blood platelets from clumping together to form clots.
A recent Egyptian study of cyperus lends some support to the traditional Chinese use of the herb as a remedy for menstrual disorders. The Egyptian researchers found that cyperus extract has a moderate level of estrogenic activity.
C. articulatus is usually prepared as a decoction or liquid extract to be taken internally. C. rotundus may be prepared two different ways. It can be boiled to make a liquid to be mixed with other herbs. The tubers can also be ground into a paste with or without other herbs. The paste can either be formed into pills to be taken internally or applied externally to wounds or skin rashes. This paste is also sometimes applied directly to the temples to treat headaches.
No particular precautions have been reported as being necessary in using cyperus.
No side effects have been reported in using cyperus. However, this herb has a long tradition of folk use, but its effects on humans have not been studied in any structured way.
Cyperus is often used in conjunction with other herbs in Chinese formulations with no reported interactions. Cyperus is, however, reported to be mixed with hallucinogenic plants by certain tribes living in the Brazilian rain forest, in order to prolong the action of the hallucinogens. As of 2002, there are no studies of interactions between cyperus and standard Western pharmaceuticals. A recent Korean report on several new compounds isolated from cyperus, however, indicates that it inhibits the action of benzodiazepine tranquilizers and modifies the effectiveness of several neurotransmitters in the central nervous system.
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American Association of Oriental Medicine (AAOM). 433 Front Street, Catasauqua, PA 18032. (610) 266-2433
Centre for International Ethnomedicinal Education and Research (CIEER). <http://www.cieer.org>.
"Tiririca" Rain-Tree. firstname.lastname@example.org. http://rain-tree.com/tirirca.htm.
Rebecca J. Frey, PhD