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Gokshura has an affinity for the kidneys and urinary system


Tribulus terrestris Zygophyllaceae

This spikey fruit looks like the cloven hoof of a cow and hence the name Go-kshura (cow-hoof). ‘Kshura’ also means ‘scratcher’ and as this thorny shrub is found growing in sandy wasteland all over the sub-continent it is responsible for scarring the hide of many a sacred cow. It is a superb diuretic that clears excess fluids from the system. Its hormonal precursor compounds actively nourish the reproductive system. It is also very useful for itchy skin, especially on the hands and feet.

Sustainability Status

Sustainability status

Not currently on risk lists but complete data may be missing on the status of the species. Read more about our sustainability guide.

Key benefits
  • Digestive remedy
  • Cleanses urinary system
  • How does it feel?

    Gokshura grows throughout India, China, Vietnam and some parts of Europe and South Africa. It is a thorny, trailing plant that can grow up to 1m in length. The leaves are an oblong shape and have 5-8 pairs of leaflets. It produces single flowers which are a pale yellow in colour and its fruits are globular with two characteristic pairs of spines.

  • What can I use it for?

    Gokshura protects against the formation of calculi in the urinary tract and the kidneys through the inhibition of the enzyme glycolic acid oxidase (GAO) which is involved in the oxalating of certain metabolites. Certain constituents within gokshura have also demonstrated antimicrobial activity.

    Gokshura enhances the conversion of protodioscin to dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a key steroid hormone affecting the functioning of the adrenal glands and also the reproductive organs. As such, gokshura supports the functioning of the reproductive system in both men and women, improving fertility and libido. In men specifically, gokshura encourages spermatogenesis.

  • Into the heart of gokshura

    Gokshura has an affinity for the kidneys and urinary system, encouraging rejuvenation, nourishment and cleansing of the whole system. Gokshura can effectively clear stagnant and/or toxic accumulations seated in the urinary system and the kidneys whilst also encouraging cellular repair and rejuvenation processes once the cleansing has taken place. Skin based conditions affecting the hands and feet are often effectively treated through cooling excess heat and inflammation present in the kidneys and the liver; gokshura has a cleansing and cooling effect on both organs and is, therefore, effective for treating characteristically hot, irritated and itching skin based complaints.

    Gokshura has a direct effect upon hormone production within the reproductive system of both men and women, improving fertility, libido and sperm production in men. It is particularly effective at supporting a weakness within the male reproductive system, including the prostate where it will reduce inflammation and strengthen and nourish the whole system.

    Gokshura fruit relieves bladder and kidney infections, renal colic, kidney stones, urinary retention, cloudy urination and haematuria. It soothes the urinary tract membranes and promotes urination and is specific for prostate problems, urinary retention or an obstructed urinary flow.

    Gokshura aerial parts and fruits are tonic herbs with sweet post-digestive effects that nourish the reproductive system increasing virility, fertility, sperm production as well as lactation. It rejuvenates the reproductive system, especially the uterus and the gonads and is used in infertility and impotence where there is an obstruction in the reproductive tissue. Its saponin and flavonoid content act as hormonal precursors and protodioscin is actually converted to DHEA, enhancing sexual function.

    Gokshura fruit is useful in all aggravations of the nervous system. Its harmala alkaloid content has MAOI activity that can be utilised for psychological and nervous imbalances to enhance the balance of serotonin in the brain.

    Gokshura fruit is very useful for stopping itching in the skin caused by toxic congestion in themuscle, blood or plasma. It is also a specific herb for lesions on the psalms of the hands or soles of the feet.

  • Traditional actions

  • Traditional energetic actions

    Herbal energetics are the descriptions Herbalists have given to plants, mushrooms, lichens, foods, and some minerals based on the direct experience of how they taste, feel, and work in the body. All traditional health systems use these principles to explain how the environment we live in and absorb, impacts our health. Find out more about traditional energetic actions in our article “An introduction to herbal energetics“.

