Saussurea medusa, source of the medicinal herb snow lotus: a review of its botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology

Jia-Yi Fan, Hu-Biao Chen*, Lin Zhu, Hong-Li Chen, Zhong-Zhen Zhao, Tao Yi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Saussurea medusa Maxim. is a plant source of the traditional medicine known as “snow lotus” which has been recorded in many ethnopharmacy books, including: Herbal Communications, Flora Tibet, National Herbal Compendium, and Crystal beads Materia Medica, This plant is also a medicinal plant source of Gaode-Subage, a Mongolian folk medicine. The review summarizes the traditional uses and current knowledge concerning the botany, phytochemistry, pharmacological effects, toxicology studies and clinical applications of S. medusa. These could guide the priorities and direction of the future research. Information on S. medusa was gathered from e-literature found on the internet using SCI Finder, Google Scholar, Web of science, PubMed, CNKI, and the Wanfang database, and from printed material (books, theses, etc.) found in libraries. Additionally, information was also obtained from some local herb gatherers, herbal peddler and herbalist. More than 70 chemical compounds have been isolated, including apigenin, quercetin, rutin, arctigenin, saussureoside A, and saussureoside B. Modern pharmacological studies have found that S. medusa has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-fungal, anti-tumor, anti-anoxia, anti-oxidation, and anti-fatigue effects. This plant also benefits the uterus, cardiovascular system, intestines, tracheal smooth muscle, and immune system. S. medusa is an important traditional herbal medicine with a broad spectrum of therapeutic efficacies. It has the reputation of non-toxic. Due to the low source of the original plant, experiment of cell culture of S. medusa can improve the output of the medicine. Further studies can lead to the development of new drugs and therapeutics from this medical plant for various diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-366
Number of pages14
JournalPhytochemistry Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2015

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Plant Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Saussurea medusa
  • Botany
  • Phytochemistry
  • Pharmacological effects


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