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Smilax china


Smilax nipponica Miq, Smilax riparia DC, Smilax seiboldii Miq., Coprosmanthus japonicus Kunth, Smilax china f. obtusa H. Léveillé, Smilax china var. taiheiensis Hayata, Smilax pteropus Miquel, Smilax taiheiensis Hayata. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia: Kayu China, Ubat Raja, Gadong China  [5]
English:   China Sasparilla, China Root [7]  
Philippines:   Buanal (Ig.); palipit (Bon.); sarsaparillang-china (Tag.); China root, Chinese sarsaparilla (Engl.) [6]

Kub Chini, Choob Chini, Cinipavu, Pavu, Cinnapavu, Davipantaravaca, Madhusnuhi,   Parankicekai, Parangicekka [7]

Sri Lanka:   China-alla [9]
Indo China:   Cay Khuc Khac [10], Tho Phuc Linh [2]
China:   Ba qia, Tu Gu Ling [3], Thu Fu Lin [11]
Hong Kong:   Gum Gong Teng [3]
Japan:   Sarutori Ibara, San Ke Ri [12]
Korea:   Cheong Mi Rae Deong Gul [3]
Arabia:   Kasbussini, Kashab-chinae
Persia:   Chob Chinae [9]
Spain:   Palo de China
Portugal:   Esquina
France:   Squine
Holland:   China Wortel [10]

General Information


Smilax china is a hard tendril climbing vine with sparsely prickled or unarmed stems and thick tuberous rhizomes. The petiole is 0.5-1.5 cm, narrowly winged for half to one third of its length. Leaves simple, alternate, elliptic and rounded at base, prominently nerved and measures 3-10 cm x 1.5-6 cm. The inflorescence is born in axil of young leaf, of one umbel of both sexes which 10-25 flowered, representing subglobose and base subglobose measuring 2-3 mm in diameter with many small bracteoles. The male flowers have sepals of yellowish green and measuring 3.5-4.5 x 1.5-2.5 mm. The stamens measure 3-4 mm. The filaments are filiform in shape. The female flowers have six staminodes. The fruits which are red berries measures 0.6-1.5 cm in diameter and minutely white powdery. [4][8]

Plant Part Used

Rhizomes, roots [11][19][20]

Chemical Constituents

Saponins: smilax saponins

Ketones: 16-hentriacontanone

Carotenoids: b-carotene, neo-b-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, lutein epoxide

Amino acids: 4-methylene- 4-methyl-glutamic acid, 4-hydorxy-4-methyl-glutamic acid, arginine, N-a-acylarginine, acidic N-a-acylarginine derivatives.  [11]

Cinchonin, smilacin, steroidal saponin: tigogenin, neo-tigogenin, laxogenin, isonarthogenin, pseudoprotodioscin, dioscin, diosgenin, isocery-S-methylcycteamine-sulphoxide, oleic acid, rutin, smilax-saponin A,B,C [3][13][14][15]

kaemperol-7-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside, engeletin, isoengeletin, kaempferol, dihydrokaempferol, dihydrokaempferol-5-O-P-D-glucopyranoside, rutin, kaempferol-5-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside, 3, 5, 4'-trihydroxystibene, vanillic acid, 3, 5-dimethoxy4-O-beta-D-glu-copyranosylcinnamic acid, beta-sitosterol, and beta-daucosterol [16]

Stilbenes and Flavonoids: taxifolin-3-O-glycoside, piceid, oxyresveratrol, engeletin, resveratrol and scirpusin A. [17]

Phenylpropanoids: smilasides A-F (1-6), and three known phenylpropanoids, smiglaside E, heloniosides B, and 2',6'-diacetyl-3,6-diferuloylsucrose. [18] 

Traditional Used:

The main part of the plant in used is the rhizome which is considered to be an alterative, antiscrofulatic, carminative, depurative, diuretic, tonic and antivenereal. It came into prominence when da Orta reported his success in treating syphilis, a disease introduced by the Portuguese into India in the mid fifteenth century, in Goa. However, as its fame spread far and wide as an effective treatment for this rapidly spreading disease globally, it fell to disrepute due to the poor quality of the drug being exported. However, it remain the best treatment for syphilis to the east of India because of the better quality and fresher drug. [19]

