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Sophora (Ku Shen) Root

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Sophora (Ku Shen) Root 

Also Known As - sophora flavescens radix, lightyellow sophora root, Flavescent Sophora Root, Root of Light Yellow Sophora, Sophora Flavescens Root

Overview - Though literally translated as bitter ginseng in English, Ku Shen has nothing to do with ginseng at all.  Likewise, it has different medicinal properties and health benefits. This herb was first mentioned in “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic” and viewed as one of the medium-grade drugs. That means it may be poisonous but can heal sickness and tonify deficiency when used appropriately. As a matter of fact, it is a good medicine for clearing heat, removing dampness, hair growth, and killing insects, which makes it a really popular option in the treatment of skin diseases and gynecological diseases. 

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Medicinally it mainly refers to the dried root of Sophora flavescens Ait., which is a plant in the family Leguminosae. And it has a few other names, including , and more. It is produced all over China and harvested during spring and autumn. After the digging, for better medicinal quality it should remove the head and small fibrous root, wash clean, and dry immediately or dry after slicing when it is still fresh. And it is usually used raw. And now it is consumed in various forms, like sophora flavescens supplement, extract, tea, capsules, powder, etc.

Sophora root mainly contains alkaloids, flavonoids, quinones, and triterpenoid saponins. Alkaloids contain matrine, oxymatrine, sophoridine, sophoranol, sophoramine, etc. Flavonoids contain kushenol, kuraridin, kuraridinol, kurarinol, neokurarinol, norkurarinol, isokurarinone, kurarinone, and more. Triterpenoid saponins include sophoraflavoside Ⅰ, Ⅱ, Ⅲ, Ⅳ, soyasaponin I, and so on. Quinones are kushequinone A and others.

A. Various damp-heat syndromes such as dysentery, jaundice, itching vagina with leukorrhagia

With a strong bitter and cold property, this herb is widely indicated for damp-heat syndromes because it can clear heat and dry dampness, and induce diuresis to drive pathogenic damp-heat out. For dysentery with pus and blood discharge, or painful diarrhea, it can be used alone, but it can achieve a better effect if it is combined with heat-clearing and dampness-drying herbs or toxicity-removing herbs like Huang Lian or qi moving herbs such as Mu Xiang. Xiang Shen Wan from Zhong Fu Tang Gong Xuan Liang Fang (Public Selected Effective Prescriptions from Fortune-Planting Clinic) gives an example. To use the single herb to treat jaundice due to damp-heat can work, but better effects can be achieved when combined with damp-heat-removing herbs or bile-excreting and anti-icteric herbs. For instance, it was combined with Long Dan and oxgall in Zhou Hou Fang (A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies). For treating leukorrhagia due to damp-heat, or eczema, sores due to dampness, it is combined with heat-clearing and dampness-removing herbs such as Huang Bai and Di Fu Zi, either for internally taking or externally applying. It is also used for pains of hemorrhoids, hemafecia,and difficulty in urinating, damp and swollen scrotum. For instance, it is combined with Di Huang for treating bleeding hemarroids and blood discharge due to intestinal pathogenic wind in Ku Shen Di Huang Wan from Wai Ke Da Cheng (A Complete Book of External Medicine).

B. Heat-toxin syndromes such as sores, abscess, and sore throat, swollen and painful gum

It is mainly indicated for cutaneous sores, abscess, swelling and pain. For instance combined withHuang Lian and Da Huang in Ku Shen Wan from Zheng Zhi Zhun Sheng. It can drain heart and stomach fire toxicity and is effective for pain, redness and swelling in throat and gum due to adverse attacking of fire and toxicity of heart and stomach, sores in mouth and tongue or burns. For instance, in Lv Bai San from Wei Sheng Bao Dian, it is suggest to be used topically to treat burns when mixing its powder with sesame oil.

C. Scabies and skin itching, trichomonas vaginal itching and leukorrhagia

It can be used topically and externally. For killing parasites and relieving itching, it is often combined with toxicity-removing and parasites-killing herbs, and wind-dispelling and itching-relieving herbs. For instance, it is combined with She Chuang Zi, Di Fu Zi and Shi Chang Pu in Ku Shen Tang from Yang Ke Xin De Ji (Gains Collection in Traumato-Orthopedic Department) and the decoction is used to wash externally. When being combined with herbs good at killing scabies and stopping itching, such as Liu Huang and made them into ointment for external application, it will obtain a better therapeutic effect. Taking its decoction to do douche or making it as suppository is advisable for treating trichomonas vaginal itching with leukorrhagia for it can achieve an effect of relieving itching and leukorrhagia by killing parasites, clearing heat, drying dampness and inducing diuresis to dispel dampness.

Modern usage: it has certain action on entero-parasitosis such as trichomonas enteritis and threadworm disease when being applied alone or combined with parasites-killing herbs such as Bai Buby taking decoction or using the decoction to do retention enema.

Sophora flavescens benefits

Xiao Feng San, also known as Eliminate Wind Powder, is one famous formula for treating skin diseases. Many veteran doctors of TCM love to use it for mild skin diseases, or even complex chronic psoriasis. Many medical cases from them prove that this is one of effective herbal formula, in which sophora root is that ingredient plays an important role. But keep in mind it won’t work unless in large dosage. In addition to skin diseases, clinically it also treats insomnia, diarrhea, high fever, irregular heartbeat, hot hands and feet, urinary tract infection, hair loss, Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) etc. Facts have justified that this is an herb with tons of health benefits.

Modern sophora root pharmacology

1. It has obvious inhibition on heart, which can slow the heart rate, weaken the myocardial contractility, and reduce cardiac output;

2. This herb itself, matrine, and kurarinone have anti-arrhythmia effects;

3. It injection has rapid and long-lasting effect on aconitine-induced arrhythmias. And it also has antihypertensive effect;
4. Its decoction has inhibition on Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Shigella, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and a variety of skin fungus;
5. Its decoction can induce diuresis, reduce inflammation, prevent allergies, make people calm down, relieve asthma, eliminate phlegm, elevate white blood cell count, and fight cancer.

Parts Used - The whole root, aerial parts and sometimes the fruiting body.

Preparations - The Chinese Materia Medica reveals that Ku Shen is bitter in flavor and cold in medicinal properties and it goes to 6 meridians of liver, kidney, large intestine, small intestine, bladder, and heart. Basic functions are clearing heat, drying dampness, dispelling wind-evil, and killing insects. Vital sophora flavescens uses and indications include damp-heat dysentery or diarrhea, hematochezia, jaundice, inhibited urination, edema, morbid leucorrhea, vaginal itching, scabies, leprosy, pruritus, noxious dampness, and sores and ulcers. Recommended dosage is from 3 to 10 grams in decoction, pills, or powder.

Sophora flavescens side effects and contraindications

It is classified as a poisonous plant in the database of China Botanical Illustration. Both sophora flavescens seeds and roots are considered toxic (poisonous). Poisoning is mainly related to the nervous system and symptoms include salivation, rapid breathing, accelerated pulse, gait instability, convulsions, and even death due to respiratory depression in severe cases. So, small dosage is highly recommended since too large of a dose of this herb may lead to unexpected adverse reactions. As for drug interactions, it clashes with Li Lu (Veratrum). TCM wise, Ku Shen shouldn’t be used in the case of deficiency-cold in spleen and stomach.

Conditions of Use and Important Information: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on Mountain Maus Remedies. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

Disclaimer - The information presented herein by Mountain Maus’ Remedies is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider. 

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  1. Love! 5 Star Review

    Posted by on 23rd Feb 2017

    Fresh and arrived in a timely manner.

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