Lycopodium (also called Club moss) is a homeopathic herb used for the treatment of bladder and kidney disorders.
It is also being studied for its efficacy in treating several other conditions.
Researchers have discovered that club moss has a large amount of alkaloids (naturally occurring chemical compounds that have important physiological effects in humans) present (1). While their bioactivity is not exactly known, these alkaloids are being investigated by researchers to determine their efficacy in the possible treatment of medical conditions.
Such conditions include urinary problems, wound healing, digestive and liver disorders and certain cancers.
Lycopodium is often confused with its related herb, Lycopodium serratum which has been used in Chinese medicine for memory improvement and cognition.
Lycopodium may help treat kidney stones. In a study published in the International Journal of Applied Research, researchers from Sriganganagar Homoeopathic Medical College, Hospital and Research Center in India performed a study to assess the efficacy of Lycopodium clavatum in treating kidney stones. Thirty men and women with kidney stones were treated with Lycopodium clavatum for six months. Symptoms such as pain, colic, hematuria (blood in urine) and dysuria (painful urination) were evaluated and recorded monthly.
At the conclusion of the study, researchers reported that 18 participants showed improvement, 10 were cured and 2 showed no improvement (2).
No side effects were reported.
Lycopodium has been shown to be efficacious in the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections. In patients with neurogenic lower urinary tract dysfunction due to a spinal cord injury, recurrent urinary tract infections are a common problem. According to a published study in the Indian Journal of Research in Homoeopathy, researchers have found that using Lycopodium clavatum as an add-on to standard urologic prophylactic measures has shown encouraging results based on several human studies.
Case 1: In June 2011, a 38 year old patient with a partial spinal cord injury was seen by homeopaths for the first time and reported having six urinary tract infections over the course of two years. Long-term antibiotics and cranberry tablets did not provide much help. He received treatment of Lycopodium clavatum until March 2012. He reported having no further attack of urinary tract infections until 2013 when he had to undergo surgery for a bladder stone, and developed a urinary tract infection in the course of surgical treatment (3).
Case 2: A 62 year old male with a complete spinal cord injury reported having five urinary tract infections per year over the course of nine years. Much like the previous study, long-term antibiotic use and cranberry pills did not provide much relief. He presented with the occurrence of red urine sediment and was treated with Lycopodium clavatum, two doses per day at 15-minutes intervals, and was free of infections for four months. Without further homoeopathic treatment, he remained free of infections for another 18 months (4).
In all patients, high potencies of the herb were used; they were well tolerated with no reported side effects. Homeopaths are hopeful that by working with urologists in the future, they can jointly bring relief to those with spinal cord injuries plagued by recurrent urinary tract infections.
Lycopodium has anti-inflammatory potential. In a 2007 study, researchers evaluated the effects of four extracts: petroleum ether, chloroform, ethyl acetate and methanol and fractions of Lycopodium clavatum on inflammation. Using a mouse model, they determined that of the extracts tested, only the chloroform extract and the alkaloid fraction displayed marked anti-inflammatory effects of 24.3 percent and 32.1 percent inhibition respectively. The dosage given was 500mg/kg.
Club moss was not, however, as effective as indomethacin (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) which exhibited 44.6 percent of inhibition at a 10mg/kg dose (5).
Lycopodium appears to have wound-healing properties. Lycopodium clavatum has long been used in Turkey for the treatment of wounds and dermatological diseases, such as rashes in babies and itching. The spores of the plant have also been routinely used in some cultures for the treatment of nose bleeds (6).
Lycopodium may be an important candidate in cancer research. As researchers inch closer to finding successful treatments for various types of cancer, they have their eyes on Lycopodium clavatum. In a study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, researchers evaluated whether homeopathically-potentized, ultra-high dilutions of Lycopodium clavatum had any anti-cancer effects on human cell lines.
Results revealed that not only did administration of Lycopodium clavatum cause considerable cancer cell death, it had little or no cytotoxic effect on normal peripheral blood cells (7).
While studies are in the early stages, there is optimism that this herb may one day be used as a supportive medicine in cancer therapy.
According to the June 2017 issue of Journal of Integrative Oncology, Lycopodium clavatum is one of at least five homeopathic formulations believed to be capable of activating natural killer cell destruction of cancer and virally infected cells.
Furthermore, researchers are pushing for it to be considered for in vivo cervical cancer trials (8).
Lycopodium helps prevent liver damage in rat study. Researchers of a 2015 study, published in Homeopathy: The Journal of the Faculty of Homeopathy, set out to evaluate the effects of Lycopodium clavatum on drug-induced hepatitis, as a result of paracetamol (pain killer) overdose.
Groups of animals were pretreated for eight days with Lycopodium clavatum (0.25 ml/day) and received a dose of 3 g/kg of paracetamol on the eighth day. A positive control group received similar treatment, replacing Lycopodium clavatum with 30 percent ethanol and a negative control received only 30 percent ethanol.
The results showed that pretreatment of the herb reduced hepatic lesions compared to the control group.
Researchers concluded that Lycopodium exerted a moderate liver protective effect via a decrease in cell death and inflammation (9).
While some studies in humans have not shown adverse side effects with short-term use, further studies are needed to determine it safety, especially with long-term use.
According to RxList.com, Lycopodium clavatum may cause a slow heart rate, gastrointestinal tract blockage, ulcers, lung conditions, seizures and urinary tract obstruction (10).
Until further human studies are performed, there is no scientifically-backed recommended dosage at this time.
Lycopodium is an herb that has been used in several cultures and in homeopathic medicine for the treatment of kidney and bladder disorders, liver disease and digestive disorders. This herb has the presence of a large amount of alkaloids which is what researchers believe give it its medicinal properties. Much more research is needed, however, to better understand its efficacy and safety in humans.
Studies are underway to assess its ability to treat a range of other conditions and diseases as well, namely certain cancers.