Levant berry (Anamirta cocculus) Information, Uses and Warning

Cocculus indicus, Levant berries (fruits of the plant), Fish poison, Fish berry, Kaka-mari (one that kills crow) are few synonyms of Anamirta cocculus. It is a climber native to India. It belong to plant family Menispermaceae. The fruits of plant are used medicinally.

Levant berries medicinal uses
By H. Zell - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10099596

The berries / fruits of plant are slightly bigger than full-sized pea and are round shaped. They are wrinkled and blackish brown in colour. The kernel is white, bitter in taste, and oily. The seed contains approximately 1.5 percent of poisonous crystalline principle, Picrotoxin (sesquiterpene glycoside C30H34O13). Picrotoxin is also present in leaves.

Picrotoxin is a convulsant. It is a noncompetitive antagonist at GABA-A receptors. Picrotoxin is used as a central nervous system stimulant, antidote, convulsant, and GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) antagonist. The fishermen in southern India use the seeds of plant as a poison to stun fish and catch them easily.

Since, Anamirta cocculus seeds are powerful poison they are not used internally. Externally it is used as insecticide.

Homeopathic Remedy Cocculus indicus

In Homeopathy, remedy Cocculus indicus (tincture) is used in treatment of central nervous system disorders, especially vertigo, dizziness, nausea, sea- and travel sickness, vomiting, hypersensitivity to touch, convulsions, neurological disorders and psychosis-related fear.

The remedy is prepared by macerating the powdered seeds in alcohol. Cocculus indicus remedy is most effective for people suffering from severe fatigue, insomnia, nausea due to travel or motion and unconsciousness. The symptom are better by sitting in a warm room or lying quietly. The symptoms are worse by cold, lack of sleep, movement, anxiety and stress.

Therapeutically, Cocculus indicus indications are same as nux vomica, but it is less irritating to the nerves compared to nux vomica.

General Information

Anamirta cocculus, is a shrub native to India. It is a climber having corky shoots, unisexual flowers and seeds in drupe. The leaves are large, simple, alternate, long petiolated, broadly ovate, sub coriaceous, cordate at base, having acute apex. The seeds are known as fish berries, as they are chiefly used to poison fish.

Scientific Classification

The botanical name of Fish Berry / Levant Berry, Poison Berry / Crow Killer is Anamirta cocculus (Linn.) Wight and Arn. It belongs to plant family Menispermaceae. Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.

  1. Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
  2. Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
  3. Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
  4. Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
  5. Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
  6. Subclass: Magnoliidae
  7. Order: Ranunculales
  8. Family: Menispermaceae – Moonseed family
  9. Genus: Cocculus
  10. Species: Cocculus indicus


Anamirta paniculata Colebr.

Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Seeds

Plant type: Climber

Distribution: The Khasi Hills, Orissa and peninsular India

Distribution: Found in India and Southeast Asia.

Vernacular names

  1. Ayurvedic : Kaakaadani, Kaakamaari
  2. Siddha/Tamil : Kaakkaikkollividai
  3. English : Fish Berry, Levant Berry, Poison Berry, Crow Killer
  4. Hindi : Kakamari ke beej
  5. Bengali: Kakamari
  6. Tamil : Kakkay Kolli varai, Pen Kottai
  7. Telugu : Kakamari, Kaki Champa
  8. Malyalam : Pollak Kaya
  9. Tehran : Marg-i-mahi
  10. Iraq : Zahar

Constituents of Anamirta paniculata

Anamirta paniculata contain different active principles such as alkaloids such as berberine, palmatine, mangoflorine, colubamine, picrotoxin, minispremine, paraminispermine, and fatty acids like stearic acid, palmatic acid, fumeric acid, oleic acid and linolenic acid.

Important Medicinal Properties

  1. Anodyne: Relieves pain without causing loss of consciousness
  2. Antifungal: effective against fungus
  3. Antiulcer: tending to prevent or heal ulcers
  4. Hypnotic: sleep-inducing
  5. Insecticide: kills insects
  6. Narcotic: addictive drug affecting mood or behavior
  7. Nerve stimulant: stimulates nerves
  8. Sedative: promoting calm or inducing sleep

Uses of Anamirta cocculus

The seeds of fish berries contain toxic picrotoxin. Picrotoxin, is used as antidote against poisoning of barbiturates and morphine. For this purpose, it is given intravenously. As the seeds are lethal they are used only externally by common people.

  1. The seeds preparation as ointment is applied on obstinate skin diseases.
  2. The juice of fruits is applied externally on scabies and ulcer.
  3. The fruit paste is applied topically to treat tinea/ringworm.
  4. For itch and herpes, the fine powder of seeds is mixed with castor oil and applied topically.
  5. To kill lice and other parasites, the paste prepared from the seeds (about 5 gram) is mixed with oil (50 ml) and applied.
  6. The infusion of roots, is used to treat fever, menstrual problems and indigestion.


  1. Cocculus indicus is a powerful poison. Picrotoxin at 20mg is toxic.
  2. Oral intake of berries can kill. Even two to three berries are lethal.
  3. When taken orally it causes unconsciousness, delirium, convulsions, gastro-enteritis and stimulation of the respiratory center followed by paralysis.
  4. It must not be applied on abraded, ulcerated, cut, bruised or damaged skin.
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