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Saussurea lappa

Saussurea lappa


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Saw wort, Costus, Kuth, Kushta, Kust, Mu Xiang, Patchak, Quang Mu Xiang, Saussurea costus, Snow lotus. 


Saussurea lappa has a long history of use as a medicinal herb and decorative plant and is a member of the genus Saussurea which includes over 300 various species.  S. lappa is a perennial herbaceous plant. Due to the wide variety of uses and the lack of protection, this herb is on the rare and endangered species list in some areas of the world.

S. lappa plants range in size from 5cm-3m tall.  They are perennial herbaceous plants, ranging in height from dwarf alpine species 5-10cm tall, to tall thistle-like plants up to 3m tall. It has a flowering stem that produces a thick covering of leaves.  Depending upon the altitude at which the plant is found, the wooly hairs that cover the flower heads may be very thick protecting the flowers from temperature changes. 

Origin / Habitat

The S. lappa plant is native to the cooler areas of Asia, North American and parts of Europe.  It also grows in arctic regions and in alpine habitats.  The size of the plant and some of the characteristics vary depending upon the altitude at which it grows. It typically grows in moist areas on open slopes.

Chemical Constituents

Palmitic acid, succinic acid, glucose, daucosterol, beta-sitosterol; sesquiterpene lactones including cynaropicrin, costunolide, beta-cyclocostunolide, dihydro costunolide, dehydro S. lappa lactone, 13-sulfo-dihydrodehydrocostus lactone, sulfocostunolide A and sulfocostunolide Balkaloid saussurine; syringin, costunolide-15-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside, chlorogenic acid, aloe-emodin-8-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside, rhein-8-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside, chrysophanol, emodin, beta-costic acid, reynosin, arbusculin A, alpha-cyclocostunolide, beta-cyclocostunolide, santamarine and magnolialide. [1],[2],[3],[4],[5] 

Plant Part Used


Medicinal Uses



Cancer therapy adjunct





Dental caries


GI conditions such as ulcers, constipation, spasm

Most Frequently Reported Uses


Cancer therapy adjunct

GI conditions such as ulcers, constipation, spasm


Dosage Range

As a decoction: Use 5 -10gm of dried root per cup (150ml) water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain while hot and drink 1-3 times a day, either 1 hour before or 2 hours after meals.

Most Common Dosage

No documentation

Standardized to

No standardization known.



The root of S. lappa is noted for its antioxidant effects, due in part to the chlorogenic acid content.[6],[7] The anti-inflammatory properties of Saussurea lappa are attributed, in part, to the sesquiterpene lactones which seem to stabilize lysosomal membranes, preventing the release of inflammatory cytokines like TNF-alpha and also producing an antiproliferative effect of lymphocytes.[8],[9],[10]

There have been a few laboratory studies to support the traditional use of S. lappa root in GI problems, like constipation, spasms and gastric ulcers. One laboratory study found an alcohol extract of S. lappa to be strongly inhibitory of H. pylori.[11] A laboratory study also found that extracts of S. lappa contains stimulatory cholinergic-type compounds and also spasmolytic/smooth muscle relaxing compounds that may explain its use in constipation and GI spasms, respectively.[12] The spasmolytic effect was mediated through calcium channel blocking activity. A Chinese study of 5 human subjects with chronic superficial gastritis found that after drinking a decoction of S. lappa, increases occurred in gastric emptying and also in the release of endogenous motilin, a GI stimulatory hormone released by endocrine M cells in the small intestine.[13]

S. lappa is also used traditionally against cancer. Thelaboratory studies suggest extracts of S. lappa promote cancer cell apoptosis with increased activation of caspases 8, 9, 7, 3, enhanced PARP cleavage, decreased Bcl-xL expression and increased levels of Bax, Bak, Bok, Bik, Bmf, and t-Bid.[14] Other laboratory studies support the cytotoxic properties of extracts of S. lappa.[15],[16],[17] The effects of S. lappa root have been reported to increase leukocyte phagocytic activity in dose-dependent manner, suggesting immune modulating effects.[18]

A interesting study found that alcohol extracts of S. lappa may beneficial against dental caries by inhibiting the growth, acid production, adhesion, and water-insoluble glucan synthesis of Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans).[19]


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

Due to the potential for increasing gastric emptying time, take extracts of S. lappa either 1 hour before or 2 hours after taking prescription or non-prescription medications or other dietary supplements.[20]

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

S. lappa has been reported safe in recommended doses.

S. lappa may increase gastric emptying, therefore altering the absorption of foods and nutrients.[21] Use 1 hour before or 2 hours after meals. Discontinue if allergy occurs.


