Are Russian Lace Vine (Polygonum aubertii) and Polygonum multi

eibren(z6PA)June 1, 2008

Are Russian Lace Vine (Polygonum aubertii) and Polygonum multiflorum (He Shou Wu) the same plant?

It seems that they are not, but the physical description is so similar I am wondering if Polygonum aubertii (which is what I seem to have, and which has grown quite large in my garden) might also have medicinal uses.

Does anyone know of a website that provides detailed information on these plants that does not require a paid subscription?

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arttulip(New Zealand)

I speak Russian :)
I checked the both description and suppose that the first one is just a decorative plant and a second one has medicinal properties.
Polygonum Multiflorum

"The Polygonum Multiflorum plant while originally from China can also be found growing throughout both Japan and Taiwan. The root of the Polygonum Multiflorum plant is used medicinally in traditional Chinese medicine to treat such conditions as premature aging, weakness, and sexual decline related to aging. It is highly regarded as a longevity herb that promotes vitality and vigor. Increases and builds essential energy and cleanses the blood. Polygonum Multiflorum is a well known herb used for enhancement of male sexual function. The mechanism of action of Polygonum Multiflorum is related to the fact that it has also been shown to be a progesterone receptor antagonist in the literature. This results in maintenance of higher testosterone levels. This progesterone modulation will give you increased natural hormonal response and fuel your fat burning, lean mass increasing furnace. "

from here -

Google actually has a lot of links about Polygonum multiflorum

Here is a link that might be useful: Polygonum multiflorum

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 2:22AM
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It's odd that the link quoted above claims that Polygonum multiflorum enhances "male sexual function", since the herb is supposed to have estrogenic activity. Users might not be happy with certain estrogenic effects, like increasing breast size. :)

This herb has a background similar to that of many Chinese herbs - folklore use, extravagant claims that it will treat many different conditions, and a lack of solid evidence for its efficacy and safety. A PubMed scientific literature search (a better idea than randomly searching Google and commercial sites) turns up some preliminary studies, mostly in rats and tissue culture, but not controlled studies in humans.

There's also evidence that the herb may severely damage the human liver.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 9:45AM
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Just came across an article on resveratrol and the sirtuin genes and aging. Polygonum (aka knotweed) is one of the richest sources of resveratrol (much more than red wine) - lots of interesting stuff (see link below).


all the references you cite on toxicity refer to patent medicines that contain Polygonum and many other ingredients, including possible plants or pharmaceutical contaminants that are not listed on the ingredients. Shou-wu-pian typically contains 13 different herbs, and many He-shou-wu patent medicines contain only 5%-20% Polygonum.

Plain Polygonum multiflorum tea is available in many Asian groceries, is widely consumed, and I have been unable to locate reliable information that the herb itself is toxic.

Your comments on the estrogenic effects are nothing more than pseudo-scientific scaremongering. Many grains, legumes, vegetables and spices show clear estrogenic activity in lab tests. That does not translate to man-boobs from eating plant foods. If someone were on the other side of things, claiming that a few theoretical lab tests proved that polygonum was effective for breast enhancement, you would be quick to criticize them for jumping to grand conclusions in the absence of adequately designed human trials.

If plants with estrogenic activity are such a concern, should we not ban beer? Hops contain a number of compounds with estrogenic activity. And isn't red wine (which many doctors recommend for daily consumption) loaded with estrogenic compounds including resveratrol, piceatannol and myricetin?

Here is a link that might be useful: Herald Tribune article - Red wine, knotweed (Polygonum), resveratrol, and aging.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 12:16PM
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Check the linked articles with more care, and you'll find references to the individual herb P. multiflorum having been found toxic to the liver, as well as Chinese herbal mixes of which P. multiflorum is a component.

And I'm puzzled by your downplaying risks of this herb by suggesting that other components of Chinese herbal mixtures might be to blame - since you were defending these sorts of complex mixtures as recently as in this thread.