  • Research

    Figure 1

    Male sexual dysfunction: A study was conducted with 180 males aged between 18 and 65 with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction and with our without hypoactive sexual desire order. 90 participants were put in a placebo group and 90 were given tribulus terrestris extract for 12 weeks. At the end of each month, participants’ sexual function, including ED, was assessed by International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) Questionnaire and Global Efficacy Question (GEQ). The extract was well tolerated and overall there was significant improvement on several parameters measured for sexual function (2).

    Available data suggests that there are many different possible mechanisms of action. These include follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), intratesticular testosterone (ITT), gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) , cyclic guanosine monophosphate  (cGMP) and nitric oxide (NO) amongst other things. Figure 1 displays a simplified illustration of how gokshura could work.

    Luteinizing hormone (LH) regulates the enzyme 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase which transforms androstenedione into testosterone. Nitric oxide (NO) is responsible for the formation of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), which could promote erection by vasodilation and increased bloody supply to the corpora cavernosa which are muscles forming the bulk of the penis and clitoris.

    Evidence also shows the molecule protodioscin is converted to dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and thus enhances sexual function as it increases free testosterone levels (4).

    Blood sugar: A double-blind, randomized placebo controlled clinical trial with 98 women was conducted to test if gokshura effected the glucose levels of people with diabetes. The extract significantly lowered the blood glucose of diabetes patients as compared with the placebo group (5).

    Another study with 100 people with diabetes and microalbuminuria showed that an Ayurvedic preparation with gokshura in significantly lowered the blood glucose and microalbuminuria after treatment as compared with the initial blood reading (6). However, this was a formula with more than one plant in, and so it cannot be concluded that it was the gokshura alone that had this effect.

    Research suggests that there is a correlation between testosterone levels and type 2 diabetes and that low testosterone is linked to a high risk of type 2 diabetes (7). The effects previously stated of gokshura on testosterone levels could also contribute to the improvement of sugar levels in diabetic patients as androgens increase carbohydrate tolerance and promote glycogenesis (8).

  • Did you know?

    The fruit, aerial parts and root are used in Ayurvedic medicine. The aerial parts appear to have the widest spectrum of rejuvenative activity for the reproductive system and the fruits are best known for their lithotropic activity and for their action on the skin.

Additional information

  • Botanical description

    Gokshura is a member of the Zygophyllaceae family. Its leaves are opposite, 5 to 8cm long, containing four to seven pairs of leaflets. It is a prostrate, spreading herb and the flowers are 1-1.5cm in diameter and yellow in colour. The fruit is usually hairy and consists of five cocci (mericarps), each with two long and two short very sharp spines. (1)

  • Common names

    • Puncture vine fruit (Eng)
    • Caltrops (Hindi)
    • Gokhru (Hindi)
    • Goksura
    • Gokhru
    • Bastitaj
  • Safety

    Caution with anti-psychotic drugs (especially MAOI medication) as its harmala alkaloid content may speed up the breaking down of the medication in the digestive system.

  • Dosage

    1–9g/day as decoction, 3–15ml/day of a 1:3 @ 25% tincture.

  • Constituents

    • Quercetin
    • Astragalin
    • Asiatic acid
    • Asiaticoside
    • Brahmoside
    • Brahminoside
    • Stigmasterol
    • Sitosterol
    • Volatile oils
Gokshura (Tribulis terrestris)
  • References

