Sarcandra glabra is a charming subshrub with barely visible flowers and pretty red berries. But being ornamental is the last thing on the list of this plant many virtues. The whole plant yields unique, very pleasant smell, when crushed, and its infusions are drunk as a beverage tea. And while many people drink it for the delight of its taste and aroma, many other consume it as a cure for wide range of sicknesses, including cancer. Sarcandra glabra is quite unknown elsewhere than in Southeast Asia, where it is cultivated in gardens, and grows wild in wide range from north of India to Japan and Indonesia. But it probably originate from Southeast China, where it is best known, and plays significant role in Traditional Chinese Medicine system. This herb has been used for centuries to fight many different types of cancer, and its anti-cancer effectivness is nowadays widely researched, well proved and documented by many laboratory tests results.
Sarcandra glabra is described as a neutral in temperature, bitter and pungent, antiinflammatory and detoxifying, it enters orbis hepaticus and orbis cardialis chanels. It is used on its own, or in herbal formulas for gastrointestinal and respiratory problems, as well as for diseases related to liver weakness. It is traditionally used also to enhance mental efficiency, relieve headache and for recovery from fatigue and stress.
In Japan Sarcandra twigs with its berries are used for New Year decorations in the same way as Holly twigs during Christmass in USA. Japanese called this plant Senryo, Sen-ryo translates as thousands of ryo (currency during Edo period), as it is believed to bring good luck and wealth. Sarcandra glabra as a herb-drug is called Kyu-setsu-cha in Japan.
Sarcandra glabra as a herb is listed in Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China under names Jiu Jie Cha, Guan Yin Cha and Herba Sarcandrae. While as the plant itself, Sarcandra is called Cao Shan Hu. Its other names include : Zhon Jie Feng (China), Juk Jeol Cho (plant in Korea), Gu Jeol Da (herb as a drug in Korea), Karas Turan (Indonesia), Itsa, Apot, Gipah, Gipas, Gepas, Gapas, Gumak, Somang,Total (In different local languages of the Philippines), Soi Rung, Soi Lang (Vietnam).
This plant has also generally out of use, synonyms - Chloranthus glaber, Chloranthus brachystachys, Chloranthus monander and Sarcandra chloranthoides.
CULTIVATION AND HARVESTING
Sarcandra glabra is a perrenial, spreading evergreen undershrub, that is reaching up to 1.5m in height and somestimes more in width. In nature it usually grows under trees, near streams or lakes, but it can be found both on swamps and dry sandy lands, from sea level to elevations around 2000m beyond. For best growth it should have moist, acid soil, rich in organic matter and partial shade. It have interesting from botanical point of view, shape of flovers, which because of its micro size, are no addiction to beauty of the garden. But a lot of charm has its tiny, bright red-orange fruits (yellow-orenge fruit Sarcandra plants can be found too, but are rare), that are staying on branches for long time, making this plant being very ornamental. It is usually called as berries, while in fact it have a structure of a drupe. Sarcandra glabra is frost resistant to around -10*C, but can be cultivated as a houseplant in regions with colder winter. It is quite drought and heat resistant plant. Fresh leaves can be harvested at any time. For drying purposes Sarcandra is colected in summer or autumn, it is then dried in shade in order to preserve its essential oils.
Leaves of Sarcandra glabra can be used fresh (chopped) or dried to make a very nice, stimulant, bitter tea with unique, strong but gentle and relaxing aroma. This tea is very refreshing and invigorating both when served cold in hot summer day, and hot in cold moments. It is also added to flavour Black or Green Tea (both are from leaves of Camellia sinensis). Tiny fruits of Sarcandra are edible, and taste like non other fruits or berries. It is only around half centimeters in size, of whith half is soft, juicy flesh sticking around solitary seed aprox. 3 milimiters small. It is almost without taste, with just a slight note of spiciness, but its pleasant aroma is overwhelming. And when you bite through the thin shell of the seed (which is more crumble than Grape seed), you might feel a little drop of soothing oil on your tongue. Those fruits can be dried or roasted, and with a good luck you might find it in shops with chinese health food.
Even though this plant is rich in essential oil, that is giving it its special aroma, there is no extracted oil of Sarcandra glabra on market, nor information about its use in aromatherapy. I think it is a big shame, because the smell of this plant is very pleasant, a bit sweet, a bit pungent-spicy, relaxing and stimulating in the same time. It is hard to compare to other fragnances, it is truly unique scent. In my opinion, Sarcandra glabra essential oil has a huge potential in aromatherapy and perfumery, which is unused because of the high price of this plant raw material. Sarcandra's dried leaves, berries and whole plants are very desired for both making beverage tea and use as a medicinal herb. A big quantity of this herb required to extract its essential oil would cost a lot, and might be now even hard to get in volume needed for commercial scale production.
Over 80% of essential oil of Sarcandra glabra consist on sesquiterpenoids (of which 3alfa-acetoxy-8,12-epoxyeudesma-4,7,11-triene is the most common, 51.7% of essential oil from leaf), it is also rich in sesquiterpene elemene (15.92%), and contain eremophilene, beta-ocimene-X, coriandryl acetate among others.
