Shan Dou Gen (Guang Dou Gen or Radix Sophorae Tonkinensis)

What Is Shan Dou Gen

Shan Dou Gen also known as Guang Dou Gen or Radix Sophorae Tonkinensis is the root and rhizome of Sophora tonkinensis, which is a small shrub of the family Leguminosae. It initially appeared in <Kaibao Bencao> (Materia Medica of the Kaibao Period) around 974 AD.

Sophora tonkinensis is also known as Sophora subprostrata. It often grows in the shrubs of the subtropical or temperate rocky and limestone mountains at an altitude of 1,000-2,000 M. It is distributed in Southwest China and northern Vietnam.

Every autumn, people pick the roots and rhizomes of Sophora tonkinensis, remove their residual stems and impurities, wash them with water, moisten them thoroughly, cut them into thick slices, dry them in the sun, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Sophora tonkinensis

Shan Dou Gen has a beany flavor. It contains maackiain, trifolirhizin, pterocarpine, quercetin, genistein, maackian, glabrol, formononetin, sophoranone, sophoridine, sophorado-chromene, matrine, oxymatrine, anagyrine, cytisine, N-Methylcytisine, sophocarpine, oxysophocarpine, sophoranol, starch, amyloid, hemicellulose, and pectin.

Generally, Shan Dou Gen with brown or tan outer epidermis and yellowish cross-section is the best.

According to <Tu Jing Ben Cao>(Illustrated Classic of Materia Medica), the medicinal property of Shan Dou Gen is relatively cold, with toxicity and bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the lung and stomach meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Shan Dou Gen is often used to clear heat and remove toxins, relieve sore throat and gum swelling and pain, treat psoriasis, plantar warts, chronic active hepatitis, leptospirosis, leukopenia, dysentery, arrhythmia, cervical erosion, and chorionic epithelioma.
It is an important component of Watermelon Frost Spray.


  • Anti-inflammation, anti-virus, and inhibiting delayed hypersensitivity.
  • Anti-oxidation, scavenging superoxide anions, and hydroxyl radicals.
  • Increasing the number of white blood cells, having sedative, analgesic, and cooling effects.
  • Enhancing myocardial contractility, cardiac output, and coronary blood flow, and lowering blood pressure and blood lipids.
  • Increasing the thymus index, spleen index, and phagocytic capacity of macrophages, improving immunity.
  • Reducing liver damage induced by CCL4 or Concanavalin, and preventing fulminant liver injury and ischemia-reperfusion liver injury.
  • Inhibiting gastric secretion and preventing pyloric ligation ulcer, stress ulcer, and acetic acid ulcer in rats.
  • Relieving the sore throat caused by heat toxins, treating acute tonsillitis and pharyngitis.
  • Clearing stomach fire, treating swollen and painful gums, mouth sores, and tongue sores caused by the flaring-up of stomach fire.
  • Clearing lung heat and treating cough caused by lung heat.
  • Treating snake bites, carbuncles, furuncles, jaundice caused by damp-heat.
  • Inhibiting Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus Albicans, alpha streptococcus, beta streptococcus, Shigella dysenteriae, E. coli, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Vibrio cholerae, leprosy bacillus, Epidermophyton floccosum, Candida albicans, and Leptospira.
  • Matrine has inhibitory and killing effects on human pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, malignant melanoma, and other cancer cell lines.
  • Oxymatrine has a killing effect on human colon cancer cells and esophageal cancer cells.
  • Studies have found that intravenous matrine can significantly antagonize arrhythmias induced by aconitine, barium chloride, and ligation of an anterior descending coronary artery.


Side Effects

Shan Dou Gen is poisonous, and the components causing poisoning may be Matrine, Oxymatrine, and Sophocarpine.

Taking it in large doses easily cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, limb weakness, palpitations, or chest tightness.

In severe cases, it may cause pallor, twitching, and numbness of limbs, massive sweating, rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, shortness of breath, dilated pupils, and eventually respiratory failure.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Shan Dou Gen should be controlled at 3-6g.
  • The main cause of poisoning after taking it is that the dosage exceeds 9g.
  • It can be made into decoctions or ground into a powder for external use.
  • People who are allergic to Shan Dou Gen should not take it.
  • People with deficiency-cold in the spleen and stomach should not take it.
  • People with poor appetite or loose stools should not take it.
  • Pregnant women and children should not take it.

Treatment for poisoning

If the patient takes it and causes adverse reactions, please seek medical attention in time.

The following treatment methods for poisoning are for reference only, please refer to the doctor’s diagnosis.

  • It is recommended to induce vomiting and gastric lavage in the early stage of poisoning.
  • If the patient is slightly poisoned for more than 4 hours, treatment with catharsis and activated charcoal is recommended.
  • When taking it to cause severe poisoning, iv drip of vitamin C and anisodamine, or iv injection vitamin B6 is recommended.
  • Atropine injection can relieve severe abdominal pain caused by poisoning.
  • Meclofenoxate can treat a coma caused by poisoning.