A decoction of the roots of Smilax china has been used to treat all stages of syphilis from east to west. It has also been advocated in the treatment of leprosy, scrofula and many skin infections developing into ulcers. In the Far East the roots had been used to treat abscesses, pyoderma and burns. [11]

The roots are considered carminative, depurative, laxative and digestive and is being prescribed for treatement of dyspepsia, constipation, flatulence and colic by the Indian who received the drug from Chinese merchants. The Chinese on the other hand made use of this drug to treat cases of gastroenteritis and dysentery. In Korea it was one of the drugs used in the treatment of Acute Appenidicitis, taeniasis and constipation. [8][11]

The roots has been employed to treat cases of paralysis and sciatica. Its tonic effect has been taken advantaged of and was prescribed in cases of general weakness and debilitating diseases. It has also been considered an aphrodisiac and was used to treat impotency.Emperor Charles V was treated successfully for gout using this drug and from thence on it has acquired much esteem for treatment of this and other rheumatic complains apart from its use to treat syphilis in Europe. It was also advocated in the treatment of insanity and neuralgias. [8][11]

It diuretic properties had made the Indians use it to treat urinary tract infection, stone and ulcers of the bladder and even chyluria by the physicians of Hong Kong. It helps in relieving strangury and also seminal weakness. [8][11]

Apart from infective skin conditions this root has been used to treat other dermatological conditions and amongst them is psoriasis.  [11]

In its native land it was also used to treat diabetes. Both Chinese and Indians consider it an expectorant and used them for treatment of cough with phlegm. It is also given sometimes to treat fever and other inflammatory conditions associated with fever like acute lymphadenitis. 

Pre-Clinical Data


Anti-inflammatory activity

In a study to observe the change in secondary change of secondary inflammation, thymus and spleen weights, T cell subgroup, B cell, NK cell, it was found that an intragastric injection of a decoction of S. china (90, 180 could significantly inhibit adjunctive arthritis mouse's secondary inflammatory swelling, reduce thymus and spleen weights, decrease CD4/CD8, but had little influence on B Cell. This indicate that S. china anti-inflammatory action is more via cell-mediated immunity response rather than humoral. [22]

Another study it was found that aqueous extract of S. china has anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects similar to those of Acetyl-salicylate. Upon evaluating it for the inhibition of prostaglandin production (for COX-2 inhibitions) in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced mouse macrophage cells the investigators found that both COX-2 activity and COX expression were inhibited. [23]

The study on effects of ethylacetate extract of S. china on acute and chronic inflammation showed significant positive results on test animals indicating that S. china has very strong anti-inflammatory effects both in acute and chronic conditions. [24]

The analysis of butanol extract of S. china whereby 4 steroidal saponins were isolated together with another 13 compounds. Bioassay tests on all these compounds showed inhibitory effects on cyclooxygenase-2 enzyme (COX-2) activities at final concentration of 10-5 M. [25]

The Pakistani investigators isolated Seiboldogenin from ethyl acetate fraction of the plant crude extract. This compound was subjected to a series of tests to determine whether it has anti-inflammatory properties or not. The results showed that it indeed has anti-inflammatory activities and upon computational docking simulations it was found that its molecular interaction was with important amino acid residues in the catalytic site of lipoxygenase. [26]

Antimutagenic and cytotoxic activity

In a study of antimutagenic activity of 36 common herbs in China, it was found that aqueous extract of S. china completely inhibit mutagenic activity of benzo[a]pyrene. [27]

A flavonoid glycoside, kaempferol-7-O-beta-D-glucoside, was shown to display anticancer activity. This study had determined that kaempferol-7-O-beta-D-glucoside inhibit cell cycle at G1 phase and induce apoptosis conferring it with antiproliferative property. [28]

In a recent study of kaempferol-7-O-beta-D-glucoside anticancer activity it was further determined that it is most active in HeLa human cervix carcinoma cells. The mechanism of action illicited showed inhibition of cell cycle at the level of G2/M phase and the apoptosis signal pathway to be via the mitochondrial pathway. Thus, kaempferol-7-O-beta-D-glucoside has great potential to be used in the treatment of cancer cervix. [29]

