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Isatidis baphicacanthi, Isatis tinctoria, Isatis indigotica
Dyer’s woad leaf, Indigo, Da Qing Ye
Derived from the leaves of the isatis plant, a source of indigo dye. This botanical has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. It is used in combination with isatis root and other herbs to treat common cold, sore throat, mumps, respiratory aliments, other febrile diseases and malignant tumors. The pulverized form, known as Qing Dai, has been used topically to treat oral sores and sore throat (1) (2). Isatis is one of the eight ingredients used in PC-SPES, an herbal formula used to treat prostate cancer. It is also used in Danggui Longhui Wan, a formula used to treat chronic myelocytic leukemia (CML) in China (7). Studies indicate that isatis has antimicrobial, antiviral (1) (8), immunostimulatory (6) and anti-inflammatory (9) properties. Recent anecdotal reports indicate that isatis root can be used to ward off severe acute respiratory syndromes (SARS) (4). Adverse effects from consuming isatis leaves include nausea and vomiting (2).
- Cancer treatment
- GI disorders
- HIV and AIDS
- Respiratory infections
Indirubin, isatin B, glucobrassicin, neoglucobrassicin, glucobrassicin-1-sulfonate, indigotin.(1) (2)
Mechanism of Action
Extracts obtained from the dried leaves of isatis have cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitory effects.(4) Indirubin, an active component of isatis, is a potent inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs). It inhibits the proliferation of cells by arresting the cells in the G2/M phase.(7) Other alkaloids isolated from isatis can inhibit the function of leukocytes and can reduce inflammatory responses.(5) Some studies have shown that isatis also has antiendotoxic and antiviral activities.(8)
An active component of isatis leaf, indican, when given orally to rabbits produced a maximum plasma concentration after 3 hours. Sites of distribution included the liver, kidney, muscle, and gastrointestinal tract. 90% of indican was excreted through the kidney.(2)
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- Bensky D, Gamble A. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. Revised Ed. Seattle: Eastland Press; 1993.
- Huang KC. The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, 2nd ed. New York: CRC Press; 1999.
- Ho Y, Chang Y. Studies on the antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory and anti pyretic effects of Isatis indigotica root. Phytomedicine. 2002;9:419-24.
- Danz H, et al. Identification and isolation of the cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitory principle in Isatis tinctoria. Planta Med. 2001;67:411-6.
- Molina P, et al. Inhibition of leukocyte functions by the alkaloid isaindigotone from Isatis indigotica and some new synthetic derivatives. J Nat Prod. 2001;64:1297-300.
- Xu YM, Lu PC. Experimental studies on immunostimulatory effects of the Isatis indigotica polysaccharide. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1991;11:357-9, 325-6.
- Hoessel R, et al. Indirubin, the active constituent of a Chinese antileukaemia medicine, inhibits cyclin-dependent kinases. Nat Cell Biol. 1999;1:60-7.
- Wang T, et al. Evaluation on antiendotoxic action and antiviral action in vitro of tetraploid Isatis indigotica. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2000;25:327-9.
How It Works
Bottom Line: Isatis leaf has not been tested in clinical trials, so it is not known if it works in humans. It should not be used to treat SARS, HIV, or other serious diseases.
Isatis leaf extract is derived from the same plant from which indigo dye is made. It has been used in combination with other botanicals in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Isatis extracts have been found to be COX-2 inhibitors, which indicates that they may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. (Other COX-2 inhibitors include aspirin and ibuprofen). Laboratory studies have also suggested that indirubin, an active component of isatis root, inhibits the replication of dividing cells and therefore may be useful in cancer treatment. In the laboratory setting, isatis extracts are able to kill certain viruses and counteract the effects of endotoxin, which causes some of the symptoms and tissue damage of bacterial infections. However, this botanical has not yet been evaluated in clinical trials and therefore it remains uncertain whether these effects occur in the human body.
- To prevent and treat cancer
Laboratory studies show that an active compound in isatis root, indirubin, inhibits the replication of dividing cells. This herb is used in China in combination with other botanicals to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). However, there is no proof from clinical trials that isatis is an effective cancer treatment.
- To treat diarrhea
No scientific evidence supports this use.
- To treat gastrointestinal disorders
Isatis extracts have anti-inflammatory activity in the laboratory setting, but no other scientific evidence supports this use.
- To treat hepatitis
Isatis extracts have anti-inflammatory effects.
- To treat HIV and AIDS
No scientific evidence supports this use.
- To treat respiratory infections
In the laboratory setting, isatis extracts have antiviral and anti-endotoxin effects.
Last updated: April 13, 2012