Tribulus terrestris is an annual plant from the Caltrop Family. This herb is found throughout the world and has developed into a highly adaptive tolerance for dry climates. One of North America’s invasive plants, this a weed-like species has a number of common names:
- Goat’s Head
- Burra Gokharu
- Small Caltrops
- Cat’s Head
- Devil’s Eyelashes
- Devil’s Thorn
- Devil’s Weed
- Puncture Vine
Tribulus Terrestris is a taprooted herbaceous plant. It is generally a perennial species, but does grow as a summer annual in colder climates.
Range and Habitat
It is a native of warm temperate and tropical regions. These include the “old world” in Southern Europe, Southern Asia, Africa and Australia. It has the tenacity to survive and thrive in desert climates, even in poor soil. It has a network of fine rootlets. These branch-off from a taproot, taking advantage of soil moisture. This allows it to survive if some of the most arid conditions.
Stems, often branching, radiate from the crown of tribulus terrestris. Approximately 10 cm(3.9 in) to 1 m (3 ft 3 inc) in diameter. Forming flat patches, these plants tend to prostrate. However, they may grow upwards in the shade or when growing amongst taller plants.
Stem And Leaves
Densely hairy stems tend to branch from the crown of this plant. The leaves are pinnately compound and opposite in formation. Leaflets are also densely hairy and opposite. The leafless are up to 3 mm (0.12 in).
The flowers of tribulus terrestris are made up of 5 lemon-yellow petals, 5 sepals and 10 stamens that measure 4-10 mm (0.16-0.39 in) wide. It blooms for 6 months (April – October) in California as an invasive species.
Around one week post-bloom, the flower of the tribulus terrestris plant with develop into a fruit that falls apart forming 5 burs or nutlets. The nutlets that form is where the caltrop family acquires its name. They form hard barbs, with two to four sharp spines. These can measure 10 mm (0.39 in) long and 4-6 mm (0.16 – 0.24 in) wide. They bear a striking resemblance to bull or goat heads. The nutlets are sharp enough to even penetrate lawn mower and bicycle tires. Under bear feet, they can cause painful injury.
Inside each nutlet are stacked seeds. These are separated by membranous walls. Their larger seeds develop first, an adaptation to dryer climates, while smaller seeds wait for available moisture prior to germination.
The “caltrop” design, with the upward facing spikes, has provided the quick and effective dispersal of the plant. As animals tread of them, the nutlets becomes stuck to feet and fur to be distributed throughout the environment.
Cultivation and Uses
The tribulus terrestris has become naturalized in the Americas and Australia. In these areas, it is seen as an invasive species and noxious weed. It’s also used commonly as a natural male enhancement ingredient.
Indian and Tradition Chinese Medicine
Tribulus terrestris has been widely used throughout the Asian continent therapeutically.
Siddha – Whole plant used to form decoction for treatment of urinary tract infections, urolithiasis, dysmenorrhea and edema.
Ayurveda and Unani– Used in powder form as a diuretic to treat bladder, kidney and urinary tract and uro-genital related conditions.
Kashmiri – Developed as a tea and used as a diuretic and to treat various fevers.
China – Herb is used for various treatments of physical conditions.