Anti-alzheimer activity:

b-secretase is an enzyme instrumental in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. A study to find its inhibitor had lead to the discovery of four compounds (trans/cis-resveratrol mixture, oxyresveratrol, veraphenol, and cis-scirpusin A ) from the ethylacetate soluble fraction of Smilax china root. They showed potent inhibitory activities in a non-competitive manner. They had less inhibitory activities on -secretase and other serine proteases such as chymotrypsin, trypsin, and elastase. This shows that these compounds are very selective to b-secretase. [30]

The methanol extract of rhizome of Smilax china showed protective activity against a synthetic 25-35 amyloid peptide, -induced neurotoxicity in cultured rat cerebral cortical neurons. [31]

Anti-oxidant activity:

The methanol extract of S. china had been subjected to free radical scavenging studies to determine its antioxidant activities. It was revealed that the methanol extract had high presence of 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) free radical scavenging activity and protective property of cell's viability. This activity was seen in the ethylacetate, butanol and water extracted fractions of the extract. It was also demonstrated that the methanol extract induced an increase of superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase activities in a dose-dependent manner between 4-100 microg/mL. [32] 


No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

Reduction of adipose tissue and body weight: effect of water soluble calcium hydroxycitrate in Garcinia atroviridis on the short term treatment of obese women in Thailand. In this trial 50 obese women with BMI >25 kg/m2 were randomly divided into two groups of 25. Group 1 was given water soluble calcium hydroxycitrate (HCA) as Garcinia atroviridis while group 2 received a placebo. All were then given similar diet of 1000Kcal/day. At the end of a two month period it was found that Group 1 loss more weight and at a faster rate than Group 2. This decrease in body weight was attributes to loss of fat storage as evidenced by decrease in triceps skin fold thickness. [33]

Adverse Effects in Human:

