Sho-saiko-to

Sho-saiko-to

Sho-saiko-to

Common Names

  • Xiao-chai-hu-tang
  • Minor bupleurum decoction

For Patients & Caregivers

Because limited research has been performed on sho-saiko-to, it should be used only under the supervision of a doctor. It may have liver-protective effects. There is no evidence that it can treat or prevent any other type of cancer.

Sho-saiko-to appears to prevent liver injury and stimulate the immune system in laboratory and animal studies. Sho-saiko-to and its components may reduce or stop the spread of liver cancer cells, but have little effect on normal human white blood cells. This could be an advantage because most chemotherapy drugs kill healthy human blood cells as well as tumor cells. Sho-saiko-to also appears to promote liver regeneration and prevent development of precancerous liver growths. Other laboratory tests show that sho-saiko-to can also affect other cancers, but it is not known whether these effects occur in the human body. However, it has been documented that people who use ginseng, one of the herbs found in sho-saiko-to, have a lower risk of liver cancer.

  • To prevent and treat cancer
    One clinical trial showed that sho-saiko-to was associated with a decreased risk of developing liver cancer in patients with cirrhosis. Clinical trials are now being performed to determine whether sho-saiko-to can increase survival in patients with liver cancer.
  • To reduce fevers
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat gastrointestinal disorders
    There are no data to back this claim.
  • To treat infections
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat liver diseases, such as cirrhosis and hepatitis
    Laboratory and animal studies suggest that sho-saiko-to has a protective effect on the liver. A clinical study showed that it may improve liver pathology in hepatitis C patients.
  • To treat malaria
    This use is not backed by research.
  • Sho-saiko-to may cause interstitial pneumonitis, a potentially fatal condition. Use of interferon at the same time may increase this risk.
  • You are pregnant or nursing
  • You are currently undergoing interferon treatment: This can increase the risk of interstitial pneumonitis, a potentially fatal condition.
  • You are taking drug metabolized by Cytochrome P450 enzymes: Sho-saiko-to can alter the blood concentrations of these drugs.
  • You are taking tolbutamide: Sho-saiko-to reduces the bioavailability of this drug.
  • Sho-saiko-to related pneumonitis has been reported in 74 patients (approximately 1 in 20,000).
  • Liver injuries and hepatitis have been associated with the use of Sho-saiko-to.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Sho-saiko-to or “Xiao Chai Hu Tang” is a Chinese botanical formulation widely known by its Japanese name. It is a mixture of 7 botanicals: Bupleurum root (Chai hu), Pinellia tuber (Ban xia), Scutellaria root (Huang qin), Ginseng (Ren shen), Jujube (da zao), Licorice (Gan cao), and Ginger (Sheng jiang) (4). Sho-saiko-to is used to treat fever, malaria, gastrointestinal disorders and chronic liver diseases. A prescription form has been used extensively in Japan, predominantly for hepatitis (1).

Sho-saiko-to and its components demonstrate marked antiproliferative effects on hepatoma cell lines and ovarian cancer cell lines (15). Morphological analysis of cells grown in the presence of Sho-saiko-to show evidence of apoptosis (6). Sho-saiko-to has been shown to prevent liver injury and promote liver regeneration in animal models (7) and to enhance various aspects of immune function, including effects on killer cells (12), interleukins (9), interferon (10)(18) and macrophages (11)(13). Data also indicate that Sho-saiko-to causes enhancement of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (14). A clinical study shows Sho-saiko-to may improve liver pathology in hepatitis C patients who do not respond to interferon-based treatment (22).

Although Sho-saiko-to has a good safety profile, its use is associated with interstitial pneumonitis (3), liver injuries (16), and hepatitis (17). It should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.

Some of the ingredients, such as jujube, ginger and licorice, are commonly found in Asian recipes.

  • Cancer prevention
  • Cancer treatment
  • Fever
  • GI disorders
  • Infections
  • Liver disease
  • Malaria

Sho-saiko-to (SST) appears to have multifactorial activity, inhibiting proliferation of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells, preventing liver injury, promoting liver regeneration and enhancing immune function.

Human studies show reduced incidence of HCC in users of ginseng, one of the botanicals in this formula (5). SST and its isolated chemical components demonstrate marked antiproliferative effects on hepatoma lines in vitro. Of particular interest is that SST shows only minimal inhibitory effects on normal human peripheral lymphocytes, even at high concentrations. Morphological analysis of cells grown in the presence of SST shows evidence of apoptosis (6).

SST prevents liver injury and promotes liver regeneration in animal models: rats treated with SST show less fibrosis as indicated by reduced liver hydroxyproline and a smaller increase in serum hyaluronic acid. Moreover, these rats develop fewer preneoplastic lesions (7). SST has also been shown to prevent development or metastasis of carcinomas other than HCC (8). SST enhances various aspects of immune function including effects on interleukins (9), interferon (10), macrophages (11)(13) and killer cells (12). Data also indicate that SST causes enhancement of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (14). A recent study showed that SST regulates temporal gene expression in SST-treated mouse hepatocytes by way of microRNA (23).

Sho-saiko-to may cause interstitial pneumonitis, a potentially fatal condition. Concurrent use of interferon may increase this risk.
(3)

Women who are nursing or pregnant and patients currently undergoing interferon treatment should not take Sho-saiko-to.

Sho-saiko-to-related pneumonitis has been reported in 74 patients (approximately 1 in 20,000) (3).
Liver injuries and hepatitis have been associated with the use of Sho-saiko-to (16)(17).

Interferon: Concurrent use may increase the risk of interstitial pneumonitis (3).
Drugs metabolized by Cytochrome P450 enzymes: Sho-saiko-to upregulated expression of CYP2B, CYP3A1 and CYP4A1 and can alter the plasma concentration of these drugs (19). Sho-saiko-to also interacts with drugs metabolized by CYP3A4, CYP2C9 and CYP1A2 enzymes (20).
Tolbutamide: Sho-saiko-to reduces the bioavailability following concurrent oral administration (21).

Sho-saiko-to may alter aspartate transaminase/alanine transaminase (AST/ALT) ratios.


  1. Bensky D, Gamble A. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. Revised Ed. Seattle: Eastland Press; 1993.

  2. Mizoguchi Y, et al. The effects of sho-saiko-to oninterleukin production by hepatic sinusoidal endothelial cells. J Med Pharm Soc 1989;6:172-6.

  3. Sato A, at al. Pneumonitis induced by the herbal medicine sho-saiko-to in Japan. Nihon Kyobu Shikkan Gakkai Zasshi 1997;35:391-5.

  4. Honso Professional Catalog 2002. Honso USA, Inc. Tempe, Arizona.

  5. Itoh S, Marutani K, Nishijima T, et al. Liver injuries induced by herbal medicine, syo-saiko-to (xiao-chai-hu-tang). Dig Dis Sci. 1995 Aug;40(8):1845-8.

  6. Hsu LM, Huang YS, Tsay SH, et al. Acute hepatitis induced by Chinese hepatoprotective herb, xiao-chai-hu-tang. J Chin Med Assoc. 2006 Feb;69(2):86-8.

  7. Takahashi K, Uejima E, Morisaki T, et al. In vitro inhibitory effects of Kampo medicines on metabolic reactions catalyzed by human liver microsomes. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2003 Aug;28(4):319-27.

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