Sarcandra glabra belong to those herbs, that despite of old traditions of use and significant role in modern medicinal herbalism in countries of Southeast Asia. Is still unknown in Euro-american Western Herbalism. In recent years there was quite many scientific studies conducted (most of it in China), testing the claims of traditional healers and old scripts, about anti-cancer and many other healing actions of Sarcandra glabra. A lot of bioactive chemical compounds have been identified in the tissuses of this volatile oil rich herb, including : coumarins (isofraxidin, sarcandracoumarin, biisofraxidin, esculetin, scopoletin), phenolic carboxylic acids (caffeic acid, caffeoylquinic acids, rosmarinic acid, isochlorogenic acids), fumaric acid, succinic acid, betulinic acid, sesquiterpene lactones, sesquiterpenes (atractylenolides, eudesmanolide, elemanolide, lindenana, germacranolide), chloranthalactone, flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol-glycosides, astilbin, dihydrochalcones, dihydroxy-flavanones), perhydronaphtofuran derivaties (istanbulin A), triterpene saponins (sarcandrosides), tannins, glycosiedes, lignans and polysaccharides.
Medicinal actions of Sarcandra glabra are : antioxidant, immunoenhancing, anti-cancer, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, anti-hyperglycemic, wind-dispelling, pain-relieving, antipyretic, catagmatic (supporting regeneration of broken bones), it lowers bad cholesterol level, increase blood platelets count and improves blood circulation.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine system, this herb is described as bitter and pungent in taste, to be of neutral temperature, to enter orbis hepaticus and orbis cardialis chanels, and work on large intestine meridian. Sarcandra is traditionaly used in China as a herbal tea or food suplement, to enhance mental efficiency, and for recoverment from fatigue and stress. Also to remove heat in the blood, activate blood circulation and remove ecchymoses, expel winds, remove obstruction from meridians and to detoxycate.
All parts of this plant can be used fresh or dried (in shade) in form of decoctions and infusions. Sarcandra glabra is also aviable on market in form of fruit extract, leaf extract powder, tablets and even anticancer injectibles (2ml ampules of ethyl acetate extract of S. glabra - ethyl acetate extract has been proved to initiated apoptosis to kill leucemic cells).
Sarcandra glabra is considered effective in treatment of cancer (leukemia, prostate, colon, stomach, liver, breast, lung, pancreas, esophageal and nasopharynx), encephalitis, pneumonia (also in children and lobar pneumonia), respiratory syncytial virus, lipopolisaccharide-induced acute lung injury, cough, pharyngolaryngitis, flu, fever, appendicitis, cholecystitis, gastritis, enteritis, dysentery (shigellosis, bacillary dysentery), diarrhea, nausea, diabetes, immunity related diseases, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura and to prevent and treat thrombocytopenia coused by chemotherapy, psoriasis, leukoderma vitiligo, tinea versicolor, veneral diseases, genital herpes virus and HPV infections, rheumatism, arthritis, gout, arthralgia, traumatic injury, bleeding disorders, post-operative infections and for treating symptoms of radiation therapy. Sarcandra decoctions and infusions are also drunk to stop spasms, headache, lumbago and internal pain, and as a invigorating health tonic. Sarcandra plant powder is mixed with spirits to make paste for topical use, decoctions are also used for wash, and pounded fresh leaves as a poultice. Its external applications include injuries from falls and bone fractures, joints swelling, wounds, bruises, burns, boils, cellulitis, abscesses, skin inflammations and fungal infections. For boils and scalds powdered leaves mixed with oil 1/1, are rubbed. For rheumatism pounded fresh leaves are heated, with a bit of wine added and applied as poultice.
In Meghalaya region of India, leaves of Sarcandra glabra are used in combination with leaves of Zanthoxylum acanthopodium, rhizome of Pteridium aquilinum and leaves of Polygonum allatum for fomentation for paralytic patients, people suffering leprosy and also for various kinds of skin diseases. Ground leaves of S. glabra mixed with Ginger are applied on wounds where there is pus. Sarcandra root extract is taken orally for irregular menstrual bleeding.
I haven't found any information about use of Sarcandra glabra against Dengue fever virus. And since this infection, common in the Philippines, can be serious and life threating, I wouldn't encourage anyone to experiment on themselves. But I would like to put some interest in this possible use of this herb in consideration for medical researchers. The reasons why I suspect Sarcandra to be effective against Dengue are its antifever and antivirus activity, combined with its actions of increasing blood platelets count, improving circulation, protecting liver, stoping diarrhorea and nausea, relieving headache and body pains. Plus the fact that unlike many other antifever herbs, it is not recorded to be diuretic or diaphoretic, which might prevent patients from dehydration - common problem during Dengue recovery. On the other hand its action of improving circulation might be helpful for those suffering from water retention, which is also often coused by this disease.
In Chinese Medicine, Sarcandra is considered to be not safe for pregnant women and people with excess fire from yin deficiency.
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