Scientists unlock the anti-cancer potential of lianqiao, a well-known TCM herb
05/22/2019 // Evangelyn Rodriguez // Views

Herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine are known for their many therapeutic properties. They are now widely studied for their potential to treat or prevent severe, chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Macau in Macao, China looked into the anticancer activity of Forsythiae Fructus or lianqiao in Chinese – a well-known Chinese medicinal herb used to treat various ailments. They used a metabolomics approach to compare aqueous extracts derived from green and ripe Forsythiae Fructus and to determine the biological activity of their active components. Their findings, which demonstrate the difference between the clinical applications of green Forsythia (GF) and ripe Forsythia (RF), were published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine.

Green lianqiao has stronger anticancer activity than ripe lianqiao

Forsythiae Fructus is one of the most important herbs in traditional Chinese medicine and both green Forsythiae Fructus (GF) and ripe Forsythiae Fructus (RF) have medicinal applications. To determine the difference between GF and RF in terms of bioactive components and find out which subtype had a more potent anticancer activity, the researchers first characterized their chemical components using UPLC-MS. Then, they used B16-F10 murine melanoma to evaluate the antitumor capabilities of GF and RF.

Based on the principal component analysis score plots they derived from their UPLC-MS data, they confirmed a clear separation between GF and RF, which indicated that there were significant differences in their chemical components. They also identified 15 chemical compounds as specific markers that could be used to distinguish one from the other.


On the other hand, when the researchers tested both subtypes against B16-F10 murine melanoma both in vitro and in vivo, they found that GF was more potent as an antitumor agent than RF. They also identified four key active compounds which accounted for the difference in the antitumor activities of GF and RF. These compounds were forsythoside I, forsythoside A, forsythoside E, and pinoresinol. Pinoresinol is a precursor of dietary plant lignans and can be absorbed and metabolized in the small intestine. Among plant lignans, it has the strongest anti-inflammatory activity and also exhibits antiproliferative activity against human prostate, breast, and colon cancer, as well as leukemia. (Related: The power of herbal medicine for treating liver cancer.)

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that while both subtypes of Forsythiae Fructus are clinically important, they should be used distinctively and GF should be preferentially prescribed as a component of anticancer treatments.

Lianqiao in traditional and modern-day medicine

Forsythia is commonly grown in the Northern and North-Eastern provinces of China. Forsythia fruits or lianqiao are used widely for medicine and, depending on the picking season, are harvested in two forms: The green, unripe fruit qing qiao, and the old, yellow fruit lao qiao or huang qiao. Qing qiao is preferred over huang qiao for medicinal purposes; it is used raw to clear heat from the body and dissolve lumps. It can also be used to detoxify.

The leaves of lianqiao are good for lowering high blood pressure and treating ailments like diarrhea and sore throat. Its seeds are also a good source of edible oil and fat. As for its fruit, Chinese medicine practitioners use qing qiao as an antibacterial and acaricide. It is also used to make a decoction that reduces melasma, acne, and wrinkles when used to wash the face in the morning and at night.

Today, lianqiao is known for its significant anti-inflammatory effect, which is used in modern skincare to eliminate acne-induced local swelling. It also inhibits the secretion of oil by the sebaceous glands, which helps improve oily skin. On the other hand, lianqiao's antibacterial activity is effective against Staphylococcus aureus, Shigella, and Leptospira infections. Lianqiao can also inhibit the influenza virus.

Lianqiao contains oleanolic acid and vitamin P that benefits the heart and immune system. Oleanolic acid strengthens the heart, lowers high blood pressure, and induces diuresis while vitamin P reduces vascular permeability and fragility to prevent hemolysis. A decoction made with lianqiao also prevents vomiting and protects the liver from damage.

Sources include:

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