As for estrogenic effects of herbs, what I'm suggesting is that it doesn't make a lot of sense to claim that P. multiflorum is a male sexual enhancer at the same time that others sell the herb to relieve menopausal symptoms through supposed estrogenic activity. It's yet another example of the foolishness involved in promoting herbs as grandiose cure-alls, while overlooking the fact that it's illogical to expect any product to simultaneously perform actions that are virtually in direct opposition to each other (another example of this previously mentioned in the forum was cider vinegar, whose enthusiasts claim it is good for countering both weight loss and weight gain).

What we deserve before following advice to jump on the bandwagon of this supposedly magical herb is good evidence that it's effective and safe when used for all the myriad conditions for which it's promoted (such as the Fountain of Youth which you now apparently believe in).

Thanks to articles like the one to which you linked, supplement dealers will no doubt be launching new campaigns for a "New Miracle Anti-Aging Drug - 100% Safe And Natural - Proven By Science!!", while somehow forgetting to tell us that the "science" is based on things like a small study showing that resveratrol in very high doses kept rats running longer on their treadmills.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 3:32PM
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Thank you both, arttulip and eric oh, for your input--especially seeking out a site in Russian, arttulip!

From what I was able to access, it seems that Polygonum aubertii might at one time have origionated in Tibet. When I tried to find out more about that, however, all I could find was a restricted website archiving botanical magazines reporting early plant expedition sites (and when I followed its links trying to find out how to join it seems only institutional memberships are accommodated--so much for universal information access over the internet), and some herbal workup sheets by a committee in China preparing for the Olympics--those looked sort of interesting.

In any case, I will seek out more information on multiflorum...I had hoped that aubertii might also be multiflorum, since I think my plant is aubertii. I was hoping I could make myself an occasional cup of tea from my plant, but apparently not--especially after eric oh's input. I wonder if the multiflorum is safer after being dried?

The growth habits of multiflorum and aubertii seem similar, from what I have read so far about multiflorum, but the zonal preferences are not...and a photographer on the Asian plant forum has a site with a photo of multiflorum leaves, which seem in that photo quite different from the lance-shaped leaves of my plant--the multiflorum leaves are almost heart-shaped.

One would think that there would be more medical research on all of the Polygonums, considering multiflorum's reputation--but perhaps I need memberships for the most likely sites that report such developments. I did find one conservation website, though, with recipes for cooking the young shoots of invasive knotweed, which reportedly taste a bit like rhubarb due to oxalic acid content.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 8:37PM
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The first article you linked to discusses 7 patients (all of whom had hepatitis B) that had liver failure co-incidental to taking herbal medicines. (39 other patients with hepatitis had liver failure in the absence of taking herbs). Only 1 of those 7 took a medicine with Polygonum, and that medicine was shown to be contaminated with N-nitrosfenfluramine, which the article said "is known to be highly hepatotoxic". So is that a smoking-gun on the dangers of Polygonum? I think not. The other two articles you linked to discussed correlations between taking other patent medicines that included Polygonum and several other herbs.

It is true that Polygonum contains anthraquinones, and in larger doses, these can theoretically have a negative effect on the liver. It should also be pointed out that rhubarb, senna and aloe vera latex can contain even more anthraquinones than polygonum. If someone is taking enough Polygonum (or rhubarb) to see a laxative effect, that ~might~ affect their livers - if they are unusually sensitive to the ingredient and have an idiosyncratic reaction, if they take it for a prolonged period of time, or if the liver is already weakened by hepatitis.

A variety of anthraquinone-laden senna laxatives are to be found in virtually every drugstore in the United States, and they appear in the OTC medicine section, not in the supplement section. They are widely recommended by doctors. The FDA could take action if it thought that the risk was substantial. Yet they haven't, and none of the mainstream medical websites seem to be concerned about senna and the liver - even though millions of Americans consume it every year. They express justifiable concerns that people not become dependent on such stimulant laxatives, that they seek attention if the problem doesn't resolve itself or if there is severe abdominal pain, etc. But nowhere did I see doctors identifying liver conditions as a counter-indication for using senna, even though it contains the same 'hepatotoxic' chemicals as polygonum. This special caution is reserved for things labeled alternative or foreign. Hmm...

