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Sophora flavescens

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File:Sophora flavescens.jpg
S flavescens
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Sophoreae
Genus: Sophora
Species: S. flavescens
Binomial name
Sophora flavescens
File:Chinolizidin alkaloid.svg
Matrine and its oxide

Sophora flavescens is a species of plant in the genus Sophora a genus of the Fabaceae family, that contains about 52 species, nineteen varieties, and seven forms that are widely distributed in Asia, Oceanica, and the Pacific islands.About fifteen species in this genus have a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicines.[1] Ku shen (the root)[2] or kushenin (a pterocarpan, an isoflavonoid compound) is a typical traditional Chinese medicine[3] that is found in this plant. It is commonly used for the treatment of viral hepatitis, enteritis, cancer, viral myocarditis, gastrointestinal hemorrhage[4]Template:Primary source-inline and skin diseases (such as colpitis, psoriasis and eczema). Its roots contain quinolizidine alkaloids, includying matrine and its oxide, matrine oxide[5] that interfere TNF-alpha and IL-6, suggesting that oxymatrine may inhibit the expression of the above pro-inflammatory cytokines.[6] Matrine also inhibited expression of Substance P and NK-1R in a human model of skin inflammation,[7] as well as acting as an agonist at mu and kappa opioid receptors.[8][9]


Template:Unreferenced section Matrine is an effective antiarrthymic with an aquinidine-like effect; it slows the heart rate, increases cardiac conduction time and decreases myocardial excitability. It directly inhibited artrial muscle reduced the maximal driving frequency, inhibited arrhythmias induced by aconidine and chloroform-epinephrine.

Modern research

Matrine, one of the main components extracted from Sophora flavescens, has displayed anti-cancer activity in several types of cancer cells in vitro.[10][11][12][13][14][15]

Matrine possesses strong antitumor activities in vitro and in vivo. Inhibition of cell proliferation and induction of apoptosis are the likely mechanisms responsible for matrine's antitumor activities.[16]Template:Primary source-inline

It promotes hair growth, possibly due to 5-alpha-reductase inhibitory activity.[17]Template:Primary source-inline

Sophorae injection can reduce the toxicity and adverse effects caused by chemotherapy [18]Template:Primary source-inline

It is anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant.[19]

Anti-atherosclerosis [20] May be an effective cholesterol-lowering agent and useful for preventing hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis.[21]Template:Primary source-inline

7,9,2',4'-Tetrahydroxy-8-isopentenyl-5-methoxychalcone, a prenylated chalcone can be effective against atopic dermatitis.[22]Template:Primary source-inline

Sophora flavescens may have the potential for treatment of chronic inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.[23]Template:Primary source-inline

Neuroprotective in focal cerebral ischemia.[24]Template:Primary source-inline

A mix of Sophora flavescens and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) gave better liver protective and anti-hepatocarcinogenic effects than licorice or Sophora alone. In addition, glycyrrhiza + sophora had a protective effect on immunosuppression, a strong non-specific anti-inflammatory effect, and reduced the incidence of sodium and water retention, protecting against pseudohypercorticosteroidism.[25]Template:Primary source-inline

Sophoraflavanone G obtained from Sophora flavescens was evaluated against 10 clinical isolates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. The combination showed a synergistic effect[26]

Various compounds from the plant have exhibited significant antibacterial activities against the Gram-positive bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, S. epidermidis, and Propionibacterium acnes. They also exhibited antiandrogen activities.[27]

Sophoridine possesses antiviral activities against Coxsackievirus B3[28]

Trifolirhizin, a pterocarpan flavonoid, was isolated from the roots of Sophora flavescens and showed potential anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities.[29]

Sophora could possibly be used as a treatment for mast cell-derived allergic inflammatory diseases.[30]

Inhibitory effects on cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP450 3A4)[31]

The methanol extract of Sophora flavescens showed a potent glycosidase inhibitory activity.[32]