Use with caution in pregnancy and lactation. 

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation


  1. Wang F, Xie ZH, Gao Y, et al. Sulfonated guaianolides from Saussurea lappa. Tokyo:Chem Pharm Bull; 2008.56(6):864-865.
  2. Yin HQ, Hua HM, Fu HW, et al. A new sesquiterpene lactone with sulfonic acid group from Saussurea lappa. J Asian Nat Prod Res. Sep-Dec2007;9(6-8):579-582.
  3. Robinson A, Kumar TV, Sreedhar E, et al. A new sesquiterpene lactone from the roots of Saussurea lappa: structure-anticancer activity study. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2008;18(14):4015-4017.
  4. Zhang T, Wang H, Du G, Chen R. Study on chemical constituents from roots of Saussurea lappa. Zhonaguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. May2009;34(10):1223-1224.
  5. Li S, An TY, Li J, Shen Q, Lou FC, Hu LH. PTP1B inhibitors from Saussrurea lappa.J Asian Nat Prod Res. Apr-May2006;8(3):281-286.
  6. Pandey MM, Govindarajan R, Rawat AK, Pushpangadan P. Free radical scavenging potential of Saussarea costus.Acta Pharm. Sep2005;55(3):297-304.
  7. Jin M, Lee HJ, Ryu JH, Chung KS. Inhibition of LPS-induced NO production and NF-kappaB activation by a sesquiterpene from Saussurea lappa. Arch Pharm Res. Feb2000;23(1):54-58.
  8. Damre Damre AA, Damre AS, Saraf MN. Evaluation of sesquiterpene lactone fraction of Saussurea  lappa on transudative, exudative and proliferative phases of inflammation. Phytother Res. Aug2003;17(7):722-725.
  9. Cho JY, Baik KU, Jung JH, Park MH. In vitro anti-inflammatory effects of cynaropicrin, a sesquiterpene lactone, from Saussurea lappa. Eur J Pharmacol. 23Jun2000;398(3):399-407.
  10. Zhao F, Xu H, He EQ, et al. Inhibitory effects of sesquiterpenes from Saussurea lappa on the overproduction of nitric oxide and TNF-alpha release in LPS-activated macrophages. J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2008. 10(11-12):1045-1053.
  11. Li Y, Xu C, Zhang Q, Liu JY, Tan RX. In vitro anti-Helicobacter pylori action of 30 Chinese herbal medicines used to treat ulcer diseases. J Ethnopharmacol. 26Apr2005;98(3):329-333.
  12. Gilani AH, Shah AJ, Yaeesh S. Presence of cholinergic and calcium antagonist constituents in Saussurea lappa explains its use in constipation and spasm. Phytother Res. Jun2007;21(6):541-544.
  13. Chen SF, Li YQ, He FY. Effect of Saussurea lappa on gastric functions. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. Jul1994;14(7):406-408.
  14. Kim EJ, Lim SS, Park SY, et al. Apoptosis of DU145 human prostate cancer cells induced by dehydrocostus lactone isolated from the root of Saussurea lappa. Food Chem Toxicol. Dec2008;46(12):3651-3658.
  15. Sun CM, Syu WJ, Don MJ, Lu JJ, Lee GH. Cytotoxic sesquiterpene lactones from the root of Saussurea lappa. J Nat Prod. Sep2003;66(9):1175-1180.
  16. Ko SG, Kim HP, Jin DH, et al. Saussurea lappa induces G2-growth arrest and apoptosis in AGS gastric cancer cells. Cancer Lett. 18Mar2005;220(1):11-19.
  17. Oh GS, Pae HO, Chung HT, et al. Dehydrocostus lactone enhances tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced apoptosis of human leukemia HL-60 cells. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. May2004;26(2):163-175.
  18. Sarwar A, Enbergs H. Effects of Saussurea lappa roots extract in ethanol on leukocyte phagocytic activity, lymphocyte proliferation and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma).Pak J Pharm Sci. Jul2007;20(3):175-179.
  19. Yu HH, Lee JS, Lee KH, Kim KY, You YO. Saussurea lappa inhibits the growth, acid production, adhesion, and water-insoluble glucan synthesis of Streptococcus mutans. J Ethnopharmacol. 4May2007;111(2):413-417.
  20. Pandey MM, Rastogi S, Rawat AK. Saussurea costus: botanical, chemical and pharmacological review of an ayurvedic medicinal plant. J Ethnopharmacol. 4Apr2007;110(3):379-390.
  21. Chen SF, Li YQ, He FY. Effect of Saussurea lappa on gastric functions. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. Jul1994;14(7):406-408.

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