Sanguisorba Officinalis (Di Yu)

garden burnetSanguisorba officinalis is well known for its incredible performance on stopping bleeding in herbal remedies. Li Shizhen, the famous pharmacologist in the Ming dynasty, ever gave it a high recognition for its amazing medicinal value – a pound of Di Yu (radix Sanguisorbae) is better that the equivalent of precious pearl. This is a to-the-point comment simply because this herb has what it takes to live up to its fame being the Peal of Hemostatics in TCM clinical practice. This article is aiming to make a brief summary on its chemical composition, pharmacological effects and clinical applications, for the sake of providing a reference for the further research on this herb.

What is Sanguisorba officinalis?

This is a plant belonging to Sanguisorba genus in the family Rosaceae. Other common names include garden burnet, bloodwort, and great burnet. But when it comes to TCM, it largely means the dried root of Sanguisorba officinalis L. or Sanguisorba officinalis L.var.longifolia(Bertol.)Yü et Li. For better medicinal value, the best harvest time is in spring when they are about to sprout or in autumn when the plants withered. After that, the fibrous roots have to be removed and the root needs to be washed, dried, or sliced before dried.

Sanguisorba officinalis is distributed in the north temperate zone of Asia, throughout Europe and China. This plant grows in area at altitude of 30 meters to 3,000 meters. Wild habitats include bushwood, hillside meadow, prairie, meadow and woodland. Now it is also introduced and cultivated artificially. This is a perennial herb, 30 to 120cm in height. Root is stout, mostly fusiform, and rarely cylindrical. Root surface is brown or purple-brown, with longitudinal wrinkles, transverse cracks, and yellowish white or aubergine smooth transection. Stems are erect, carinal, and glabrous or with sparse hairs on base. Basal leaves are pinnate, with 4 to 6 pairs of leaflets, glabrous petiole or base with sparse hairs. Spica is oval, cylindrical or ovoid, erect, usually 1 to 4cm long, 0.5 to 1cm in diameter, and flowering from the top to bottom. Fruits are concealed in the persistent calyx tube and with edges outside. And it blooms and fruits during July to October.

Main chemical constituents in sanguisorba officinalis root are Ziyu-Glycoside I, II, A, B, E, phenolic acid compound, and a small amount of vitamin A. Main component for stopping bleeding is the tannin.

Radix Sanguisorba officinalis health benefits

Sanguisorba, its Latin scientific name, means blood sucking literally. In Middle Ages people tended to judge plants with their appearance. As a result, its crimson inflorescence convinced people that it had some kind of hemostatic effect. This conclusion happens to be the striking echo from the ancient Chinese. And now let’s take a look at what modern medicine said about this herb.

Modern pharmacological actions

1. Its decoction significantly shortens the bleeding and clotting time. And fresh one performs better than charred one;
2. Experiments show that this herb has amazing healing effect on fire burn, scald, and wound. It lowers capillary permeability, reduces exudate, and relieves tissue edema. What’s more, this herb can form a protective layer on the wound, which promotes the healing, reduces skin abrasions, and prevents infection. Hence it helps avoid shock during early stage in fire burn and scald and reduce mortality rate.
3. In vitro experiments showed that its water decoction inhibited typhoid bacillus, meningococcus, Leptospira, and so on. Besides, it is especially true to the Shigella.

Proven Sanguisorba root related herbal remedies

TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner believes that Sanguisorba officinalis root is bitter, sour, astringent, and slightly cold in properties. It covers 4 meridians, like liver, lung, kidney, and large intestine. Its basic functions are cooling blood and hemostasis and healing wounds by detoxification. Main Sanguisorba uses and indications include blood in the stool, hemorrhoids, bloody diarrhea, metrorrhagia and metrostaxis, fire burns and scalds, boils, and more. Recommended dosage is from 9 to 15 grams.

Yue Ying Jian

Yue Ying Jian comes from Jing-Yue Quan Shu (Jing-Yue’s Complete Compendium). This formula is mainly formulated for blood in the stool due to excessive heat. Other main herbal ingredients are Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia), Bai Shao (White Peony Root), Huang Qin (Scutellaria), Huai Hua Mi (Pagoda Tree Bud), and so on.

Huai Jiao Wan

Huai Jiao Wan comes from He Ji Ju Fang (Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary). This prescription is exclusively designed for bleeding due to hemorrhoids. Other basic herbs include Huai Jiao (Sophora fruit), Fang Feng (Ledebouriella Root), Scutellaria, Zhi Ke (Ripe Fruit of Zhi Shi), and more.

Zhi Beng Ji Yan Fang

Zhi Beng Ji Yan Fang is from Nu Ke Yao Zhi (The Essentials of Gynecology). It is basically used for high blood heat and a great deal of red blood due to uterine bleeding, accompanied with dry mouth and parched lips. Other major herbs are Rehmannia, Scutellaria, Mu Dan Pi (Tree Peony Root Cortex), and more.

Di Yu Tang

This formula, Sanguisorba root combining with Gan Cao (Licorice Root), comes from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It principally treats non-stop dysentery with bloody stool.

Di Yu Gan Cao Tang

This prescription is from Shen Shi Zun Sheng Shu (Master Shen’s Writings on Respecting Life). It is chiefly used for hemafecia. The other herb is Zhi Gan Cao (Honey Fried Licorice Root).

Potential radix Sanguisorba officinalis side effects and contraindications

In an acute toxicity test, mice were given radix Sanguisorba officinalis water extract or alcohol extract by intragastric administration in the dose of 2.5g/kg, no adverse reactions were found within 7 days. And the LD50 to mice by intraperitoneal injection of water and alcohol extracts were 1.60 ± 0.29g/kg and 2.17 ± 0.49g/kg respectively, which indicated that the oral toxicity of Sanguisorba is minimal. TCM wise, Diyu herb shouldn’t be used in cases of deficient hemorrhagic diseases, chronic ulcerative carbuncle without heat, metrorrhagia and leukorrhagia due to collapse from Qi deficiency, and more. By the way, it contradicts Mai Men Dong (Ophiopogon Tuber).

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