African Journal of
Pharmacy and Pharmacology

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pharm. Pharmacol.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0816
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPP
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 2286


Tremendous health benefits and clinical aspects of Smilax china

Mohamad Hesam Shahrajabian
  • Mohamad Hesam Shahrajabian
  • Biotechnology Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China.
  • Google Scholar
Wenli Sun
  • Wenli Sun
  • Biotechnology Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China.
  • Google Scholar
Qi Cheng
  • Qi Cheng
  • Biotechnology Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 02 August 2019
  •  Accepted: 23 August 2019
  •  Published: 31 October 2019


A lot of species of Smilax known as Baqia in China are used in folk medicine for various purposes. Smilax china L., is a small vine that grows in the southern parts of China, known as Jin Gang Ten, which has a long history of indigenous use in China. S. china consists of fat, saponins, glucosides, gum, starch, flavonoids, tannins, and alkaloids. S. china has been used in traditional Chinese medicine because it has effective components such as triterpenoid, saponins, flavones, stilbenes, and organic acids. Roots are the most common used part; stems and rhizome can be used also in the form of powder or paste, raw or cooked. The most important health benefits of S. china are energy tonic, impotency and seminal disorders, chronic arthritis and secondary and tertiary syphilis, schizophrenia and epilepsy, pemphigus and skin diseases, ostero-arthritis, leucorrhea or white discharge, relieving joints numbness, diabetes and excretory system. The obtained findings strongly suggest potential of S. china as an additive in pharmaceutical industries.

Key words: Health benefits, Smilax china, pharmaceutical industries, traditional Chinese medicine.



The use of traditional Chinese herbs and fruits for the treatment and management of diseases is common in developing countries and it is improving in developed countries (Soleymani and Shahrajabian, 2012; Ge et al., 2018; Shahrajabian et al., 2018; Shahrajabian et al., 2019a,b,c,d). In recent years, pharmacokinetic and metabolic studies of traditional Chinese medicine have attracted extensive attention and promoted in many regions (Ogbaji et al., 2018; Soleymani and Shahrajabian, 2018). The genus Smilax (Liliaceae family) comprises about 300 species of climbing flowering shrub (Xie et al., 2018). Some of the Smilax plant distributed in Asia   area  includes  Taiwan,  China, and  Japan  (Huang, 2000). China cultivates this drug in large amount; hence, it is usually recognized as China root. The most important popular common names of the plants are China root, Chinese smilax and Bambook Briar Root. Many species of Smilax are known as Baqia in China and are used in folk medicine for various purposes (Ao, 2013). Shu et al. (2006) reported that Smilax china L., is a small vine that grows in the southern parts of China, known as Jin Gang Ten, which has a long history of indigenous use in China. Yang et al. (2008) found that the rhizome of S. china has been used in traditional Chinese medicine because it has effective components such as triterpenoid saponins, flavones,      stilbenes      and     organic  acids.  Local names of S. china L. in different languages are shown in Table 1.




S. china consists of fat, saponins, glucosides, gum, starch, flavonoids, tannins and alkaloids (Saravanakumar et al., 2014). Feng et al. (2003) showed that 5 phenyl compounds were isolated from the roots of S. china and they  are  dihydrokaempfero l (1), 3,5,4/-trihydroxystilbene (2), 3,5,2/,4/-tetrahydroxystilbene (3), dihydrokaempferol 3-O-α-L-rhamnoside (engeletin, 4), and quercetin 4/-O-β-D-glucoside (5). Shao et al. (2009) found that seven flavonoids and four stilbenes were isolated and identified as dihydrokaempferol-5-O-β-D-glucoside (I), engeletin (II), isoengeletin (III), dihydroquercetin-3-O-glycoside (IV), 3, 5, 7, 3/, 5/-pentahydroxy-flavanonol (V), astilbin (VI), quercetin-3/-O-glycoside (VII), piceid (VIII), scirpusin A (IX), resveratrol (X), and oxyresveratrol (XI). Results of phytochemical tests of S. china are shown in Table 2. Names of flavones and isoflavones isolated from S. china L. are shown in Table 3. Shao et al. (2007) reported that the six major active constituents in S. china are (1) Taxifolin-3-O-glycoside; (2) piceid; (3) oxyresveratrol; (4) engeletin; (5) resveratrol; (6) scirpusin A. Structural compounds 1 to 6 identified from S. china are as shown in Figure 1.