    1. Bone K, Mills S. Principles And Practice Of Phytotherapy. London: Elsevier Health Sciences UK; 2013.
    2. Kamenov Z, Fileva S, Kalinov K, Jannini E. Evaluation of the efficacy and safety of Tribulus terrestris in male sexual dysfunction—A prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Maturitas. 2017;99:20-26. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2017.01.011
    3. Ștefănescu R, Tero-Vescan A, Negroiu A, Aurică E, Vari C. A Comprehensive Review of the Phytochemical, Pharmacological, and Toxicological Properties of Tribulus terrestris L. Biomolecules. 2020;10(5):752. doi:10.3390/biom10050752
    4. Williamson E. Major Herbs Of Ayurveda. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone; 2002.
    5. Samani N, Jokar A, Soveid M, Heydari M, Mosavat S. Efficacy of the Hydroalcoholic Extract of Tribulus terrestris on the Serum Glucose and Lipid Profile of Women With Diabetes Mellitus.
    6. Ramteke R, Thakar A, Trivedi A, Patil P. Clinical efficacy of Gokshura-Punarnava Basti in the management of microalbuminuria in diabetes mellitus. AYU (An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda). 2012;33(4):537. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.110535
    7. Karakas M, Schäfer S, Appelbaum S et al. Testosterone Levels and Type 2 Diabetes—No Correlation with Age, Differential Predictive Value in Men and Women. Biomolecules. 2018;8(3):76. doi:10.3390/biom8030076
    8. Navarro G, Allard C, Xu W, Mauvais-Jarvis F. The role of androgens in metabolism, obesity, and diabetes in males and females. Obesity. 2015;23(4):713-719. doi:10.1002/oby.21033
An ‘aromatic’ remedy, high in volatile essential oils, was most often associated with calming and sometimes ‘warming’ the digestion. Most kitchen spices and herbs have this quality: they were used both as flavouring and to ease the digestion of sometimes challenging pre-industrial foods. Many aromatics are classed as ‘carminatives’ and are used to reduce colic, bloating and agitated digestion. They also often feature in respiratory remedies for colds, chest and other airway infections. They are also classic calming inhalants and massage oils, and are the basis of aromatherapy for their mental benefits.
Astringent taste
The puckering taste you get with many plants (the most familiar is black tea after being stewed too long, or some red wines) is produced by complex polyphenols such as tannins. Tannins are used in concentrated form (eg from oak bark) to make leather from animal skins. The process of ‘tanning’ involves the coagulation of relatively fluid proteins in living tissues into tight clotted fibres (similar to the process of boiling an egg). Tannins in effect turn exposed surfaces on the body into leather. In the case of the lining of mouth and upper digestive tract this is only temporary as new mucosa are replenished, but in the meantime can calm inflamed or irritated surfaces. In the case of open wounds tannins can be a life-saver – when strong (as in the bark of broadleaved trees) they can seal a damaged surface. One group of tannins, the reddish-brown ‘condensed tannins’ are procyanidins, which can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.
Bitters are a very complex group of phytochemicals that stimulate the bitter receptors in the mouth. They were some of the most valuable remedies in ancient medicine. They were experienced as stimulating appetite and switching on a wide range of key digestive functions, including increasing bile clearance from the liver (as bile is a key factor in bowel health this can be translated into improving bowel functions and the microbiome). Many of these reputations are being supported by new research on the role of bitter receptors in the mouth and elsewhere round the body. Bitters were also seen as ‘cooling’ reducing the intensity of some fevers and inflammatory diseases.
Blue-purple colouring
Any fruits with a blue-purple colouring contain high levels of the polyphenols known as anthocyanins. These work 1) on the walls of small blood vessels, helping to maintain capillary structure to reduce a key stage in inflammation, and improving the microcirculation to the tissues; 2) to improve retinal function and vision; 3) to support connective tissue repair around the body.
Traditional ‘cold’ or cooling’ remedies often contain bitter phytonutrients such a iridoids (gentian), sesiquterpenes (chamomile), anthraquinones (rhubarb root), mucilages (marshmallow), some alkaloids and flavonoids. They tend to influence the digestive system, liver and kidneys. Cooling herbs do just that; they diffuse, drain and clear heat from areas of inflammation, redness and irritation. Sweet, bitter and astringent herbs tend to be cooling.
