- Barbat skullcap
- Ban Zhi Lian
For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Scutellaria barbata has been studied for its anticancer effects. More research is needed.
S. barbata is an herb found in Korea and southern China. It is used with other herbs in traditional Chinese medicine to treat bacterial infections, hepatitis, and tumors. Laboratory studies have shown S. barbata can limit the growth of cancer cells. It is also effective against some bacteria. Small studies show that S. barbata may benefit patients with advanced breast cancer. Further studies are needed.
- Hepatitis Scientific evidence is lacking.
- Bacterial infections There is evidence from laboratory studies that supports this use.
- Cancer treatment Laboratory studies have shown that S. barbata has anticancer properties across a range of cancers. Small studies report that it may have benefits in patients with advanced breast cancer.
For Healthcare Professionals
Scutellaria barbata is a perennial herb prevalent in Korea and southern China. It is used along with other herbs in traditional Chinese medicine to treat bacterial infections, hepatitis, and tumors, and is also used as a diuretic. It should not be confused with Scutellaria baicalensis.
Data from in vitro studies suggest that S. barbata has antibacterial (1), antioxidant (15), antimutagenic (2), and anticancer (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (10) (11) (12) properties. A number of constituents including flavonoids are thought to be responsible for these activities. Animal models also suggest antitumor activity with S. barbata across a range of cancers (16) (17) (18) (19) (20). However, different extraction methodologies and/or plant origins have yielded varying degrees of antitumor effects (21).
A large long-term population study identifies S. barbata among the single herbs used in TCM that may reduce risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in hepatitis B patients (9). Small studies also suggest it is safe and may benefit patients with advanced breast cancer (13) (14). Further research is needed to confirm these effects.
Mechanism of Action
S. barbata possesses a range of antitumor activities via multiple intracellular targets (20), with major anticancer constituents identified as scutellarin, apigenin5-O-β-glucopyranoside and apigenin along with p-coumaric acid, luteolin and 4’-hydroxywogonin (22). Polysaccharides in S. barbata demonstrate antioxidant and free radical-scavenging activity (15). Flavonoids and scutebarbatines can regulate immune function, with decreases in IL-17, IL-10, FOXP3, TGF-beta1, RORgammat, and IL-6 levels, and increases in IL-2 and IFN-gamma levels (23). Neo-clerodane diterpenoids also have demonstrated anticancer (24) and antiviral (25) activities.
In vitro and in vivo studies of S. barbata have focused mostly on colon, lung, and liver cancer models. In human colon cancer cells, S. barbata induces apoptosis and inhibits cell proliferation and tumor angiogenesis via modulation of Hedgehog, Akt, and p53 pathways, upregulation of proapoptotic Bax/Bcl-2 ratio, decreased cyclin D1 and CDK4 expression, G1/S cell cycle arrest, vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) inhibition, and promotion of p21 expression (19) (20) (26) (27).
In lung tumor models, S. barbata inhibits hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) alpha and VEGF expression (18). Polysaccharides in S. barbata inhibit proliferation and downregulate phospho-c-Met expression and downstream phospho-Erk and phospho-Akt signaling (18). The alkaloid scutebarbatine A demonstrates mitochondria-mediated apoptotic effects via upregulation of cytochrome c, caspase-3, and caspase-9, and downregulation Bcl-2 levels (28).
In liver tumors, S. barbata flavonoids suppressed angiogenesis via VEGF regulation, inhibition of matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP2) and MMP9 expression at both mRNA and protein levels, and simultaneous increases in tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases 1 (TIMP1) and TIMP2 expression (17) (29). Total flavonoids induced significant increases in DNA fragmentation and upregulation of Smac, Apaf-1, cytochrome c, caspase-9, and caspase-3 suggesting mitochondrial pathway-induced apoptosis (30). A crude extract of S. barbata inhibited liver tumorigenesis and relieved hepatic injury by significantly reducing markers of oxidative stress while increasing superoxide dismutase levels (16). S. barbata was also shown to prevent diosbulbin B-induced liver injury by attenuating NF-kappaB-mediated hepatic inflammation and ameliorating liver oxidative stress injury, while promoting antitumor activity (31).
S. barbata flavonoids have produced synergistic effects in combination with cisplatin in ovarian cancer cells (32).
A proprietary aqueous extract of S. barbata used in a few small studies appears to target tumor mitochondria to induce ROS generation and DNA damage followed by PARP hyperactivation, cellular ATP and NAD depletion, and glycolysis inhibition (33).