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a family of dicotylenous plants, including lianas, rarely shrubs, and sometimes small trees and grasses. The leaves are alternate, simple or palmately lobed, and exstipulate. The flowers are generally regular, three-parted, and primarily unisexual (the plants are generally dioecious); they are in inflorescences or, rarely, are solitary. The fruit is a multiple drupe or multiple nut. The seeds are usually sickle-shaped.
The family has 70 genera, with 400 species, distributed in the tropics and subtropics of both hemispheres. Only a few species are found in temperate regions. One species (of the genus Menispermum) grows in the USSR. The roots, bark, and fruits of many species (of the genera Tinospora, Conculus, and Stephania) contain bitter substances and poisonous alkaloids, such as iatrorhyze, and are used medicinally, particularly in tropical countries. Many species are used to obtain curare.