Yellow Root

Scientific Name(s): Xanthorhiza simplicissima Marsh. synon. with Zanthorhiza apiifolia . Family: Ranunculaceae (buttercups)

Common Name(s): Yellow root , parsley-leaved yellow root , yellow wart , shrub yellow root . Not to be confused with “yellow root,” also known as goldenseal ( Hydrastis canadensis L. ).

Uses

Yellow root has been used in folk medicine for mouth infections and sore throat, diabetes, and childbirth, and as an antibiotic, immunostimulant, anticonvulsant, sedative, hypotensive, uterotonic, and choleretic. However, research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of yellow root to treat any condition.

Dosing

There is no recent clinical evidence to support dose recommendations for yellow root. Classical use of the rhizome as a tonic was at 2 g doses.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been determined.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Berberine can stimulate uterine activity; use during pregnancy should be avoided.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Potential concerns include its anticoagulation interactions, cardiostimulation, and uterine stimulatory.

Toxicology

Yellow root constituent berberine is generally considered non-toxic (as other berberine plants).

Botany

A shrub-like plant indigenous to the east coast of North America that grows from New York to Florida, yellow root is commonly found growing near stream banks and shady areas. It flowers in April and derives its names from the bright yellow color of the rhizome. 1

History

Yellow root had been used by people living in the southern United States for the treatment of hypertension and diabetes. 1 It was popular in folk medicine and has been used for mouth infections and sore throat, diabetes, and childbirth. 2

Chemistry

Berberine is the major alkaloid in yellow root with the minor alkaloids jatrorhizine and mognoflorine also having been identified. 3 In addition, 2 cytotoxic isoquinoline alkaloids, liriodenine and palmatine have been isolated in a later report. 4 The major alkaloid berberine is present in 23 genera, spanning 7 plant families. 5 Berberine content in yellow root ranges between 1.2% to 1.3% 2 puntarenine, an isohomoprotoberberine alkaloid has recently been isolated as well. 6

Uses and Pharmacology

Yellow root has been used as a source for yellow dye. 2 Various pharmacokinetic data on yellow root constituent berberine in animals is available. 5

Diarrhea

Berberine-containing plants have been used for thousands of years in China and India, mostly for treatment of diarrhea. Berberine is reportedly effective against diarrhea caused by such enterotoxins as Vibrio cholerae and E. coli .

Animal data

Research reveals no animal data regarding the use of yellow root in diarrhea.

Clinical data

In several clinical trials, diarrhea treatment with berberine has proven successful. 7 However, some controversy exists on the validity of this type of treatment in children, not only caused by underlying pathophysiological processes, but to the fact that berberine salts were often given as part of a mixture of agents (ie, with anticholinergic compounds). 5

Other uses

Yellow root constituent berberine has been used not only in folk medicine, but as an antibiotic, immunostimulant, anticonvulsant, sedative, hypotensive, uterotonic, and choleretic. 7

Berberine produces a transient drop in blood pressure and appears to antagonize the pharmacologic effects of acetylcholine and histamine. 8 Its hypotensive effects have been studied in animals. 7

Berberine decreases anticoagulant actions of heparin in dog and human blood. It exhibits antipyretic activity in rats. 7

Yellow root has been used as a bitter tonic for mouth and gum sores, especially in denture care. 2

A broad spectrum of antimicrobial action has been found for berberine, including activity against bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. 7 Yellow root extracts were found to exhibit antimicrobial activity against Candida albicans , Cryptococcus neoformans , and Mycobacterium intracellularae . 6 Extract of yellow root has also been shown to inhibit RNA and DNA synthesis in leukemia cells. 9

Yellow root has also been reported to be used as an adulterant for the more expensive goldenseal. 10

Dosage

There is no recent clinical evidence to support dose recommendations for yellow root. Classical use of the rhizome as a tonic was at 2 g doses.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Berberine can stimulate uterine activity; use during pregnancy should be avoided. 7

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Coagulant activity opposing heparin's actions and cardiac stimulation have been reported from the plant, which may be of concern.

Toxicology

A case of a man who developed chronic arsenic poisoning after drinking yellow root tea for 2 years has been reported. Yellow root is not a natural concentrator of arsenic and the contamination was thought to be secondary to pollution in the plant's habitat. 11

Yellow root constituent berberine is generally considered non-toxic (as other berberine plants).

The oral LD-50 of berberine in mice is 3.29 mg/10 g. Administration of berberine to laboratory animals has produced GI irritation, tremors, emesis, and sedation. 5

Bibliography

1. Der Marderosian A. Natural Product Medicine . Philadelphia, PA: George F. Stickley Co., 1988;369-70.
2. Hocking G. A Dictionary of Natural Products . Medford, NJ: Plexus Publishing, Inc., 1977;872.
3. Hussein F, et al. Lloydia 1963;26:254.
4. Wu Y, et al. Kao Hsiung I Hsueh Ko Hsueh Tsa Chih 1989;5(7):409-11.
5. DeSmet P, ed. Adverse Effects Of Herbal Drugs 1 . NY: Springer-Verlag, 1992;97-104.
6. Okunade A, et al. J Pharm Sci 1994;83(3):404-6.
7. Newall C. Herbal Medicines . London, Eng: Pharmaceutical Press, 1996;151-52.
8. Kulkarni S, et al. Jpn J Pharmacol 1972;22:11.
9. Baker V. Am J Med Sci 1989;298(5):283-88.
10. Osol, ed., et al. The Dispensatory of the United States of America , 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott Co.,1955;660-1.
11. Parsons J. NC Med J 1981;42:38.

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