Health Care Professional Information

Scientific Name
Glehnia littoralis
Common Name

Radix Glehniae, Adenophora tetraphylla, sha shen, hamabofu, American silvertop root

Clinical Summary

Derived from the root of the plant, glehnia is used in traditional medicine to treat bronchitis and whooping cough. It is also used in Asia to treat immune-related diseases. Studies indicate anti-inflammatory (1) (11) and antitumor properties (3). Clinical trials have not been conducted.
Theoretically, glehnia may have additive effects with anticoagulant and antiplatelet agents due to the coumarin component. Additional research is necessary to determine the safety and efficacy of this botanical.

Purported Uses
  • Bronchitis
  • Chest congestion
  • Whooping cough
  • Coumarins, psoralens, umbelliferone, ostenol, monoterpenoids, chorchionoside A
  • Volatile oils: Alpha-pinene, beta-phellandrene, germacrene B
  • Lignan glycoside [glehlinoside G (1)] and neolignan glycosides [glehlinosides H (2), I (3) and J (4)]
  • Imperatorin
    (1) (2) (3) (4) (10) (11)
Mechanism of Action

It has been reported that glehnia root can hemolyze blood cells, stimulate myocardial contractility, and exert antibacterial effects (8). Studies in mice demonstrated analgesic effects of glehnia root extracts (2); and intraperitoneal injection of a glehnia extract was found to inhibit topical edema and substantially reduced inflammatory damage, vascular permeability, cytokine production, and neutrophil-mediated myeloperoxidase activity (1). The anti-inflammatory properties of glehnia may be due to the inhibition of proinflammatory mediators, such as nitric oxide, prostaglandin E2, tumor necrosis factor, and interleukin 1-beta, via suppression of NF-kappaB- and mitogen-activated protein kinases-dependent pathways (9). Imperatorin, a compound isolated from glehnia roots, blocks the protein expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) in LPS-stimulated RAW264.7 macrophages significantly (11).
Polyacetylenic compounds extracted from glehnia fruit may have antiproliferative activity against human gastric adenocarcinoma, (MK-1), human uterine carcinoma (HeLa), and murine malignant melanoma (B16F10) cancer cell lines (3).


No formal pharmacokinetic studies have been performed.


Due to the psoralen content, patients receiving radiation therapy should not consume this herb.

Adverse Reactions

No adverse reactions have been reported, but photosensitivity may occur due to psoralens.

Herb-Drug Interactions

Anticoagulants / Antiplatelets: Theoretically, glehnia root may have additive effects with anticoagulants and antiplatelets due to the coumarin content.

Dosage (Inside MSKCC Only)
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  1. Yoon T, Lee do Y, Lee AY, et al. Anti- inflammatory effects of Glehnia littoralis extract in acute and chronic cutaneous inflammation. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2010 Dec;32(4):663-70.
  2. Okuyama E, et al. Analgesic components of glehnia root (glehnia littoralis). Natural Med 1998;52:491-501.
  3. Nakano Y, Matsunaga H, Saita T, et al. Antiproliferative constituents in Umbelliferae plants II. Screening for polyacetylenes in some Umbelliferae plants, and isolation of panaxynol and falcarindiol from the root of Heracleum moellendorffii. Biol Pharm Bull. 1998 Mar;21(3):257-61.
  4. Miyazawa M, et al. Components of the essential oil from glehnia littoralis. Flavour Frangrance J 2001;16:215-8.
  5. Kitajima J, et al. Coumarin glycosides of glehnia littoralis root and rhizoma. Chem Pharm Bull 1998:46:1404-7.
  6. Ishikawa T, Sega Y, Kitajima J. Water-soluble constituents of glehnia littoralis fruit. Chem Pharm Bull 2001;49:584-8.
  7. Kitajima J, et al. New glycosides and furocoumarin from the glehnia littoralis root and rhizoma. Chem Pharm Bull 1998;46:1939-40.
  8. Huang KC. The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, 2nd ed. New York: CRC Press; 1999.
  9. Yoon T, Cheon MS, Lee AY, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of methylene chloride fraction from Glehnia littoralis extract via suppression of NF-kappa B and mitogen-activated protein kinase activity. J Pharmacol Sci. 2010 Jan;112(1):46-55.
  10. Xu Y, Gu X, Yuan Z. Lignan and neolignan glycosides from the roots of Glehnia littoralis. Planta Med. 2010 Oct;76(15):1706-9.
  11. Huang GJ, Deng JS, Liao JC, et al. Inducible nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase-2 participate in anti-inflammatory activity of imperatorin from Glehnia littoralis.J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Feb 22;60(7):1673-81.

Consumer Information

How It Works

Bottom Line: There is no scientific evidence to support the traditional uses of Glehnia.

Scientists do not know how glehnia works. Very little laboratory research has been done with this herb, which is often used in traditional Chinese medicine. Some lab studies show that glehnia stimulates the heart's ability to contract, has antibacterial effects, and works as a topical pain killer in mice. It is not known if these effects occur in the human body.

Purported Uses
  • To treat bronchitis and relieve chest congestion
    Glehnia is used to treat bronchitis and chest congestion in traditional Chinese medicine, but these uses have not been tested in clinical trials.
  • To treat whooping cough
    Glehnia is used to treat whooping cough in traditional Chinese medicine, but this use has not been tested in clinical trials.
Do Not Take If
  • You are taking warfarin or other blood thinners (Glehnia may increase the risk of bleeding).
  • You are undergoing radiation therapy (Glehnia can cause increased skin sensitivity to light).
Side Effects
  • None known
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