Figwort root

Chinese Name: Xuan shen
Medical Name:
Latin Name: Scrophularia ningpoensis Hemsl.
Origin: Root, dug up in winter.
Taste: Bitter and salty

Quotes from Chinese historical sources

THE HERBAL CLASSIC OF SHEN-NONG: "The flavour is bitter and slightly cold. Useful in cases of cold in the abdomen and of mastitis after lactation, for restoring vital energy in the kidney, and for clearing the eyes."

OPINIONS ON THE PROPERTIES OF HERBS: "Bitter in flavour. It can cure high fevers, headaches due to colds and flu, and recurring typhoid, and can counter hyperthyroidism and diseases of the lymph nodes."

COMPENDIUM OF MATERIA MEDICA: "When the kidney fluid is damaged and the Yin-energy cannot function, the Yang-energy is left unsupported and the body is left vulnerable to fevers. In such cases, when the proper course of action is to strengthen the fluid, Figwort root has the same merits as Radix Rehmaniae. As predicted by Dr Liu, who called tuberculosisis a fire-evil disease. Figwort is as effective against scrofula as it is against other fevers. It counteracts fevers by nourishing the Yin-energy, also dispelling spots and pustules, benefitting the throat, promoting the flow of urine and keeping the circulation from stagnating."

Western Research

Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2006 Jul;33(7):612-6.
Antiviral effects of saikosaponins on human coronavirus 229E in vitro.
Cheng PW, Ng LT, Chiang LC, Lin CC.
Department of Microbiology, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Saikosaponins represent a group of oleanane derivatives, usually as glucosides, that are found in a number of plant families. Saikosaponins isolated from medicinal plants such as Bupleurum spp., Heteromorpha spp. and Scrophularia scorodonia have been reported to possess various biological activities, specifically antihepatitis, antinephritis, antihepatoma, anti-inflammation, immunomodulation and antibacterial effects. 2. The aim of the present study was to examine the anticoronaviral activity of saikosaponins (A, B2, C and D) and their mode of action. Using the 2,3-bis[2-methoxy-4-nitro-5-sulfophenyl]-5- [(phenylamino) carbonyl-2H-tetrazolium hydroxide] (XTT) assay, results showed that all saikosaponins tested demonstrated antiviral activity at concentrations of 0.25-25 micromol/L, with the strongest activity being noted for saikosaponin B2 (IC50 = 1.7 +/- 0.1 micromol/L). Interestingly, both saikosaponins A (50% cellular cytotoxicity (CC50) concentration = 228.1 +/- 3.8 micromol/L; selectivity index (SI) = 26.6) and B2 (CC50 = 383.3 +/- 0.2 micromol/L; SI = 221.9) exhibited no cytotoxic effects on target cells at concentrations that achieved antiviral activity. In the time-of-addition studies, saikosaponin B2, at 6 micromol/L, significantly inhibited human coronavirus 229E infection following its addition at various time pre-infection (-4 to -1 h), coinfection (0 h) and post-infection (1-4 h). Furthermore, saikosaponin B2 also showed an inhibitory effect on viral attachment and penetration. 3. The present results indicate that saikosaponin B2 has potent anticoronaviral activity and that its mode of action possibly involves interference in the early stage of viral replication, such as absorption and penetration of the virus.

Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2000 Dec;21(12):1125-8.
Fast repairing of oxidized OH radical adducts of dAMP and dGMP by phenylpropanoid glycosides from Scrophularia ningpoensis Hemsl.
Li YM, Han ZH, Jiang SH, Jiang Y, Yao SD, Zhu DY.
State Key Laboratory of Drug Research, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200031, China.
AIM: To investigate the antioxidative activity of the constituents of the roots of Scrophularia ningpoensis (Chinese name: Xuanshen). METHODS: The main compounds from the roots of Scrophularia ningpoensis were isolated and identified by chromatography and FABMS, NMR etc. Using the techniques of pulse radiolysis, the electron transfers from iridoid glycosides (IG) or phenylpropanoid glycosides (PG) to oxidized OH radical adducts of 2'-deoxyadenosine-5'-monophosphate acid (dAMP) or 2'-deoxyguanosine-5'-monophosphate acid (dGMP) were observed. RESULTS: Two IG: harpagoside and harpagide, two PG: angoroside C and acteoside were obtained as the main hydrophilic constituents of the plant. At 0.1 mmol/L concentration, angoroside C and acteoside were able to repair the oxidized OH adducts dAMP and dGMP significantly. However, harpagoside and harpagide had no such effect. The electron transfer rate constants of angoroside C with dAMP and dGMP were 4.2 x 10(8) and 10.3 x 10(8) L.mol-1.s-1; the electron transfer rate constants of acteoside with dAMP and dGMP were 5.3 x 10(8) and 20.2 x 10(8) L.mol-1.s-1. CONCLUSION: PG from Scrophularia ningpoensis have a potent antioxidative activity for reducing of the oxidized OH adducts of dAMP and dGMP.