There are anthraquinones in vegetables, such as cabbage and lettuce; beans are particularly high in them. And there is rhubarb, which I shall continue eating. Caution might be in order for some individuals, but the overall risk appears to be quite low.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 9:16AM
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I think you're still missing the point.

With any drug, we need to balance the usefulness of the drug against its potential for side effects.

Many drugs (pharmaceutical and herbal) may damage the liver. If these drugs are known to be effective in treating or preventing disease, we may choose to accept some degree of risk in using them. Drugs such as the Chinese herbal medicine containing Polygonum multiflorum have only the sketchiest of evidence supporting their use - therefore, even a relatively small risk of severe side effects (like total liver failure requiring a liver transplant) is unacceptable.

Senna laxatives, on the other hand, are known to be effective and have a long history of clinical use. Physicians warn against their chronic use, of course, and I have been able to find only a rare report of liver toxicity associated with senna (this was in a woman who consumed very large amounts of herbal tea prepared from senna fruits, not the over-the-counter preparations commonly sold).

As for cabbage, lettuce and beans - if you're aware of any cases of severe liver damage associated with eating them that compare with the reports for Polygonum multiflorum, feel free to share. ;)

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 11:15AM
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>> As for cabbage, lettuce and beans - if you're aware of any cases of severe liver damage associated with eating them that compare with the reports for Polygonum multiflorum, feel free to share. ;)

Did they ask the 45 hepatitis patients with liver failure if they had eaten beans or lettuce? If any said yes, they would qualify as victims of vegetables under the loose logic used by the authors of that study: they had liver failure; they consumed a plant known to contain anthraquinones; anthraquinones can in theory cause liver problems... there fore, the only explanation must be the anthroquinone containing plant.

Never mind the fact that N-nitrosfenfluramine was also implicated; ignore the fact that the levels of anthraquinones were never measured or shown to be ingested in significant amounts. Their perspective going in is that these things must be dangerous ... Anthraquinone = liver problems. Their conclusions matched their expectations.

Another thing I found interesting about the study - out of 45 hospitalizations for liver failure among hepatitis patients, 7 were taking herbs (15.5%). The same study says that 32% of hepatitis patients in Hong Kong take Traditional Chinese Medicines. So in fact, the liver failure rate seems to be lower among Hepatitis patients in Hong Kong that do take TCM herbs. If Chinese herbs had absolutely no effect, we might expect to see about twice the number of cases as was observed (14 cases, 32%). If Chinese Herbs were far more dangerous, they should have observed even more cases. Yet they did not.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 1:18PM
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>> what I'm suggesting is that it doesn't make a lot of sense to claim
>> that P. multiflorum is a male sexual enhancer at the same time that others
>> sell the herb to relieve menopausal symptoms through supposed estrogenic
>> activity  it's illogical to expect any product to simultaneously
>> perform actions that are virtually in direct opposition to each other

No, it isnÂt illogical at all  what is illogical is your notion of what directly opposite effects are. You are operating out of a simplistic, binary metaphor of male/female yin/yang that is taken too literally, with no regard for physiology and biochemistry.

