Hadjod (scientific name Cissus quadrangularis) is a perennial herb related to grapes. Its original native area is unknown but it's believed to be in India or the neighbouring countries of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It has long been established in other countries of Southeast Asia, as well as Africa and the Middle East. Humans have also introduced it in the Americas, especially in Brazil and the southern US states.
Hadjod can grow to a height of 1.5 m. The branches have a square section with leathery edges on each side. The branches have internodes with a length between 8 and 10 cm and a width of 1.2-1.5 cm. The leaves emerge from these nodes and can have a width between 2 and 5 cm, with three lobes and a jagged appearance. On the other side of every node opposite a leaf there is a tendril. Flowers are located on racemes and are small in size, with a color that can be white, green or yellow. The fruits are small and round, resembling red berries.
The medical usage of the herb dates from ancient times. It is even mentioned in Ayurvedic medicine as a cure for mobility problems affecting the bones and tendons. It is also part of Siddha medicine, the ancestral healing practices of Southern India. They used hadjod to heal fractured bones but also as a general tonic and pain killer. These effects are still valued today, when athletes use the herb to relieve joint pain. Tests on rats have proven its pain killer ability.
The research on humans is quite limited at the moment but one particular study has confirmed the positive effect on athletes. On average, one third of the sportsmen treated with hadjod have reported less pain in their joints. Many joint supplements are not actually tested on athletes but on patients with osteoarthritis. The results of the study can thus be very promising and lead to the development of more effective supplements.
Hadjod has a long history of usage not only in Ayurvedic medicine but also in the traditional cultures of Africa and Thailand. Today, hadjod can be found as extracts, which are part of the modern dietary supplements prescribed by herbalists.
It has been used since ancient times since it is mentioned in the sacred Vedic texts, which were written thousands of years ago. The Ayurvedic traditions considered hadjod an effective cure for fractures and wounded ligaments. Siddha traditional practitioners also used it to heal broken bones but also as a general energizer and painkiller. It was even named asthisamharaka, which means the defender of bones. It was employed for the same purpose by the Garo tribesmen from Bangladesh.
The old and well-attested belief that hadjod speeds up the healing of fractured bones has prompted modern researchers to investigate it. One study was conducted on dogs and they were split in two groups, one treated with a hadjod extract and the other with a placebo. The results were very encouraging since the bones of the dogs treated with the active extract were healed after three weeks, whereas the ones of the placebo group were far from being cured.
A similar study conducted on lab rats concluded that hadjod extracts can increase the healing rate of bones by up to 50%. The exact mechanism of action is still unknown but it's suspected that the herb somehow boosts the assimilation of calcium in the body. Calcium is one of the main building blocks of bones and it plays a key role in their repair and maintenance. When taken as a supplement, a daily dose of hadjod is able to reduce fracture risks by up to 40 percent.
The inclusion of hadjod extract in modern ingredients has led to the discovery of other beneficial effects. Hadjod can help people lose weight, but only when combined with an active lifestyle with proper nutrition and exercise. In a focused study, the subjects were divided in two groups, one took a hadjod extract and the rest were given just a placebo. The results were extremely relevant, since the active group lost 187% more weight than the placebo group. While the action mechanism hasn't been determined yet, compounds in the plant appear to increase the burn rate of fats, reduce appetite and even increase the muscular mass.
An even more ambitious study split the tests subjects in three groups. One group was again given a placebo, the second one took a hadjod extract while the third not only ingested hadjod supplements but combined it with a strict diet. After two months, results revealed that both groups that took the active supplement lost weight, even the one that did not follow a diet. Besides the important weight loss, the two groups also vastly improved their circulatory health and had lower levels of cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides, as well as reduced blood pressure. According to another test study, the weight loss effect of hadjod is even stronger when combined with an extract of Irvingia gabonensis (wild mango).
Since hadjod reduces both blood sugar and weight, it can be very valuable to prevent and control type 2 diabetes. This disease is usually linked with obesity, so the hadjod extract could potentially reduce the risk of this incurable disorder.
Like many plants, hadjod is also a very rich source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidants found in nature and also has numerous other benefits. It can reduce inflammation and relieve pain in general. The vitamin C content might explain the old tradition of using hadjod as a painkiller, the effect being compared to the one of aspirin.
While the tests on weight loss have revealed important heart benefits, these haven't been properly investigated so far. However, many experts think it might have a very good potential and prescribe the extract to people who suffer from various heart diseases. The action might be an indirect one, since this herb prevents obesity which is a major cause for various cardiac problems.
The plant is also effective against digestive issues, in particular hemorrhoids but also chronic constipation or ulcers. Most of these conditions actually have the same cause, which is a bad mix of bacteria in the intestines, so hadjod might have an effect on them. It has also been used in Africa as a treatment for malaria and asthma.
Unlike other supplements, hadjod is 100% natural and it has a long history of human consumption with very few reported side effects. This was also tested in modern clinical studies. Most of the test subjects did not report any problems after ingesting hadjod. In very rare cases, there were some minor reactions restricted to flatulence, dizziness and low-intensity headaches.
However, like almost all natural products, pregnant and lactating women should avoid hadjod until some rigorous research will establish if it is completely safe. It might also cause adverse reactions when combined with medication or other supplements, the effects have not been properly studied. It is a good idea to always ask for an advice from your doctor.
This is especially important for people who suffer from diabetes. Hadjod has the natural ability to reduce blood sugar levels, which is normally a good thing. However, diabetes patients already take medication that decreases blood sugar, so this herb might cause it to drop under the safe levels.