Sophora japonica, also known as Huai Hua Mi, is edible and often used as a cool Chinese herb to stop bleeding. But the benefits of pagoda tree go far beyond its medicinal uses – its flowers can be used as yellow dye, seeds as industrial oil, fruits as a source of sophorose and rutin drugs, and trunks as the timber for construction of buildings, shipbuilding, farming implements and furniture. What’s more, it has long been planted as shade tree thanks to its rapid growth rate and an immense size. However, in an herbalist’s mind’s eye nothing but its health benefits really matter.
What is sophora japonica?
This tree is native to eastern Asia, especially China and Japan. Others common names include Chinese pagoda tree, Styphnolobium japonicum, Japanese pagoda tree, and Chinese Scholar. Medicinally it means the dried buds and flowers of Sophora japonica L., a plant in the family Leguminosae. As a result, it is also commonly known as pagoda tree bud, sophora flower, flos sophorae immaturus, flos sophorae japonicae immaturus, sophorae flos immaturus, flower of Japanese pagodatree, pagodatree flower bud, and so on. This herb is produced all over China, in particular in the Loess Plateau and the North China Plain. The flowers (called Huai Hua) and the buds (called Huai Mi) are harvested during summer. After the harvest, remove branches, stems and impurities, dry in time, and use it raw or charred.
It is a deciduous tree, up to 25 meters. Bark is gray or dark gray and with rough diastema. Under bark is bright yellow and with undesirable odor. Branches are brown but green when young, with hairs and obvious lenticels. Odd pinnately compound leaves are alternate, up to 25cm, and with dilated petiole base. Leaflets are 7 to 15 in number, ovate-oblong or ovate-lanceolate, 2.5 to 5cm long, 1.5 to 2.6cm wide, and with acute apex, rounded or broadly cuneate base, and entire margin. Panicle is acrogenous. Flowers are milk white and 1.5cm long. Calyx is bell-shaped and five-lobed. Pods, like a string of beads, are 2.5 to 5cm long, glabrous, green, fleshy, indehiscent, and with knob and tightly packed seeds. Kidney-shaped seeds are from 1 to 6 in number, and dark brown. Its flowering period is from July to August and fruiting period is October to November.
Main chemical constituents are triterpenoids, flavonoids, betulin, sophoradiol, flower oil, and tannin. Triterpenoids mainly include azukisaponinⅠ, Ⅱ, Ⅴ, soyasaponin I, Ⅲ, and kaikasaponin Ⅰ, Ⅱ, Ⅲ. Flavonoids mainly include quercetin, rutin, isorhamnetin, isorhamnetin-3-rutinoside, and kaempferol-3-rutinoside. And flower oil contains fatty acids, such as lauric acid, dodecenoic acid, tetradecenoic acid, teradecadienoic acid, palmitic acid, hexadecenoic acid, stearic acid, octadecadienoic acid, octadecatrienoic acid, arachidic acid and β-sitosterol.
Sophora japonica benefits
As stated, sophora japonica flower and bud are good at stopping bleeding by astringency; fruit is expert in stopping bleeding and lowering blood pressure; root bark and leaf are skilled in curing sore. In addition, its shoots and seedling are also used medicinally. According to Ben Cao Gang Mu (Compendium of Materia Medica), its newborn shoots and seedling can be consumed as vegetable or tea. And Bao Pu Zi, literally “Book of the Master Who Embraces Simplicity”, and Ming Yi Bie Lu (Appendant Records of Famous Physicians) say that this herb is one of the best brain tonics, which can improve hair color and live longer if only people take it earlier. Now there are many different sophora japonica products on sale, including sophora japonica supplement, capsules, extract, pills, and more. So, does it really work? Apparently the answer can be found from its pharmacology.
Sophora flower’s modern pharmacological actions
1. Rutin contained can significantly inhibit the inflammatory process caused by wool fabric in the rat;
2. Rutin can maintain the vascular resistance, reduce vascular permeability and brittleness, and remove fat in fatty infiltration of the liver. And combining with glutathione can increase its effect of removing fat;
3. Rutin at concentration of 200ug/ml has the greatest inhibition on vesicular stomatitis virus;
4. The suppression ratio on aldose reductase is 95% when the concentration of rutin is 10-5mol/L, which is beneficial to the treatment of diabetic cataract;
5. Quercetin contained has some certain effect for allergic asthma. In addition, it can also lower blood pressure, increase capillary resistance, reduce capillary fragility, reduce blood fat, dilate coronary arteries, increase coronary blood flow, and so on;
6. The inhibitory activity of sophora japonica extract to 15 hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase is 34.4% and the inhibition rate is 60.6%, which showed that it has a strong inhibitory activity. And the inhibition of 15 hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase can extend the diuretic effect of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2).
Proven flos sophorae herbal remedies
On the basis of Chinese Materia Medica, it is bitter in flavor and slightly cold in properties and covers four meridians of liver, lung, heart, and large intestine. Elementary functions are cooling blood to stop bleeding and removing liver-fire for improving eyesight. Essential sophora japonica uses and indications include hematochezia, hemorrhoids bleeding, dysentery with bloody stool, hematuria, strangury associated with few drops of blood at the end of micturition, uterine bleeding, spitting blood, bleeding from five sense organs or subcutaneous tissue, headache caused by liver heat, sore red swollen eyes, boils, carbuncles and furunculosis. Recommended dosage is from 5 to 10 grams in decoction, teapills, or powder.
1. Yu Huai Zang Lian Wan. From Cheng Fang Bian Du (Convenient Reader of Established Formulas), this formula is basically formulated for chronic and new hemorrhoids. Other key herbal ingredients are Huang Lian (Coptis Rhizome), Di Yu (Sanguisorba Root), and so on.
2. Huai Hua San. From Jing Yan Liang Fang (Experiential Fine Formulas), this prescription combines it with Zhi Zi (Gardenia) for the treatment of blood-heat type of hemafecia.
3. Huai Hua San. From Liang Peng Hui Ji (Close Friends’ Collection), this recipe uses this herb with Bai Cao Shuang (Plant Soot) to cure vaginal bleeding.
4. Huai Xiang San. From Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence), it couples charred Huai Hua Mi with a little bit She Xiang (Moschus) to treat throwing up blood.
5. Huai Hua Jin Yin Hua Jiu. In the formula of Yi Xue Qi Meng (Enlighten of Medicine), this herb works with Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle Flower) and wine to cure sore and ulcer.
Sophora japonica side effects and contraindications
Sophora japonica in large doses may lead to poisoning because of the ingredient of cytosine contained, which bears a likeness to nicotine. Therefore, women during pregnancy and suckling period should avoid this herb. In addition, TCM wise use it with care in the cases of deficiency-cold in spleen and stomach and fever due to yin deficiency but without excess fire.