No documentation

Used in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

No documentation

Age Limitations

Neonates / Adolescents

No documentation


No documentation

Chronic Disease Conditions

No documentation


Interactions with drugs

No documentation

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

No documentation



No documentation

Case Reports

No documentation

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  1)  Botanical Info


  1. Jonathan Pereira. The elements of materia medica and therapeutics. 2(1). London: Ongman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts; 1857. p. 296.
  2. E.D. Merril. A Commentary on Loureiro’s “Flora Cochinchinensis”Transactions, American Philosophical Society) Philadelphia. The American Philosophical Society 1935. 24(2). p. 111.
  3. Thomas S. C. Li. Chinese & Related North American Herbs. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2002. pg. 135
  4. Flora of China. Available from: [Accessed on 20th October 2009].
  5. John Crawfurd. A grammar and dictionary of the Malay language. London Smith Elder & Company; 1852. p. 70.
  6. Republic of the Philippines, Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry. Available from: [Accessed on 20th October 2009].
  7. Garcia da Orta. Colloquies of Simples and Drugs of India. Trans Sir Clement Markham (1895) .London: H. Sotheran and Co; 1913. p. 378.
  8. P. K. Warrier, V. P. K. Nambiar, C. Ramankutty, R. Vasudevan Nair. Indian medicinal plants: a compendium of 500 species. 5. Chennai: Orient Longmans; 1994. p. 143.
  9. H. Panda. Herbal Soaps & Detergents Hand Book. Delhi: National Institute of Industrial Research; 2004. p. 109.
  10. Sir Whitelaw. Ainslie Materia indica Vol. 1. London: Longman Rees, Orme, Brown & Green 1826. p. 592.
  11. Takeatsu Kimura, Paul P. H. But. Northeast Asia Unesco. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co; 1996. p. 181.
  12. William Gerald Beasley . The Perry mission to Japan, 1853-1854.8. Richmond: Japan Library; 2002. p. 77.
  13. C. P. Khare. Indian herbal remedies: rational Western therapy. New York: Springer; 2004. p. 428.
  14. Gideon Maxwell Polya. Biochemical targets of plant bioactive compounds. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2003. pp. 285, 289, 290.
  15. James A. Duke Handbook of phytochemical constituents of GRAS herbs and other economic plants. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2001. p. 5622.
  16. Xu Y, Liang JY, Zou ZM. Studies on chemical constituents of rhizomes of Smilax china. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. Nov2008;33(21):2497-2499.
  17. Shao B, Guo HZ, Cui YJ, Liu AH, Yu HL, Guo H, Xu M, Guo DA. Simultaneous determination of six major stilbenes and flavonoids in Smilax china by high performance liquid chromatography. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 27Jul2007;44(3): pp. 737-742.
  18. Kuo YH, Hsu YW, Liaw CC, Lee JK, Huang HC, Kuo LM.Cytotoxic phenylpropanoid glycosides from the stems of Smilax china. J Nat Prod. Oct2005;68(10): pp. 1475-1478.
  19. Garcia da Orta. Colloquies of Simples and Drugs of India. Trans Sir Clement Markham (1895) .London: H. Sotheran and Co; 1913. p. 378.
  20. Henry Yule, A. C. Burnell. A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases: Hobson-Jobson. London: J.Murray; 1903. p. 199.
  21. H. Panda. Hand book on herbal drugs and its plant sources. Delhi: National Institute of Industrial Research; 200. p. 32.
  22. Lü Y, Chen D, Deng J, Tian L. Effect of Smilax china on adjunctive arthritis mouse. Zhong Yao Cai. May2003;26(5): pp. 344-346.
  23. Shu XS, Gao ZH, Yang XL. Anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive activities of Smilax china L. aqueous extract. J Ethnopharmacol. 20Feb2006;103(3): pp. 327-332.
  24. Shu XS, Gao ZH, Yang XL. The anti-inflammation effects of Smilax china ethylacetate extract in rats and mice. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. Feb2006;31(3):239-243.
  25. Shao B, Guo H, Cui Y, Ye M, Han J, Guo D. Steroidal saponins from Smilax china and their anti-inflammatory activities. Phytochemistry. Mar2007;68(5):623-630.
  26. Khan I, Nisar M, Ebad F, Nadeem S, Saeed M, Khan H, Samiullah, Khuda F, Karim N, Ahmad Z. Anti-inflammatory activities of Sieboldogenin from Smilax china Linn.: experimental and computational studies. J Ethnopharmacol. 12Jan2009;121(1): pp. 175-177.
  27. Lee H, Lin JY. Antimutagenic activity of extracts from anticancer drugs in Chinese medicine. Mutat Res. Feb1988;204(2): pp. 229-324.
  28. Li YL, Gan GP, Zhang HZ, Wu HZ, Li CL, Huang YP, Liu YW, Liu JW. A flavonoid glycoside isolated from Smilax china L. rhizome in vitro anticancer effects on human cancer cell lines. J Ethnopharmacol. 15Aug2007;113(1): pp. 115-124.
  29. Xu W, Liu J, Li C, Wu HZ, Liu YW. Kaempferol-7-O-beta-D-glucoside (KG) isolated from Smilax china L. rhizome induces G2/M phase arrest and apoptosis on HeLa cells in a p53-independent manner. Cancer Lett. 18Jun2008;264(2): pp. 229-240.
  30. Jeon SY, Kwon SH, Seong YH, Bae K, Hur JM, Lee YY, Suh DY, Song KS. Beta-secretase (BACE1)-inhibiting stilbenoids from Smilax rhizoma. Phytomedicine. Jun2007;14(6): pp. 403-408.
  31. Ban JY, Cho SO, Koh SB, Song KS, Bae K, Seong YH. Protection of amyloid beta protein (25-35)-induced neurotoxicity by methanol extract of Smilacis chinae rhizome in cultured rat cortical neurons. J Ethnopharmacol. 30Jun2006;106(2): pp. 230-237.
  32. Lee SE, Ju EM, Kim JH. Free radical scavenging and antioxidant enzyme fortifying activities of extracts from Smilax china root. Exp Mol Med. 31Dec2001; 33(4): pp. 263-268.
  33. Roongpisuthipong C, Kantawan R, Roongpisuthipong W. Reduction of adipose tissue and body weight: effect of water soluble calcium hydroxycitrate in Garcinia atroviridis on the short term treatment of obese women in Thailand. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16(1):25.

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