Qian Cao

Radix Rubiae; Rubia cordifolia

Chemical Constituents

Quinones: anthraquinone glycosides including rubiadin, I-hydroxy 2-methoxy anthraquinone, 3-dimethoxy 2-carboxy anthraquinone. Rubiprasin A, B, C, ruiearbonols, aborane triterpenoids. Mangistin, alizarin, garancin, mollugin, furomollugin. [3][4][5][6]


2 to 9 grams of crude herb daily in divided doses.



Traditional Use

Rubia cordifolia exhibits a bitter taste and cold properties making it appropriate for removing heat from the blood and stopping bleeding from various causes. [7] It also removes blood stasis. The channels entered are the liver and heart. [8]


Cytotoxic activity: 

Current research has investigated the important role of R. cordifolia in cancer prevention and treatment. Numerous laboratory and animal studies have reviewed and confirmed its cytotoxic activity in some cancers. [9][10][11] It has been identified that R. cordifolia also could be used to inhibit topoisomerase. [9] 

Radioprotective activity:

R. cordifolia has also displayed radioprotective activity. An animal study found that R. cordifolia reduced lipid peroxidation induced by radiation as well as reduced hemopoietic injury and genotoxicity. [12] 

Antioxidant activity: 

R. cordifolia has also displayed notable antioxidant activity. [13] The antioxidant behavior is comparable to or better than Vitamin E and EDTA. [14] The antioxidant activity of R. cordifolia was found to be in the form of regulating glutathione oxidation. [15] In laboratory analysis, it also demonstrated a reduction in lipid peroxidation through a direct interaction with iron. [16] 

Hepatoprotective activity: 

Studies have also demonstrated the role of R. cordifolia as an effective treatment for various hepatic disorders. [17]ordifolia has been the subject of laboratory studies on Hepatitis B, as it inhibits secretion of the Hepatitis B surface antigen. [18] This may be due to the activity of R. cordifolia as both an antimicrobial [19] and an antiviral. [18] 

Other activity: 

In an animal model, R. cordifolia has also been shown to demonstrate anti-stress properties, reduced blood sugar, the occurrence of ulcer, as well as reduced corticosterone levels. [20] An animal model also suggests that R. cordfiolia may enhance GABA levels in the brain. [21] 


No documentation.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

Not to be used by those with liver disease. Based on pharmacology this herb should not be used by those being treated for Hepatitis B unless directed and monitored by a physician. [18]

Based on pharmacology, not to be used in combination with drugs that are metabolized in the liver. [17]

Based on preliminary research and assumptions into the role of Qian Cao in affecting GABA levels in the brain, this herb should not be used by those taking seizure medications. [21]

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

No documentation.


Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women.

Age limitation

Not to be used with children.

Adverse reaction

Generally considered safe when used as directed.


