Chinese privet tree is also known as glossy privet, ligustrum lucidum in scientific name, and Nu Zhen Zi in Pinyin. Sometimes it is a bit annoying when ligustrum lucidum berries are ripe. This is simply because the falling black fruits may spot your coat if you get too close to it. It is these unpleasant fruits that act as a terrific yin tonic. That’s to say, the medicinal part of this plant is the fruit, which is a top-grade Chinese herb for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, hair loss, tinnitus, dim eyesight, fatigue, neurasthenia, etc. And these health benefits have been well documented in the “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic”. Besides of the medicinal uses, it is also cultivated as ornamental plant and bonsai tree as it has a very long flowering period and very beautiful flowers. Since it is used medicinally, try not to confuse it with Ligustrum sinense since they share the name Chinese privet. In addition, don’t mix it with other ligustrum species like Ligustrum japonicum (wax-leaf privet or Japanese privet) too.
What is Chinese privet?
Medicinally it mainly refers to the dried ripe fruit of Ligustrum lucidum Ait., which is a member in the family Oleaceae. Besides, the fruit of Ligustrum thibeticum Decne., a species of privet grown in Tibet, is also used medicinally since it has similar effect. Therefore, other names of it include broad-leaf privet, Wax Tree Privet, Privet Fruit, Fructus Ligustri Lucidi, Chinese Ligustrum, Dong Qing Zi, White Waxtree, Chinese Ligustrum, and so on. In China, it is mainly produced in Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Hunan. It is usually harvested in winter when the berries are all ripe. And the following steps are to slightly steam or slightly bathe it in the boiling water and then dry. It is usually raw or prepared with wine.
Ligustrum tree is an evergreen large shrub or small tree, up to 10 meters. Bark is lenticellate and from gray to pale gray-brown. Branches are smooth. Opposite leaves are with 1 to 2cm grooved petiole; blade is leathery, ovate to lanceolate, 5 to 14cm long, 3.5 to 6cm wide, and with acuminate to acute apex, broadly cuneate base, and entire margin. Acrogenous panicle is 10 to 15cm in length and 8 to 17cm in diameter; peduncle is absent or about 4cm; leafy bracts are linear-lanceolate, sessile, and caducous; small peduncle is very short or nearly absent; bell-shaped calyx is about 1.5mm long and 4-lobed; Corolla tube is as long as the lobes, white, oblong-ovate, about 2mm, and with 4 lobes; stamens are 2; pistil is 1; superior ovary is spherical and with 2 rooms. Berry-like drupe is oblong, 6 to 12mm long, and green when young and blue-black when ripe. Seeds are from 1 to 2 and oblong. Bloom time is from June to July and fruiting time is from August to December. Main habitat is the mountains and now they are mostly planted in the garden.
The fruit contains oleanolic acid, acetyl oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, acetyl ursolic acid, β-sitosterol, p-hydroxyphenethyl alcohol, mannitol, eriodictyol, taxifolin, quercetin, nuezhenide, oleuropein, acteoside, neonuezhenide, ligustrosidic acid, oleuropein acid, etc. It still contains polysaccharides, 7 phospholipids, and 11 kinds of elements. Polysaccharides are composed of rhamnose, arabinose, glucose, and fucose. Phospholipids account for 0.39% and among them the content of phosphatidylcholine is highest. And elements include potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, iron, manganese, copper, nickel, chromium, and silver.
Chinese privet health benefits
In his famous medical work of the “Compendium of Materia Medica”, Li Shizhen says that ligustrum shrub is evergreen even during winter, which resembles a chaste girl who always keeps its virtue even though she is in harsh conditions. So it is named Nu Zhen Zi in mandarin. And today it is used for a variety of diseases, including coronary heart disease, chronic atrophic gastritis, hepatitis, chronic bronchitis, hyperlipidemia, poor digestion, and so on.
(1). Patients with coronary heart disease were ever treated with its injection (10mg ethyl acetate extract per ml). The result turned out to be very good. The effective rate for angina was 86.3%;
(2). 336 cases of chronic atrophic gastritis were ever treated with Zhen Qi Fu Zheng granules. 3 months later the stomachoscopy showed that the total efficacy rate in improving symptom was 95%.
Modern pharmacological actions of glossy privet
1. It can enhance non-specific immune function and have two-way adjustment on immune dysfunction;
2. It can increase low white blood cell count due to chemotherapy or radiation treatment;
3. It can reduce serum cholesterol in experimental animals;
4. It can prevent and reduce atherosclerotic plaque and plaque thickness;
5. It can reduce the pathological changes of coronary atherosclerosis and reduce the degree of obstruction;
6. It can significantly reduce malondialdehyde content in old rat’s brain and liver and increase the activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD). That being said, it is with a certain anti-aging value;
7. It has cardiotonic, diuretic, hypoglycemic and hepatoprotective effects;
8. It has antitussive, laxative, anti-bacterial, and anti-tumor effects.
Sample ligustrum lucidum herbal remedies
In accordance with the Chinese Materia Medica, it is sweet and bitter in flavor and cool in nature. It covers meridians of liver and kidney. Major functions include tonifying liver and kidney, clearing deficient heat, and improving eyesight. Vital ligustrum lucidum uses and indications are lightheadedness, soreness and weakness of waist and knees, emission, tinnitus, premature graying of hair, hectic fever due to yin deficiency, and dim eyesight. Recommended ligustrum lucidum dosage is from 6 to 15 grams in decoction or pills.
1. Er Zhi Wan (ligustrum lucidum and eclipta prostrata combination) from Yi Fang Ji Jie (Wang Ang and his Variorum of medical recipes). It is coupled with Han Lian Cao (Eclipta Alba) to treat liver-kidney deficiency induced clouded, hazy or dim vision, vision loss, premature graying, vertigo, tinnitus, insomnia, lower back pain and knee weakness, nocturnal emission, diabetes, and more.
2. According to Zhe Jiang Min Jian Chang Yong Cao Yao (Zhejiang People Commonly Used Herbs), it is combined with Eclipta Alba and Sang Shen Zi (Mulberry Fruit-Spike) to soak wine for the treatment of neurasthenia.
3. According to Ji Ji Xian Fang (Immortal’s Prescriptions for Emergency), it is squeezed for juice and used alone as eye droppings for a cute conjunctivitis caused by wind-heat.
4. Nu Zhen Tang from Yi Chun Sheng Yi (Enriching the Meaning of the Wine of Medicine). It is formulated with Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia), Gui Ban (Fresh Water Turtle Shell), Dang Gui (Dong Quai), Fu Ling (Poria), Niu Xi (Achyranthes), Che Qian Zi (Plantain Seeds), etc. to cure kidney affected by dryness-heat, stranguria with turbid discharge, painful urination, lower back pain and weak legs, and dispersion thirst.
5. According to Xian Dai Shi Yong Zhong Yao (Practical Applications of Modem Herbal Medicine), It is matched with Di Gu Pi (Lycium Barbarum Bark), Qing Hao (Artemisia apiacea), and Xia Ku Cao (Prunella) to heal scrofula and hot flashes caused by tuberculosis.
Chinese Privet side effects and contraindications
Ligustrum lucidum berries have very low toxicity to animals. And no poisoning symptoms showed in rabbit that was fed with 75 grams of fresh ripe fruits. TCM wise, it shouldn’t be used in the cases of deficiency-cold in spleen and stomach, diarrhea, and deficiency of yang.
(1). Zhong Yi Za Zhi (Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine) 1982;3:24;
(2). Lan Zhou Yi Xue Yuan Xue Bao (Journal of Lanzhou Medical College) 1992,2:122.