Sophora flavescens


Family: Fabaceae
Latin name: Sophora flavescens 
English name: Yellow Pagoda tree
Chinese name: Ku Shen (苦参)
Ayurveda name: 
Unani name:
Greek name:
Japanese name: Kujin
Korean name: Kosam

Parts used: Roots

It is a nitrogen fixing plant that has nodulating bacteria associated with its roots.


Asia, Oceania and the Pacific islands.


  • Matrine
  • Oxymatrine
  • Matridine
  • Anagyrin
  • Sophoranol
  • Kuraridin
  • Kurarinone
  • Iso-Kurarinone
  • Sophoravlavone

The root of Sophora flavescens is known to contain quinolizidine alkaloids. According to the Chinese Pharmacopoeia 2% of alcaloids calculated as matrine is the standard for medicinal usage.

Another important group of substances are kushenols (Kushenol A-X) that are a group of flavonoids that occur in the plant. [7]



Temperature: Cold
Taste: Bitter (Extremely)
Meridians affected: Heart, Liver, Bladder, Large Intestine, Stomach, Small Intestine

Sophora flavescens is one of the 15 species of the genus that have a long history of usage in the Chinese medicinal system.

It has traditionally been used for infectious damp heat and fire toxin conditions involving the skin, genital and digestive organs.

It is used to treat fungal infections of the skin. [1] It is also antiparasitic, especially in Korea, aquous extract at a concentration of 8mg/ml has been shown to be effective against vaginal Trichomonas. [2]

Dosage: Decoction: 4-15 g, Tincture: 1-4 ml


TCM Formulas in which it is included:


Sophora japonica is used instead in the practice of Ayurveda medicine.



Not known

Other Cultures:

In Tibetan medicine it is used along with Paeonia albiflora root,  Sambucus sibirica and Hedychium spicatum root to clear phlegm and air diseases and for irregularities of blood pressure. [3]

Also another formulation exists, called ma-nu-bzhi-than where instead of Hedychium spicatum, Zingiber officinale is used. This last ailment is claimed to “ripen the fever and enable it to burst out” and should be followed by a cooling medicine. The name of the recipe translates to peony decoction with four ingredients.


A mix of Sophora flavescens and Glycyrrhiza glabra showed a better liver protective activity and antihepatocarcinogenic effect than any of the two herbs alone.

Matrine which is a constituent of Sophora flavescens has been shown to increase the efficacy of albendazole to inhibit Echinococcus multilocularis in mice. [4]

Sophora flavescens has been proven to have a relaxing effect on the rhytmic organs like lungs and heart.

Almost conclusive results indicate that S. flavescens can be used against hepatitis B.

On its own and in formulations it has been effective in asthma management. The flavonoid compound trifolirhizin is the component to which the action is attributed, due to the effect it has on smooth muscles.

Other Uses:


Actions in veterinary medicine:

  1. Clear heat and dry up dampness.
  2. Promote urination.
  3. Disperse wind to stop itching.
  4. Kill worms and parasites.


Horses and Cattle: 15–60 g
Llamas, Alpacas, Goats, Sheep, and Pigs: 5–15 g
Dogs: 2–8 g
Cats and Rabbits: 0.5–1 g
Birds: 0.2–1.5 g

Taken from “Xie’s Chinese Veterinary Herbology” [5]

Pest management:




Safety Toxicity:

Due to the content of thujone, related toxicity can be observed, as the substance can cause CNS stimulation and possibly epilepsy.


  1. Hempen, and Toni Fischer. A materia medica for Chinese medicine : plants, minerals, and animal products. Edinburgh New York: Churchill Livingstone, 2009. Print.
  2. Ryu, Jae-Sook, and Duk-Young Min. “Trichomonas Vaginalis and Trichomoniasis in the Republic of Korea.” The Korean Journal of Parasitology 44.2 (2006): 101–116. PMC. Web. 20 May 2017.
  3. Rechung. Tibetan medicine : illustrated in original texts. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. Print.
  4. Mehlhorn, Heinz, Zhongdao, and Bin. Treatment of human parasitosis in traditional Chinese medicine. Heidelberg: Springer, 2013. Print.
  5. Xie, Huisheng, and Vanessa Preast. Xie’s Chinese veterinary herbology. Ames, Iowa: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print.
  6. Principles and practice of phytotherapy. Modern herbal practice.
  7. Azimova, Shakhnoza S., and Valentina I. Vinogradova. Natural compounds. plant sources, structure and properties. New York, NY: Springer, 2013. Print.

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