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Scutellaria barbata

Posted by Manuela Boyle on 11 March 2023
Scutellaria barbata

Recent research has discovered that Scutellaria barbata (SB120), a herb used in Chinese Medicine, may possess chemopreventive properties that can be used as adjuvant for cancer ttherapy.

In a recent study, male mice were randomly divided into 4 groups and given oral feedings of 8, 16, or 32mg SB or sterilised water.

The control group developed palpable tumours by 19 weeks, however the respective treatment groups showed delayed tumour development by 2, 4, or 7 weeks, and 22, 30, or 38% of the mice were free of palpable tumours. Western Blotting of SB-treated LNCaP cells also revealed increased expression of Bax, p53, Akt, and JNK, leading to activation of the apoptotic pathway and a decrease in prostate cancer cells survival.

The potential for Scutellaria barbata is an exciting development with potential life-saving implications. Although additional research is necessary to confirm the advantages of Scutellaria barbata, the existing evidence highlights the power of Chinese Medicine and gives hope that it may hold the key to a range of cancer therapies. 

Scutellaria refers to banzhilian, the whole plant of Scutellaria barbata, and should not be confused with "scute," the common name referring to huangqin, the root of Scutellaria baicalensis. These are in the mint family (Labiatae). Though both of the same genus, the former, for which the tops are used, has essential oils among the active components, while the latter relies primarily on flavonoids, particularly baicalin and baicalein.

The Chinese name for the herb refers to "half twigs" (banzhi): the stems of the plant are half covered with leaves and half a flower stalk, hence the name. The term lian is used to describe the lotus, which is most likely mentioned here just to indicate that the plant is valued, not for any other relation. Scutellaria had been used as a folk medicine and is not mentioned in any classic herbals. It was first described formally in a modern science journal (Jiangsu Botanicals Journal). It was reported in the National Collection of Medicinal Herbs that: "the herb is slightly bitter and cool, used to clear heat, remove toxin, and vitalise blood to remove blood stasis, and it has anticancer actions; it is used for tumour, appendicitis, hepatitis, ascites due to cirrhosis, and pulmonary abscess."

The plant is a small-leaved mint, producing bright purple flowers. It grows in moist flatlands, particularly at the edges of rice paddies and ditches, in southeastern China, though it is also found occasionally further West, to Sichuan, and further north, to Shaanxi, and at altitudes up to 2,000 feet (~650 meters). The tops are collected in late spring or early June, and carefully dried.


Chinese medicinal herb Scutellaria barbata modulates apoptosis and cell survival in murine and human prostate cancer cells and tumor development in TRAMP mice. European Journal of Cancer Prevention 18(4):p 331-341, August 2009. | DOI: 10.1097/CEJ.0b013e32832c3859 

Author:Manuela Boyle
Tags:NewsCancerBlogsWestern Herbal Medicine, Nutrients, Chinese & Ayurveda


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • British Naturopathic Association