More than 20 alkaloids are found in S. flavescens. Oxymatrine, sophoridine, oxysophocarpine, and sophocarpine are the major alkaloids present.[33]

The prenylflavonoid 8-Prenylkaempferol can be found in Sophora flavescens.[34]

Other uses

A promising source of a natural, novel, new antifoulant.[35]

May make skin whiter color by inhibition on tyrosinase-dependent melanin biosynthesis.[36] Therefore a potential source of novel whitening agents for ultraviolet (UV)-sensitive skin [37]

Antifeedant effect against Formosan subterranean termite (matrine and oxymatrine).[38]

Growing, cultivation

An evergreen, slow growing shrub growing to 1.5 m by 1 m. It is hardy to US zone 6. Hardy to about 0–10 °F. The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil. Like many other species in the Fabaceae family, this species can fix nitrogen.[citation needed]

Other links

A review on phytochemical, ethnomedical and pharmacological studies on genus Sophora, Fabaceae

Antitumor Activities of Kushen: Literature Review

Chinese traditional medicine matrine: A review of its antitumor activities.


  2. You-Ping Zhu 1998 Chinese Materia Medica – Chemistry, Pharmacology and Applications ISBN 90-5702-285-0
  3. Schwarte A 2002 Phytochemische und pharmakologische Untersuchungen der Wurzeln von Sophora flavescens,unter besonderer Berücksichtigung ihrer Wirkung auf die Leukotrien- und Prostaglandinbiosynthese
  4. Yamazaki M.2000. The pharmacological studies on matrine and oxymatrine. Yakugaku Zasshi 120(10) 1025–1033 Abtracts
  5. Yoshikawa et al. (1985) Chem. Pharm. Bull. 33, 4267.
  6. Zheng, P; Niu, FL; Liu, WZ; Shi, Y; Lu, LG (2005). "Anti-inflammatory mechanism of oxymatrine in dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis of rats". World journal of gastroenterology : WJG 11 (31): 4912–5. PMID 16097071. 
  7. Liu, JY; Hu, JH; Zhu, QG; Li, FQ; Wang, J; Sun, HJ (2007). "Effect of matrine on the expression of substance P receptor and inflammatory cytokines production in human skin keratinocytes and fibroblasts". International immunopharmacology 7 (6): 816–23. doi:10.1016/j.intimp.2007.02.003. PMID 17466915. 
  8. Xiao, Ping; Kubo, Hajime; Ohsawa, Masahiro; Higashiyama, Kimio; Nagase, Hiroshi; Yan, Yu-Ning; Li, Jia-Shi; Kamei, Junzo et al. (1999). "Kappa-Opioid Receptor-Mediated Antinociceptive Effects of Stereoisomers and Derivatives of (+)-Matrine in Mice". Planta Medica 65 (3): 230–3. doi:10.1055/s-1999-14080. PMID 10232067. 
  9. Higashiyama, Kimio; Takeuchi, Yosuke; Yamauchi, Takayasu; Imai, Satoshi; Kamei, Junzo; Yajima, Yoshinori; Narita, Minoru; Suzuki, Tsutomu (2005). "Implication of the Descending Dynorphinergic Neuron Projecting to the Spinal Cord in the (+)-Matrine- and (+)-Allomatrine-Induced Antinociceptive Effects". Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin 28 (5): 845–8. doi:10.1248/bpb.28.845. PMID 15863891. 
  10. Li H., Tan G., Jiang X., Qiao H., Pan S., Jiang H., Kanwar J.R., Sun X. "Therapeutic effects of matrine on primary and metastatic breast cancer" Li H., Tan G., Jiang X., Qiao H., Pan S., Jiang H., Kanwar J.R., Sun X. American Journal of Chinese Medicine 2010 38:6 (1115–1130)
  11. Liu T., Song Y., Chen H., Pan S., Sun X."Matrine inhibits proliferation and induces apoptosis of pancreatic cancer cells in vitro and in vivo", Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 2010 33:10 (1740–1745)
  12. Han Y., Zhang S., Wu J., Yu K., Yu Z., Yin L., Bi L. "Matrine induces apoptosis of human multiple myeloma cells via activation of the mitochondrial pathway", Leukemia and Lymphoma 2010 51:7 (1337–1346)
