Smilax glabra

Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More

Smilax glabra

Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More
Smilax glabra

Common Names

  • Glabrous greenbrier rhizome
  • Tu Fu Ling
  • Tufuling
  • China root

For Patients & Caregivers

Tell your healthcare providers about any dietary supplements you’re taking, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, and natural or home remedies. This will help them manage your care and keep you safe.

What is it?

Smilax glabra has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer.

Smilax glabra is known as Tufuling in traditional Chinese medicine. The root has been used in combination with other herbs to treat various types of infections and inflammatory conditions.

Lab studies suggest this plant has anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. However, clinical studies have not been conducted and it is not known if the same effects would occur in humans.

What are the potential uses and benefits?
  • Arthritis

    Anti-inflammatory activity has been observed in rat models, but studies in humans are lacking.
  • Infections

    Lab studies suggest S. glabra has antiviral activity.
  • Kidney disease

    Astilbin, a compound present in S. glabra, has been studied in rats with diabetic nephropathy. However, clinical trials are lacking.
  • Immunostimulation

    Smilaxin, a protein isolated from S. glabra, stimulated immune activity in mice, but studies have not been conducted in humans.
  • Cancer

    Lab studies suggest antioxidant and antitumor effects, but clinical trials have not been conducted.
What else do I need to know?

Do Not Take if:

You are taking CYP3A4 or 2D6 substrate drugs: Lab studies suggest compounds in S. glabra may affect the activity of drugs metabolized by these enzymes. Clinical relevance has yet to be determined.

Special Point:

Smilax glabra should not be confused with Smilax officinalis, another species commonly known as sarsaparilla.

For Healthcare Professionals

Scientific Name
Smilax glabra, Smilacis glabrae
Clinical Summary

Smilax glabra is a plant prevalent in South Asia. The rhizome is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat various types of infections and inflammatory conditions.

Preclinical studies suggest antioxidant (1) (2), antiviral (3), renoprotective (4), immunostimulatory (5), anti-inflammatory (6) (7), hepatoprotective (16), and anticancer properties (8) (9) (10) (11) (12), but human studies are lacking.

Smilax glabra should not be confused with Smilax officinalis, another species commonly known as sarsaparilla.

Food Sources

Smilax glabra is used in traditional Chinese foods (2).

Purported Uses and Benefits
  • Arthritis
  • Infections
  • Nephritis
  • Immunostimulant
  • Cancer
Mechanism of Action

Anticancer effects may be due to apoptotic induction via Bax upregulation, Bcl2 downregulation, or cell cycle arrest and decreased mRNA expression of cyclin B1 and Cdk1 in carcinoma cells (9).

Anti-inflammatory effects may be due to inhibition of T-lymphocyte adhesion, causing a decrease in T-cell ability to express CD44 and produce TNFα (6). In cardiomyoblast cells, anticardiac hypertrophy effects occurred via targeted inhibition of ryanodine receptor-mediated intracellular Ca(2+) release (18).

Inhibition of TGFβ and connective tissue growth factor, both thought to induce the fibrotic process in diabetic nephropathy, was observed in HK-2 cells after exposure to the constituent astilbin (4). Renoprotective activities animal nephropathy models occurred via significant reductions in urinary volume and albumin, serum creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, and creatinine clearance (4).

Herb-Drug Interactions

CYP3A4 and 2D6: Preclinical studies suggest that flavonoid isomers astilbin, neoastilbin, and isoastilbin may affect the activity of drugs metabolized by these enzymes (19) (20). Clinical relevance has yet to be determined.