Traditional ‘hot’ or ‘heating’ remedies, often containing spice ingredients like capsaicin, the gingerols (ginger), piperine (black or long pepper), curcumin (turmeric) or the sulfurous isothiocyanates from mustard, horseradich or wasabi, generate warmth when taken. In modern times this might translate as thermogenic and circulatory stimulant effects. There is evidence of improved tissue blood flow with such remedies: this would lead to a reduction in build-up of metabolites and tissue damage. Heating remedies were used to counter the impact of cold, reducing any symptoms made worse in the cold. .
Mucilages are complex carbohydrate based plant constituents with a slimy or ‘unctuous’ feel especially when chewed or macerated in water. Their effect is due simply to their physical coating exposed surfaces. From prehistory they were most often used as wound remedies for their soothing and healing effects on damaged tissues. Nowadays they are used more for these effects on the digestive lining, from the throat to the stomach, where they can relieve irritation and inflammation such as pharyngitis and gastritis. Some of the prominent mucilaginous remedies like slippery elm, aloe vera and the seaweeds can be used as physical buffers to reduce the harm and pain caused by reflux of excess stomach acid. Mucilages are also widely used to reduce dry coughing. Here the effect seems to be by reflex through embryonic nerve connections: reduced signals from the upper digestive wall appear to translate as reduced activity of airway muscles and increased activity of airway mucus cells. Some seed mucilages, such as in psyllium seed, flaxseed (linseed) or guar bean survive digestion to provide bulking laxative effects in the bowel. These can also reduce rate of absorption of sugar and cholesterol. .
New-mown hay aroma
The familiar country odour of haymaking, of drying grass and other plants, is largely produced by coumarins (originally isolated from tonka beans – in French coumarou) and widely used in perfumery. They are chemically categorised as benzopyrone lactones and are important phytochemicals, with strong antioxidant activity in the laboratory and likely effects in modulating inflammation. They were most often associated with the calming effect linked to their use in stuffing mattresses and pillows and plants, high In coumarins were commonly used for these properties.
Resins are most familiar as tacky discharges from pine trees (and as the substance in amber, and rosin for violin bows). They were most valued however as the basis of ancient commodities like frankincense and myrrh (two of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus) and getting access to their source was one benefit to Solomon for marrying the Queen of Sheba (now Ethiopia). Resins were the original antiseptic remedies, ground and applied as powders or pastes to wounds or inflamed tissues, and were also used for mummification. With alcohol distillation it was found that they could be dissolved in 90% alcohol and in this form they remain a most powerful mouthwash and gargle, for infected sore throats and gum disease. They never attracted much early research interest because they permanently coat expensive glassware! For use in the mouth, gums and throat hey are best combined with concentrated licorice extracts to keep the resins in suspension and add extra soothing properties. It appears that they work both as local antiseptics and by stimulating white blood cell activity under the mucosal surface. They feel extremely effective!
The salty flavour is immediately distinctive. A grain dropped onto the tongue is instantly moistening and a sprinkle on food enkindles digestion. This easily recognisable flavour has its receptors right at the front of the tongue. The salty flavor creates moisture and heat, a sinking and heavy effect which is very grounding for the nervous system and encourages stability. People who are solid and reliable become known as ‘the salt of the earth'.
The sharp taste of some fruits, and almost all unripe fruits, as well as vinegar and fermented foods, is produced by weak acids (the taste is generated by H+ ions from acids stimulating the sour taste buds). Sour taste buds are hard-wired to generate immediate reflex responses elsewhere in the body. Anyone who likes the refreshing taste of lemon or other citrus in the morning will know that one reflex effect is increased saliva production. Other effects are subjective rather than confirmed by research but there is a consistent view that they include increased digestive activity and contraction of the gallbladder.
In the days when most people never tasted sugar, ‘sweetness’ was associated with the taste of basic foods: that of cooked vegetables, cereals and meat. In other words sweet was the quality of nourishment, and ‘tonic’ remedies. Describing a remedy as sweet generally led to that remedy being used in convalescence or recovery from illness. Interestingly, the plant constituents most often found in classic tonics like licorice, ginseng are plant steroids including saponins, which also have a sweet taste.

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