This word packs an interesting punch in its three syllables – starting at the back of the mouth, the almost-guttural /gu/, then moving to the tip of the tongue but keeping the voice and the round vowel for /du/, and then finishing with with the voiceless affricate and front vowel, like a sneeze or a quick kick. It’s almost like a three-step sequence in a martial art, culminating in a sharp blow.

Or perhaps it’s the sound you utter while executing that sequence. Or maybe it’s the name of the martial art itself Or, on the other hand, it might be the name of some Mexican food, perhaps a guacamole from Guadalajara. Or is it a brand of handbags? Or the name of some douchebag? Is it a hoodoo with voodoo? Is it good or cheesy?

In fact, it’s a plant: Tinospora cordifolia. If you’ve seen the word guduchi anywhere before, it’s likely on the side of a box of some pill or tea or similar thing, for the plant is used in Ayurvedic and other South Asian medicine, mainly for its hepatoprotective qualities – it helps look after your liver. Take something toxic (amanita, perhaps? or simply a shot or six of hooch? or a shot in the liver from some martial artist?) and it will help save your bacon.

The plant, by the way, is a climbing shrub with heart-shaped leaves. It grows yellow flowers and produces a red drupe fruit. It has a host of other names in various South Asian languages, most of which start with or at least involve /g/. It also has an entirely English name: heartleaf moonseed (sounds a bit like the daughter of hippies, doesn’t it?).

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