  1. Ban JY, Cho SO, Koh SB, et al. Protection of amyloid beta protein (25-35)-induced neurotoxicity by methanol extract of Smilacis chinae rhizome in cultured rat cortical neurons. J Ethnopharmacol. Jun 30 2006;106(2):230-237.
  2. Zhang Q-F, Zhang Z-R, Cheung H. Antioxidant activity of Rhizoma Smilacis Glabrae extracts and its key constituent-astilbin. Food Chemistry. 2009;115(1):297-303.
  3. Ooi LS, Wong EY, Chiu LC, et al. Antiviral and anti-proliferative glycoproteins from the rhizome of Smilax glabra Roxb (Liliaceae). Am J Chin Med. 2008;36(1):185-195.
  4. Li GS, Jiang WL, Yue XD, et al. Effect of Astilbin on Experimental Diabetic Nephropathy in vivo and in vitro. Planta Med. 2009;75(14):1470-1475.
  5. Chu KT, Ng TB. Smilaxin, a novel protein with immunostimulatory, antiproliferative, and HIV-1-reverse transcriptase inhibitory activities from fresh Smilax glabra rhizomes. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. Feb 3 2006;340(1):118-124.
  6. Yi HW, Lu XM, Fang F, et al. Astilbin inhibits the adhesion of T lymphocytes via decreasing TNF-alpha and its associated MMP-9 activity and CD44 expression. Int Immunopharmacol. Oct 2008;8(10):1467-1474.
  7. Man MQ, Shi Y, Man M, et al. Chinese herbal medicine (Tuhuai extract) exhibits topical anti-proliferative and anti-inflammatory activity in murine disease models. Exp Dermatol. Aug 2008;17(8):681-687.
  8. Kuo YH, Hsu YW, Liaw CC, et al. Cytotoxic phenylpropanoid glycosides from the stems of Smilax china. J Nat Prod. Oct 2005;68(10):1475-1478.
  9. Xu W, Liu J, Li C, et al. Kaempferol-7-O-beta-D-glucoside (KG) isolated from Smilax china L. rhizome induces G2/M phase arrest and apoptosis on HeLa cells in a p53-independent manner. Cancer Lett. Jun 18 2008;264(2):229-240.
  10. Sa F, Gao JL, Fung KP, et al. Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effect of Smilax glabra Roxb. extract on hepatoma cell lines. Chem Biol Interact. Jan 10 2008;171(1):1-14.
  11. Thabrew MI, Mitry RR, Morsy MA, Hughes RD. Cytotoxic effects of a decoction of Nigella sativa, Hemidesmus indicus and Smilax glabra on human hepatoma HepG2 cells. Life Sci. Aug 5 2005;77(12):1319-1330.
  12. Iddamaldeniya SS, Thabrew MI, Wickramasinghe S, et al. A long-term investigation of the anti-hepatocarcinogenic potential of an indigenous medicine comprised of Nigella sativa, Hemidesmus indicus and Smilax glabra. J Carcinog. 2006;5:11.
  13. Chen T, Li JX, Xu Q. Phenylpropanoid glycosides from Smilax glabra. Phytochemistry. Apr 2000;53(8):1051-1055.
  14. Zhou X, Xu Q, Li JX, Chen T. Structural revision of two flavanonol glycosides from Smilax glabra. Planta Med. May 2009;75(6):654-655.
  15. Chen JK, Chen TT. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology, 2nd ed. California: Art of Medicine Press; 2004.
  16. Xia D, Fan Y, Zhang P, et al. Protective effects of the flavonoid-rich fraction from rhizomes of Smilax glabra Roxb. on carbon tetrachloride-induced hepatotoxicity in rats. J Membr Biol. 2013 Jun;246(6):479-85.
  17. Xu S, Shang MY, Liu GX, et al. Chemical constituents from the rhizomes of Smilax glabra and their antimicrobial activity. Molecules. 2013 May 8;18(5):5265-87.
  18. Shou Q, Pan S, Tu J, et al. Modulation effect of Smilax glabra flavonoids on ryanodine receptor mediated intracellular Ca2+ release in cardiomyoblast cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Oct 28;150(1):389-92.
  19. Shi Y, Xie J, Chen R, et al. Inhibitory effects of astilbin, neoastilbin and isoastilbin on human cytochrome CYP3A4 and 2D6 activities. Biomed Chromatogr. Apr 2021;35(4):e5039.
  20. Tao Y, Fan Y, Liu G, et al. Interaction study of astilbin, isoastilbin and neoastilbin toward CYP2D6 by multi-spectroscopy and molecular docking. Luminescence. Sep 2021;36(6):1412-1421.
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