  13. Qin X.-G., Hua Z., Shuang W., Wang Y.-H., Cui Y.-D."Effects of matrine on HepG2 cell proliferation and expression of tumor relevant proteins in vitro", Pharmaceutical Biology 2010 48:3 (275–281)
  14. Li T., Wong V.K.W., Yi X.Q., Wong Y.F., Zhou H., Liu L. "Matrine induces cell anergy in human jurkat T cells through modulation of mitogen-activated protein kinases and nuclear factor of activated t-cells signaling with concomitant up-regulation of anergy-associated genes expression Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 2010 33:1 (40–46)
  15. Dai Z.-j., Gao J., Ji Z.-z., Wang X.-j., Ren H.-t., Liu X.-x., Wu W.-y., Kang H.-f., Guan H.-t."Matrine induces apoptosis in gastric carcinoma cells via alteration of Fas/FasL and activation of caspase-3 Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2009 123:1 (91–96)
  16. Ma L., Wen S., Zhan Y., He Y., Liu X., Jiang J."Anticancer effects of the Chinese medicine matrine on murine hepatocellular carcinoma cells" Planta Medica 2008 74:3 (245–251)
  17. Roh S.-S., Kim C.D., Lee M.-H., Hwang S.-L., Rang M.-J., Yoon Y.-K. "The hair growth promoting effect of Sophora flavescens extract and its molecular regulation" Journal of Dermatological Science 2002 30:1 (43–49)
  18. Zhu Z.-C., Wang H.-Z., Yang F."Composite sophorae injection in prevention of toxicity and adverse effects caused by chemotherapeutic agents" Journal of Practical Oncology 2009 24:6 (592–594)
  19. Dong H.L., Dong S.S., Dai Y.C., Beom J.K., Yun Y.L., Young H.K. "Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects of Sophora flavescens root extraction in lipopolysaccharide-activated raw 264.7 cells", Korean Journal of Medical Mycology 2010 15:2 (39–50)
  20. Han J.-M., An S., Kim M.-J., Jin Y.-Y., Baek S.-W., Park J.-S., Lee W.S., Park K.-H., Jeong T.-S."Sophora flavescens attenuates atherosclerosis and hyperlipidemia in LDL receptor-deficient mice" Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 2008 28:6
  21. Kim H.Y., Jeong M., Jung H.J., Jung Y.J., Yokozawa T., Choi J.S."Hypolipidemic effects of Sophora flavescens and its constituents in poloxamer 407-induced hyperlipidemic and cholesterol-fed rats." Biological & pharmaceutical bulletin 2008 31:1 (73–78)
  22. Choi, Byung-Min; Oh, Gi-Su; Lee, Jang Won; Mok, Ji Ye; Kim, Dae Keun; Jeong, Seung-Il; Jang, Seon Il (2010). "Prenylated chalcone from Sophora flavescens suppresses Th2 chemokine expression induced by cytokines via heme oxygenase-1 in human keratinocytes". Archives of Pharmacal Research 33 (5): 753–60. doi:10.1007/s12272-010-0515-8. PMID 20512474. 
  23. Jin J.H., Kim J.S., Kang S.S., Son K.H., Chang H.W., Kim H.P."Anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic activity of total flavonoids of the roots of Sophora flavescens" Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2010 127:3 (589–595)
  24. Park S.J., Nam K.W., Lee H.J., Cho E.Y., Koo U., Mar W. "Neuroprotective effects of an alkaloid-free ethyl acetate extract from the root of Sophora flavescens Ait. Against focal cerebral ischemia in rats" Phytomedicine 2009 16:11 (1042–1051)
  25. Wan X.-y., Luo M., Li X.-d., He P."Hepatoprotective and anti-hepatocarcinogenic effects of glycyrrhizin and matrine" Chemico-Biological Interactions 2009 181:1 (15–19)
  26. Cha J.-D., Moon S.-E., Kim J.-Y., Jung E.-K., Lee Y.-S. "Antibacterial activity of sophoraflavanone G isolated from the roots of Sophora flavescens against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus" Phytotherapy Research 2009 23:9 (1326–1331)