  1. T. Tanaka, H. Kohno, M. Murakami, R. Shimada, S. Kagami. Colitis-related rat colon carcinogenesis induced by 1-hydroxy-anthraquinone and methylazoxymethanol acetate (Review). Oncol Rep. May-Jun2000;7(3):501-508.
  2. IARC. Monographs on the Evaluation of the Carcinogenic Risk of Chemicals to Man. Geneva: World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 1972-PRESENT. (Multivolume work)., p. V82 135 (2002).
  3. P.P. Gupta, R.C. Srimal, N. Verma, J.S. Tandon. Biological Activity of Rubia cordifolia and Isolation of an Active Principle. Pharmaceutical Biology.1999.37(1).46-49.
  4. M. Kannan, A. Ranjit, M. Narayanan. Phytochemistry and Ethanopharmacological Studies on Rubia cordifolia Linn. (Rubiaceae). Ethnobotanical Leaflets.2009;13.338-342.
  5. Y.F. Qiao, S.X. Wang, L.J. Wu, X. Li, T.R. Zhu. Studies on antibacterial constituents from the roots of Rubia cordifolia L. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 1990;25(11):834-839.
  6. L.C. Chang, D. Chavez, J. Gills, H. Fong, J. Pezzuto, A. Kinghorn. Rubiasins A–C, new anthracene derivatives from the roots and stems of Rubia cordifolia. Tetrahedron Letters.2000;41: 37. 9-2000.
  7. Z. You-Ping. Chinese Matria Medica: Chemistry, Pharmacology and Applications. Florida:CRC Press;1998.428.
  8. D. Bensky, S. Clavey, E. Stoger, A. Gamble. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, 3rd Edition. Seattle WA:Eastland Press;2004.30.
  9. J.K. Son, S.J. Jung, J.H. Jung, Z. Fang, C.S. Lee, C.S. Seo, D.C. Moon, B.S. Min, M.R. Kim, M.H. Woo. Anticancer constituents from the roots of Rubia cordifolia L. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). Feb2008;56(2):213-216.
  10. J.E. Lee, Y. Hitotsuyanagi, I.H. Kim, T. Hasuda, K. Takeya. A novel bicyclic hexapeptide, RA-XVIII, from Rubia cordifolia: structure, semi-synthesis, and cytotoxicity. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 15Jan2008;18(2):808-811.
  11. H. Itokawa, Z.Z. Ibraheim, Y.F. Qiao, K. Takeya. Anthraquinones, naphthohydroquinones and naphthohydroquinone dimers from Rubia cordifolia and their cytotoxic activity. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). Oct1993;41(10):1869-1872.
  12. Y.B. Tripathi, A.V. Singh. Role of Rubia cordifolia Linn. in radiation protection. Indian J Exp Biol. Jul 2007;45(7):620-625.
  13. Y.B. Tripathi, M. Sharma. Comparison of the antioxidant action of the alcoholic extract of Rubia cordifolia with rubiadin. Indian J Biochem Biophys. Oct1998;35(5):313-316.
  14. Y.B. Tripathi, M. Sharma, M. Manickam. Rubiadin, a new antioxidant from Rubia cordifolia. Indian J Biochem Biophys. Jun1997;34(3):302-306.
  15. S. Pandey, M. Sharma, P. Chaturvedi, Y.B. Tripathi. Protective effect of Rubia cordifolia on lipid peroxide formation in isolated rat liver homogenate. Indian J Exp Biol. Mar1994;32(3):180-183.
  16. Y.B. Tripathi, M. Sharma. The interaction of Rubia cordifolia with iron redox status: a mechanistic aspect in free radical reactions. Phytomedicine. Mar1999;6(1):51-57.
  17. G.M. Rao, C.V. Rao, P. Pushpangadan, A. Shirwaikar. Hepatoprotective effects of rubiadin, a major constituent of Rubia cordifolia Linn. J Ethnopharmacol. 20Feb2006;103(3):484-490.
  18. L.K. Ho, M.J. Don, H.C. Chen, S.F. Yeh, J.M. Chen. Inhibition of hepatitis B surface antigen secretion on human hepatoma cells. Components from Rubia cordifolia. J Nat Prod. Mar1996;59(3):330-333.
  19. X. Li, Z. Liu, Y. Chen, L.J. Wang, Y.N. Zheng, G.Z. Sun, C.C. Ruan. Rubiacordone A: a new anthraquinone glycoside from the roots of Rubia cordifolia. Molecules. 23Jan2009;14(1):566-572.
  20. R.A. Patil, S.C. Jagdale, S.B. Kasture. Antihyperglycemic, antistress and nootropic activity of roots of Rubia cordifolia Linn. Indian J Exp Biol. Dec2006;44(12):987-992.
  21. V.S. Kasture, V.K. Deshmukh, C.T. Chopde. Anticonvulsant and behavioral actions of triterpene isolated from Rubia cordifolia Linn. Indian J Exp Biol. Jul2000;38(7):675-680.