1) Many phytoestrogens directly affect only the beta-estrogen receptors. The beta-estrogen receptors affect blood vessels and nitric oxide levels (among other things) and could improve both hot flashes and male sexual function. The beta-receptors are not present in the breasts or gonads and beta-estrogen agonists do not have a feminizing effect in men.
2) There are a wide variety of chemicals that act profoundly on estrogen/progesterone in females but which impact primarily testosterone in males. Lutenizing hormone (LH) is a good example.
3) Many chemicals are functionally amphoteric  for example, a weak phytoestrogen may have a small estrogenic effect in a system that has little or no estrogen. In a system with ample endogenous estrogen, that same chemical may compete with estrogen for receptor sites, and while it is bound to the receptor, it exerts much less of an estrogen effect, thus lowering overal estrogen tone. So the same dose of a particular phytoestrogen can be both pro and anti estrogenic, depending on who ingests it.
4) Many of the sex hormones are intercovertible. One of most common causes of enlarged breasts in men is  high doses of testosterone. Aromatase converts it to estrogen.
5) There are plenty of feedback mechanisms. If something acts to increase one component of the sexual response (say, blood vessel action or dopamine levels) that can increase libido and affect the hypothalamic/pituitary/gonadal axis, which could make males more male AND make females more female.

Your statement reminds me of the Seinfeld bit  Thermos bottles can keep hot liquids hot, and they can keep cold liquids coldÂ. But how do they know which is which? Such a puzzle.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 1:31PM
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Those explanations might be acceptable in a Seinfeldian universe. In the real world (and to someone seeking reassurance about using Polygonum multiflorum) they are either irrelevant or flat wrong.

For instance, your claim that "one of most common causes of enlarged breasts in men is...high doses of testosterone" is incorrect. "The basic mechanisms of gynecomastia (benign breast enlargement in men) are a decrease in androgen production (i.e.lowered testosterone levels), an absolute increase in estrogen production, and an increased availability of estrogen precursors for peripheral conversion to estradiol."

The remainder of your physiology lecture has no discernable relevance to Polygonum multiflorum. We still don't know 1) if it works in all the myriad ways its advocates claim, 2) what mechanism of action would be involved, and 3) if the known and unknown side effects justify making ourselves guinea pigs while supplement dealers profit from yet another "wonder herb" promotion.

I'm still waiting for an explanation of how in one thread you complain that fears about complex herbal mixes are alarmist - while here you argue that focusing on one particular hepatotoxic ingredient of an herbal mixture (P. multiflorum) is "scaremongering" and that we should look at other components of the mix instead.

Which of these statements do you now consider "inoperative"? ;)

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 4:01PM
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Sorry, you are wrong. Testosterone abuse among body-builders using testosterone is a common cause of enlarged breasts in men - most do not seek medical attention or attempt to self treat. And the unsanctioned use of anabolic steroids is quite widespread.

And even medically approved therapy is undoubtedly a common cause of enlarged breasts in men - testosterone can be, and is converted to estrogen:

In elderly men receiving testosterone replacement: "Testosterone therapy produces a number of adverse effects, including worsening of sleep apnea, gynecomastia, polycythemia and elevation of PSA. PMID: 18225456

It is you who are dodging the central issue - This thread is about Polygonum, and you have claimed that Polygonum was hepatotoxic and should be avoided, when the only case study you referred to had exactly one (1) case where Polygonum was associated with liver issues (in a person with hepatititis) and when that person was taking a mixture of plants, and when the preparation was shown to be contaminated with a highly hepatotoxic compound that is not normally present in Polygonum.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 8:06PM
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apollog, your misconceptions on this subject are just too extensive to address in a single thread, beginning with the claim that bodybuilders use testosterone and that enlarged breasts are the result. In reality, testosterone levels are abnormally low in people who abuse anabolic steroids. But of course this is far off the subject of Polygonum multiflorum.

"It is you who are dodging the central issue - This thread is about Polygonum"

One would never know it, seeing that you've been talking about beer, senna, cabbage, beans and now anabolic steroids - anything to distract attention away from the fact that:

1) There's no good evidence that Polygonum multiflorum has medical value in humans, and

2) There is evidence that this herb can severely damage the human liver.

Still waiting for you to acknowledge the disparity between your arguing in one thread that raising concerns about complex herbal mixes is unnecessarily alarmist, and then claiming in this thread that we can disregard concerns about a single herb because other components of a complex mix are probably to blame.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 8:37PM
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