In reference to common Lophatherum, it seems that there is no confusion at all. But it is a different story when it comes to its Chinese name of Dan Zhu Ye, which refers to at least three different species of plants. This situation may cause chaos and lead to wrong medication in TCM practice. So, it is necessary to tell them apart.
What is Lophatherum?
Also known as Herba Lophatheri in Latin, Lophatherum herb means the dried stems and leaves of Lophatherum gracile Brongn., a perennial grass in Poaceae family. Its length is between 25 to 75cm. Stems are cylindrical, with joints, yellowish green surface, and hollow sections. Sheath is cracked. Leaves are lanceolate, 5 to 20cm long, 1 to 3.5cm wide, with light green or yellow-green surface. Sometimes leaves are wrinkled and curled. Veins are parallel, with smaller transverse veins, which form a rectangular grid, especially on the lower surface. It is lightweight and flexible, and with slight odor and taste.
As mentioned above, its Chinese counterpart of Dan Zhu Ye may cause dispute because it involves other two different herbs – the leaves of Phyllostachys nigra Munro var. henonis （Miff）Stapf. ex Rehd. and the whole plant of Commelina communis L. As a matter of fact, Lophatherum gracile Brongn. was initially recorded in Ben Cao Gang Mu (Compendium of Materia Medica). As you can see now, Dan Zhu Ye containing formulas that are before Ming Dynasty refers to the leaves of Phyllostachys nigra Munro var. henonis（Miff）Stapf. ex Rehd only, which now are not available in pharmacies and generally replaced with Lophatherum. If fresh bamboo leaves do need, they usually are collected temporarily. As for the Commelina communis L., it has different efficacy and thus should not be mixed with Lophatherum leaf.
Chemical constituents of Lophatherum are mainly the triterpene compound, including Arundoin, Cylindrin, Taraxerol, and Friedelin. In addition, the overground part contains phenolic component, amino acids, organic acids, and sugars. Lophatherum gracile leaf and stem contain arundoin, cylindrin, taraxasterol, friedelin, stigmasterol, β-sitosterol, and campesterol. Roots contain arundoin and cylindrin.
This herb has very high pharmaceutical value. In recent years, Chinese medicine and food science found that its foliage chemistry has good nutrition and health benefits. According to the test conducted, its main functional factors include flavonoids, phenolic acids, amino acids, manganese, zinc and other trace elements. And experiments showed that these active ingredients can contribute a lot of health benefits, including removing the body’s reactive oxygen species that prompt human aging, inducing the activity of antioxidant enzymes inside the organism, enhancing the body’s resistance to stress and fatigue, improving memory, and delaying senescence and so on.
Modern pharmacological actions
1. Its water extract can reduce fever;
2. It has weak diuretic effect but it can increase the urinary excretion of chloride;
3. Its crude extract has anti-tumor effect;
4. Its water decoction inhibits Staphylococcus aureus and hemolytic streptococcus;
5. It increases blood sugar.
Popular Lophatherum related Chinese herbal formulas
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that this herb is sweet, tasteless, and cold in properties. It covers three meridians, including heart, stomach, and small intestine. Its prime functions are to clear heat and relieve fidgetiness and induce diuresis. And main Lophatherum uses and indications are polydipsia in heat disease, inhibited voidings of reddish urine, stranguria, and mouth sores.
Lophatherum has been used in Chinese medicine since Ming Dynasty. That’s to say it has about 500-year history of medical uses. During this time a lot of valuable knowledge has been accumulated and inherited. And its numerous formulas are its major presence.
Dan Zhu Ye Tang
This formula comes from Yi Xue Xin Wu (Understanding of Medical Science). It is basically formulated for heat disease damaging liquid, vexation, and thirst. Other major herbal ingredients are Huang Qin (Baical Skullcap Root), Zhi Mu (Anemarrhena Rhizome), Mai Men Dong (Ophiopogon Tuber), and so on.
Zhu Ye Shi Gao Tang
This prescription comes from Shang Han Lun (On Cold Damage). It is primarily used for lingering heat and injuries of both Qi and essence after the cure of typhoid fever, febrile disease and summer-heat disease, manifested as fever, sweating, annoyance, vomiting due to inverse Qi, dry mouth and thirst, insomnia due to dysphoria, red tongue, less tongue coating, and rapid string pulse. Other key herbs include Shi Gao (Gypsum), Ban Xia (Pinellia Rhizome), Mai Men Dong, Ren Shen (Ginseng Root), and so on.
Zhu Ye Tang
This formula is from Wai Tai Mi Yao (The Secret Medical Essentials of a Provincial Governor). It is exclusively used for acute conjunctivitis. Other major herbs are Huang Lian (Coptis Rhizome), Da Zhao (Jujube), Zhi Zi (Gardenia), Che Qian Cao (Plantago asiatica herb), and so on.
Potential Lophatherum side effects and contraindications
The median lethal dose of Lophatherum gracile herb for mice is 0.645g/10g and the median lethal dose in mice is 64.5g/kg.
TCM wise Dan Zhu Ye should be used with care in the cases of no excess fire and damp-heat. And it shouldn’t be used during pregnancy and in the cases of weakness with cold and frequent micturition due to kidney deficiency.