  27. Kuroyanagi M, Arakawa T, Hirayama Y, Hayashi T "Antibacterial and antiandrogen flavonoids from Sophora flavescens." Journal of Natural Products 1999 Dec;62(12):1595-9.
  28. hang Y., Zhu H., Ye G., Huang C., Yang Y., Chen R., Yu Y., Cui X. Antiviral effects of sophoridine against coxsackievirus B3 and its pharmacokinetics in rats Z Life Sciences 2006 78:17 (1998–2005)
  29. Zhou H., Lutterodt H., Cheng Z., Yu L.L."Anti-Inflammatory and antiproliferative activities of trifolirhizin, a flavonoid from Sophora flavescens roots." Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 2009 57:11 (4580–4585)
  30. Hong M.H., Lee J.Y., Jung H., Jin D.-H., Go H.Y., Kim J.H., Jang B.-H., Shin Y.-C., Ko S.-G,"Sophora flavescens Aiton inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines through inhibition of the NF κB/IκB signal pathway in human mast cell line (HMC-1)" Toxicology in Vitro 2009 23:2 (251–258)
  31. Lee S.S., Zhang B., He M.L., Chang V.S.C., Kung H.F. "Screening of active ingredients of herbal medicine for interaction with CYP450 3A4 Phytotherapy Research 2007 21:11 (1096–1099)
  32. Kim J.H., Ryu Y.B., Kang N.S., Lee B.W., Heo J.S., Jeong I.-Y., Park K.H. Glycosidase inhibitory flavonoids from Sophora flavescens Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 2006 29:2 (302–305)
  33. Liu G., Dong J., Wang H., Hashi Y., Chen S. "Characterization of alkaloids in Sophora flavescens Ait. by high-performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry" [Article in Press] Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis 2011
  34. Chiou, Wen-Fei; et al. (2011). "8-Prenylkaempferol Suppresses Influenza A Virus-Induced RANTES Production in A549 Cells via Blocking PI3K-Mediated Transcriptional Activation of NF-κB and IRF3". Hindawi Publishing Corporation. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  35. Feng D.Q., Ke C.H., Lu C.Y., Li S.J."Herbal plants as a promising source of natural antifoulants: Evidence from barnacle settlement inhibition." Biofouling 2009 25:3 (181–190)
  36. Hyun S.K., Lee W.-H., Jeong D.M., Kim Y., Choi J.S. Inhibitory effects of kurarinol, kuraridinol, and trifolirhizin from Sophora flavescens on tyrosinase and melanin synthesis Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 2008 31:1 (154–158)
  37. Hwang J.-H., Lee B.M."Inhibitory effects of plant extracts on tyrosinase, L-DOPA oxidation, and melanin synthesis" Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health – Part A: Current Issues 2007 70:5 (393–407)
  38. Mao L., Henderson G. Antifeedant activity and acute and residual toxicity of alkaloids from Sophora flavescens (Leguminosae) against formosan subterranean termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)" Journal of Economic Entomology 2007 100:3 (866–870)


  • Terada, M.; Sano, M.; Ishii, A.I. et al. – Studies on chemotherapy of parasitic helminths. (IV). Effects of alkaloids from Sophora flavescens on the motility of parasitic helminths and isolated host tissues. Nippon Yakurigaku Zasshi, 79: 105–111, 1982.
  • medicinal plants in the Republic of Korea
  • pdf Jian Ya Ling, Guo Ying Zhang, Zhao Jie Cui, Chang Kai Zhang, 2007. Supercritical fluid extraction of quinolizidine alkaloids from Sophora flavescens Ait. and purification by high-speed counter-current chromatography. Journal of Chromatography A, 1145: 123–127

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