S. china L. known as Jin Gang Ten, has been widely used as a traditional herbal medicine for the treatment of gout, rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases for a long time in China (Chen et al., 2011). Shu et al. (2004) confirmed that the tuber of S. china L. has anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and anticoagulation activities. In Chinese medicine, it has been extensively used for clinical treatment of syphilis, acute bacillary dysentery acute, chronic nephritis and antitumor (Chen et al., 2002). The rhozimes of S. china is commonly used as herbal materials in traditional Chinese medicine (Liang et al., 2016). Park et al. (2014) concluded that S. china methanol extract (SCME) has active compounds which have anti-obesity activities. Vijayalakshmi et al. (2013) reported that the ethyl acetate fraction of S. china rhizome showed maximum antipsoriatic activity. Chen et al. (2011) concluded that S. china L. exhibits anti-hyperuricemic and nephroprotective activity in hyperuricemic animals. Jeong et al. (2013) reported that S. china has antimicrobial, antimutagenic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and neuroprotective effects. Shim (2012) also recognized S. china has a good source of natural antioxidant. Raju et al. (2012) also showed that S. china is an anti-diabetic plant which is responsible for the hypoglycemic activities. Bhati et al. (2011) reported that the hydroalcoholic and aqueous fractions exhibited anti-diabetic activity in rats with alloxan-induced diabetes. Seo et al. (2012) indicated that S.  china L.  possesses  antioxidant  and  antimicrobial  substances, and suggested that the ethanol extract can be applied into food and cosmetic industry. Wu et al. (2010) showed that polyphenols are the active components of S. china L. responsible for the anti-breast tumor cell activities. Saraswathi and Nithya (2010) suggested that the hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic property of S. china could be useful for the treatment of diabetes. Sarvana and Felicia (2015) also claimed that S. china extracts have antioxidant activity which can be used to treat various diseases. Shu et al. (2006) stated that ethyl acetate extract of S. china possesses remarkable anti-inflammatory effects on acute inflammation, and also displays anti-inflammatory effects on the chronic inflammation at a certain extent. Pan et al. (2014) concluded that water extraction from S. china (WESC) suppressed fat accumulation and decreased the weight gain in mice, which was mainly due to increase of the activity of fat oxidation enzyme in liver, promotion of the fatty acid β-oxidation. Lee et al. (2016) suggested that the extract from S. china L. has great potential as a cosmetic ingredient with whitening effects. Vijayalakshmi et al. (2012) have found the flavonoid quercetin in S. china and they have stated that it is promising for further investigations to prove its anti-psoriatic activity. Cong et al. (2016) noted that those patients who received Azithromycin therapy added with S. china capsules concurrently could significantly improve levels of lymphocyte subsets, cytokines and hemorheology index. Yang et al. (2019) stated that S. china L. ethanol extract (SCLE) could lead to a decrease in body weight gain and fat mass by inhibiting the lipid synthesis and promoting lipolysis and β-oxidation in high-fat diet (HFD) fed mice. Pharmacological studies have also suggested that S. china has a neuroprotective effect (Ban et al., 2006). Lee et al. (2018) demonstrated the potent therapeutic efficacy of S. china L., and its potential use as a cost-effective natural alternative medicine against type 2 diabetes and its complications. Nho et al. (2015) reported that S. china L. extract (SCLE) exerts an anti-metastatic effect on human breast cancer cells. The most important  traditional uses and benefits of S. china are shown in Table 4. The most important health benefits of China root are  shown  in Table 5.









S. china L. known as China root has been used for thousand years in numerous tribal and folk medicine. The plant is native to China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Assam. S. china consists of fat, saponins, glucosides, gum, starch, flavonoids, tannins and alkaloids. The rhizomes are bitter, acrid, thermogenic, anodyne, anti-inflammatory, digestive, laxative, depurative, diuretic, febrifuge and tonic. It is used in dyspepsia, flatulence, colic, constipation, helminthiasis, skin diseases, leprosy and psoriasis, syphilis, strangury, seminal weakness, general debility, detoxifies organs, cleanses blood, aids absorption and kills bacteria; it is also used for fever, epilepsy, insanity, neuralgia and stimulates digestion, increases urination, protects liver and promotes perspiration. In Chinese medicinal science, it has been used for clinical treatment of syphilis, acute bacillary dysentery acute, chronic nephritis and antitumor. On the basis of scientific literatures, S. china L. demonstrates important and promising health benefits. In general, treatment with natural and traditional medicine, especially S. china L is recommended.



The authors have not declared any conflict of interests.



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