Shen Jin Cao (Lycopodium Japonicum)

What Is Shen Jin Cao

Shen Jin Cao is also known as Lycopodium Japonicum, which is an evergreen perennial plant belonging to the family Lycopodiaceae. It is a relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Ben Cao Shi Yi> (Supplements to Newly Revised Materia Medica) around 739 AD.

There are about 49 species of Lycopodium[1], which are mainly distributed in tropical and temperate humid regions. Of these, only some species are distributed in cooler regions. Some of their species are used as ornamentals in some countries.

Lycopodium Japonicum has certain economic and medicinal values. It can be made into pharmaceutical coatings and baby powder. Its spore powder is widely used in the artificial pollination of fruit trees.

They often grow in forests, thickets, grassy slopes, roadsides, or rocks at altitudes of 100-3,300 meters. They are distributed in China, Japan, India, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and some countries in South Asia.

Lycopodium japonicum

In summer and autumn, when the stems and leaves of Lycopodium Japonicum are flourishing, people gather all their parts, remove impurities, dry them in the sun, cut them into segments, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Shen Jin Cao contains a variety of alkaloids such as lycopodine, 12β-hydroxyacetylfawcettiine, 8β-acetoxy-12β-hydroxy-lycopodine, 8β- acetoxy-11α-hydroxy-lycopodine, lycoposerramine M, acetylfawcettiine, clavolonine, α-lofoline, 6α,8β-dihydroxylycopodine, 4α,8β-dihydroxylycopodine, 8β-hydroxylycodoline, acetyllycofawcine, lycoposerramine G, deacetylfawcettiine, fawcettiine, lycofawcine, anhydrolycodoline, miyoshianine C, miyoshianine A, lycodoline, huperzine E, lucidioline, 8β-hydroxyhuperzine E, lycodine, α-obscurine, desN-methyl-α-obscurine, lycojapodine A, obscurinine, lycopoclavamine-A, fawcettimine, lycoflexine, palhinine A, palhinine B, lycojaponicumin A, lycojaponicumin B, lycojaponicumin C, phlegmarine.

In addition, it also contains lycopodiin A, lycoclavanol, lycoclaninol, α-onocerin, -epilycoclavanol, japonicumin A, japonicumin B, japonicumin C, 26-nor-8-oxo-α-onocerin, β-daucosterol, stigmasterol, β-sitosterol, phlegmaric acid, lycernuic acid A, lycojaponicuminol A-F, japonicumin D, n-octacosanol, physcion, volatile oils, and some trace elements.

Generally, the soft Shen Jin Cao with yellow-green to yellowish-brown leaves, pale-yellow section, and white in the wood parts is preferred.

According to <Ben Cao Shi Yi>, the medicinal property of Shen Jin Cao is relatively warm, with a slightly bitter and pungent taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the liver, spleen, and kidney meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is often used to expel wind and dampness, relieve rigidity of muscles and activate collaterals, and treat joint pain, disadvantageous flexion and extension of joints, neck and back pain, puerperal lumbago, rheumatoid arthritis, cervical spondylosis, ankylotic spondylitis, knee osteoarthritis, traumatic arthritis, acute and chronic soft tissue injury, and herpes zoster.

There are about 50 kinds of Chinese medicine prescriptions containing it, such as Guan Jie Feng Tong Wan, Yang Xue Rong Jin Wan, and Du Zhi Wan.


  • Anti-inflammation, inhibiting xylene-induced ear swelling and complete Freund’s adjuvant-induced paw swelling in mice.
  • Increasing the pain threshold and inhibiting the pain caused by the hot plate test and the acetic acid test in mice.
  • Anti-oxidation, scavenging reactive oxygen radicals, hydroxyl radicals, and DPPH radicals.
  • Inhibiting platelet aggregation, and treating non-epidermal damage caused by traumatic contusion.
  • Expelling wind and dampness, treating joint pain, disadvantageous flexion and extension of joints, and wind-cold-dampness arthralgia.
  • Relieving rigidity of muscles and activating collaterals, alleviating swelling and relieving pain, and treating traumatic injury and pain caused by ecchymoma.
  • Its suspension cooperates with pentobarbital sodium to prolong the sleep time of experimental mice.
  • Studies have found that lycojapodine A can inhibit acetylcholinesterase activity and HIV-1 activity.
  • Experiments have confirmed that it can enhance the toxic response of cocaine. This shows that it has a certain excitatory effect on specific parts of the central nervous system.


Side Effects

At present, there are no reports in the literature that Shen Jin Cao has toxic effects, and there are no reports of serious adverse reactions when it is taken according to the prescribed dose.

Topical use of it may cause contact dermatitis.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Shen Jin Cao should be controlled at 3-12g.
  • It can be made into decoctions, pills, medicinal liquors, lotions, and ground for external use.
  • People who are allergic to Shen Jin Cao should not take it.
  • Patients with excessive bleeding should not take it.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take it.