What Is Xuan Shen (Radix Scrophulariae or Ningpo Figwort Root)

Xuan Shen commonly known as Radix Scrophulariae or Ningpo Figwort Root is the root of Scrophularia ningpoensis, which is a perennial herb belonging to the family Scrophulariaceae. It is a relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Shennong Ben Cao Jing> in the late Western Han Dynasty (about 100 BC).

Scrophularia ningpoensis is commonly known as Ningpo figwort or Chinese figwort. It likes a warm and humid environment and often grows in bamboo forests, riversides, jungles, or tall grasses below 1,700 meters above sea level. It is distributed in Hebei, Henan, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Hubei, Anhui, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Guizhou, and Sichuan.

In the winter of each year, people gather the roots of Scrophularia ningpoensis, remove their fibrous roots and impurities, wash them in water, cut them into pieces, sun or bake them to semi-dry, stack them for 3-6 days, until they are dried, and make them into Chinese herbs.

Xuan Shen contains harpagide, harpagoside, ajugol, aucubin, danmelittoside, geniposidic acid, geniposide, 6-o-methyl catalpol, catalpol, rehmannioside, dihydrocatalpol, iridolactone, oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, cinnamic acid, verbascoside, p-hydroxycinnamic acid, ferulic acid, trans-cinnamic acid, eugenol, isoeugenol methyl ether, flavonoids, sterols, sugars, alkaloids, volatile oils, amino acids, oleic acid, linolenic acid, stearic acid, aspartic acid. Generally, the strong and solid Xuan Shen with black cross-section is the best.

According to <Compendium of Materia Medica>, the medicinal property of Xuan Shen is slightly cold, with a sweet, bitter, and salty taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the lung, stomach, and kidney meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Xuan Shen is often used to clear heat and cool blood, purge fire and remove toxin, nourish yin, and treat febrile diseases, hot flashes, red and swollen eyes, chronic pharyngitis, tonsillitis, high fever in children, chronic prostatitis, lymphadenectasis, and breast hyperplasia, constipation, and thromboangiitis obliterans.

There are about 150 kinds of Chinese medicine prescriptions containing Xuan Shen, such as Tian Wang Bu Xin Wan, Tian Ma Wan, and Bai Zi Yang Xin Wan.

Health benefits of Xuan Shen

  • Anti-inflammation, anti-fungus, and anti-cancer.
  • Inhibiting the central nervous system and having sedative, analgesic, and anticonvulsant effects.
  • Increasing the thymus index and the number of white blood cells, improving immunity.
  • Lowering blood pressure and blood sugar, preventing type 2 diabetes.
  • Inhibiting platelet aggregation and preventing atherosclerosis and thrombosis.
  • Reducing the acute liver damage caused by CCL4 or D-galactosamine and protecting the liver.
  • Improving cerebral blood flow, preventing cerebral ischemia, and improving nerve function.
  • Dilating blood vessels, increasing coronary flow, slightly inhibiting heart rate and cardiac contractility, enhancing hypoxia tolerance, and preventing myocardial ischemia.
  • Inhibiting myocardial cells and the deposition of interstitial collagen, preventing myocardial fibrosis.
  • Anti-oxidation, scavenge DPPH free radicals, hydroxyl free radicals, superoxide anions, and inhibiting H2O2-induced oxidative hemolysis of red blood cells.
  • Inhibiting the activity of xanthine dehydrogenase and xanthine oxidase, treating hyperuricemia.
  • Treating fever at night, upset, thirsty, and deep-red tongue caused by heat attacking nutrient system.
  • Treating loss of consciousness and delirium caused by heat attacking pericardium.
  • Treating macules and rashes caused by excessive heat in both qi and blood.
  • Promoting fluid production, treating constipation caused by yin impairment in febrile diseases.
  • Nourishing yin, treating hot flashes, and consumptive cough caused by yin deficiency in lung and kidney.
  • Clearing liver heat, treating redness and swelling of the eyes caused by the exuberant liver heat.
  • Purging fire, treating scrofula and subcutaneous nodules caused by the coagulation of phlegm-fire.
  • Removing heat toxins, treating gangrene of finger or toe, carbuncles, and furuncles caused by heat toxins.
  • Inhibiting Staphylococcus aureus, diphtheria bacillus, typhoid bacillus, hemolytic streptococcus B, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Shigella flexneri, Escherichia coli, pneumococcus.

Xuan Shen is used with other Chinese herbs

Side effects of Xuan Shen

Xuan Shen has been used clinically for many years, with few side effects.

Precautions of Xuan Shen

  • The dosage of Xuan Shen should be controlled at 10-15g.
  • It can be made into decoction, pills, or ground for external use.
  • It should not be taken with a drug containing Li Lu (Veratrum Nigrum).
  • People with deficiency-cold in the spleen and stomach should not take it.
  • People with poor appetite or loose stools should not take it.
  • People with low blood pressure should not take it.