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Scutellaria baicalensis, the golden herb from the garden of Chinese medicinal plants

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Qing Zhao,1,2Xiao-Ya Chen,1,3 and Cathie Martin2

Abstract

Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi, or Chinese skullcap, has been widely used as a medicinal plant in China for thousands of years, where the preparation from its roots is called Huang-Qin. It has been applied in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, hypertension, hemorrhaging, insomnia, inflammation and respiratory infections. Flavones such as baicalin, wogonoside and their aglycones baicalein wogonin are the major bioactive compounds extracted from the root of S. baicalensis. These flavones have been reported to have various pharmacological functions, including anti-cancer, hepatoprotection, antibacterial and antiviral, antioxidant, anticonvulsant and neuroprotective effects. In this review, we focus on clinical applications and the pharmacological properties of the medicinal plant and the flavones extracted from it. We also describe biotechnological and metabolic methods that have been used to elucidate the biosynthetic pathways of the bioactive compounds in Scutellaria.

Keywords: Scutellaria baicalensis, Flavonoids, Anti-cancer, Metabolic biology, Medicinal plants

Introduction

Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi is a species of flowering plant in the Lamiaceae family (Fig. 1a). It is indigenous to several East Asian countries and the Russian Federation and has been cultivated in many European countries [12]. Chinese people have used the dried root of this medicinal plant for more than 2000 years as a traditional medicine known as Huang-Qin (Fig. 1b) and it is now listed officially in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia. The dried root of Huang-Qin is often prepared by decoction (boiling) or as tinctures [3]. Huang (黄) means yellow. Qin (芩) is equivalent to Jin (菳), and means golden herb, as explained in Shuowen Jiezi, an early 2nd-century Chinese dictionary from the Han Dynasty [45]. Huang-Qin was first recorded in Shennong Bencaojing (The Classic of Herbal Medicine), written between about 200 and 250 AD, for treatment of bitter, cold, lung and liver problems [6]. The most authoritative book on traditional Chinese medicine, Bencao Gangmu (Compendium of Materia Medica) which was first published in 1593, reported that Scutellaria baicalensis (Fig. 1c) had been used in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, hypertension, hemorrhaging, insomnia, inflammation and respiratory infections. Its author, Li Shizhen, reported successful self-administration to treat a severe lung infection when he was 20 years old [4].

Reference:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5031759/

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