Health Care Professional Information
Oldenlandia diffusa (a.k.a. Hedyotis diffusa)
Bai Hua She She Cao, Herba Oldenlandiae (dried/powder form of Oldenlandia diffusa), Snake-Needle Grass
Oldenlandia diffusa, an herb prevalent in East Asia and Southern China, is used in traditional Chinese medicine to clear “heat” and to eliminate “toxins”. It is used in combination with other herbs for the treatment of hepatitis, snake bite (1), tumors of the liver, lung, stomach (1), and rectum (2). Studies conducted in vitro and in animals suggest that Oldenlandia diffusa possesses anticancer and chemopreventive properties (2)(3)(4)(5)(6). Oleanolic and Ursolic acids, compounds isolated from Oldenlandia diffusa, demonstrated cytotoxic activity (7)(8). Ursolic acid also showed anti-inflammatory effects in mice with rheumatoid arthritis (9); a few other compounds inhibited low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation in mice.
More research is necessary to determine whether Oldenlandia diffusa can be used as a safe and effective anticancer agent in humans.
According to the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, Baihuasheshecao, commonly used as a component of herbal tea, is obtained from Oldenlandia diffusa.
- Snake bite
- High Cholesterol
- Triterpenoids: Urosolic acid, Oleanolic acid
Mechanism of Action
Studies conducted in vitro and in animals have shown that Oldenlandia diffusa exerts antitumor effects via apoptosis (3), dose-dependent increase of oxidative burst (2), caspase-dependent apoptosis (4)(8), apoptosis in a cell-cycle independent fashion possibly through the induction of genotoxic damage (6), and immuno-modulating activity through stimulating the immune system to kill or engulf tumor cells (5).
Two similar species — Corymbosa LAM and Oldenlandia tenelliflora BL — are commonly used as substitutes for Herba Oldenlandiae (powdered form of Oldenlandia diffusa) (10).
Reduction in sperm production was reported in a clinical study (11).
Dosage (Inside MSKCC Only)
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- Liang Z, He M, Fong W, Jiang Z, Zhao Z. A comparable, chemical and pharmacological analysis of the traditional Chinese medicinal herbs Oldenlandia diffusa and O. corymbosa and a new valuation of their biological potential. Phytomedicine. Apr 2008;15(4):259-267.
- Wong BY, Lau BH, Jia TY, Wan CP. Oldenlandia diffusa and Scutellaria barbata augment macrophage oxidative burst and inhibit tumor growth. Cancer Biother Radiopharm. Feb 1996;11(1):51-56.
- Gupta S, Zhang D, Yi J, Shao J. Anticancer activities of Oldenlandia diffusa. J Herb Pharmacother. 2004;4(1):21-33.
- Yadav SK, Lee SC. Evidence for Oldenlandia diffusa-evoked cancer cell apoptosis through superoxide burst and caspase activation. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao. Sep 2006;4(5):485-489.
- Shan BE, Zhang JY, Du XN. [Immunomodulatory activity and anti-tumor activity of Oldenlandia diffusa in vitro]. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. May 2001;21(5):370-374.
- Willimott S, Barker J, Jones LA, Opara EI.Apoptotic effect of Oldenlandia diffusa on the leukaemic cell line HL60 and human lymphocytes. J Ethnopharmacol. Dec 3 2007;114(3):290-299.
- Wu PK, Chi Shing Tai W, Liang ZT, Zhao ZZ, Hsiao WL. Oleanolic acid isolated from Oldenlandia diffusa exhibits a unique growth inhibitory effect against ras-transformed fibroblasts. Life Sci. Jul 17 2009;85(3-4):113-121.
- Yang L, Liu X, Lu Z, et al. Ursolic acid induces doxorubicin-resistant HepG2 cell death via the release of apoptosis-inducing factor. Cancer Lett. 2010;298(1):128-138. Epub 2010 Jul 13.
- Kang SY, Yoon SY, Roh DH, et al. The anti-arthritic effect of ursolic acid on zymosan-induced acute inflammation and adjuvant-induced chronic arthritis models. J Pharm Pharmacol. Oct 2008;60(10):1347-1354.
- Liang ZT, Jiang ZH, Leung KS, Peng Y, Zhao ZZ. Distinguishing the medicinal herb Oldenlandia diffusa from similar species of the same genus using fluorescence microscopy.Microsc Res Tech. Apr 2006;69(4):277-282.
- Chen JK, Chen TT. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology, 2nd ed. California:Art of Medicine Press;2004.
How It Works
Bottom Line: Oldenlandia diffusa has been studied for its anticancer effects. More research is needed.
Oldenlandia diffusa is an herb found in East Asia and Southern China. It is used in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of liver diseases, snake bite and tumors. Laboratory studies suggest that this herb may inhibit the growth of cancer cells and kill them by causing apoptosis (programmed cell death), and by stimulating the immune system to destroy or engulf tumor cells. Studies show that certain chemicals found in the herb help lower cholesterol in mice and have anti-inflammatory effects in mice with rheumatoid arthritis.
More research is necessary to confirm whether this herb can be used safely and effectively for any condition in humans.
A 2004 study found that Oldenlandia diffusa extract effectively inhibited the growth of the cancer cells tested and induced cancer cells to die while causing minimum toxic effect on normal cells. There was also significant inhibition of the spreading of lung cancer in the mice tested with no noticeable side effects.
A 2001 study conducted in mice showed that Oldenlandia diffusa extract can cause cancer cells to die by stimulating the immune system to kill or engulf tumor cells.
Results from a 2007 study showed that Oldenlandia diffusa stopped the growth of human promyelocytic leukemia cells and induced cancer cells to die.
A 2008 study conducted in mice with acute inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis found that a component of Oldenlandia diffusa had anti-inflammatory effects and did not induce gastric problems compared to mice treated with ibuprofen (a non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug).
In 2005, researchers found three compounds in Oldenlandia diffusa that lowered cholesterol in mice.
There is poor quality control of Oldenlandia diffusa in the herbal market. Two similar species — Corymbosa LAM and Oldenlandia tenelliflora BL — are commonly used as substitutes for Herba Oldenlandiae (powdered form of Oldenlandia diffusa).
Last updated: July 11, 2011