The Stephania tetrandra plant is a perennial climbing vine in the Menispermaceae family, native to tropical and subtropical areas of China and Taiwan. It is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine and has been used for its support with blood sugar, allergies, the immune system, blood clotting, relaxation of the muscular walls of blood vessels, and constipation relief.* Stephania has a thick cylindrical root which is the source for most of its medicinal bioactive compounds.
It is important to clarify about a safety controversy surrounding Stephania tetrandra. This herb was given the Chinese pin yin name of “fang ji”. Pin yin is a widely-used system of attributing Romanized translations to Mandarin Chinese terms as a tool to simplify pronunciation. This can cause confusion because herbal ingredients are commonly traded using their Chinese pin yin names, and the same pin yin name is shared by another herb called Aristolochia fangchi. Aristolchia fangchi contains a dangerous substance called aristolchic acid that has adverse effects on humans. In 1992, a group of Belgian patients participated in a slimming regimen that involved taking a powdered mixture of Chinese herbs. Stephania tetrandra was known to be useful in weight reduction programs and the mixture was labeled as containing it.* Unfortunately, many of the dieters developed renal failure. The formula was later analyzed and it was proven that Aristolchia fangchi had been used instead of Stephania tetrandra. There are no known adverse effects associated with Stephania tetrandra, and BioPure’s product contains no aristolchic acid.
Tetrandrine is a major bioactive alkaloid obtained from the tuberous root of the Stephania plant. Tetrandrine has potent inflammation modulating properties and can be useful for relaxing sore, tight muscles.* Mechanisms for this are complex and appear to involve interference with several inflammatory pathways, as well as inhibition of immune effector T-cells. Close inspection of the chemical activity of tetrandrine shows that it also acts as a calcium channel blocker, and in this way relaxes the muscular walls of blood vessels.* Tetrandrine has been useful for people with respiratory system concerns due to its action on inhibiting the contraction of pulmonary vessels and airways.
Some research suggests that using whole root extract, containing the complete spectrum of bioactives present in the root, instead of isolated tetrandrine, can provide a superior synergistic effect. Unlike tetrandrine alone, whole root extract of S. tetrandra doesn’t slow down heart rate while still offering benefits and support for optimal heart health.*
Another well-known bioactive in Stephania is fangchinoline. Fangchinoline has shown neuroprotective activity along with other effects on different structures of the body.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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