The 29+ Benefits Of Sophora flavescens (Ku Shen)

The 29+ Benefits Of Sophora Flavescens (Ku Shen)


Ku shen (sophora flavescens) is a root with powerful effects on cancer, metabolic diseases, neurological disorders and more.

In this post, we will discuss the benefits of ku shen, its caveats, and where to buy ku shen.


  1. Basics Of Sophora flavescens
  2. Benefits Of Sophora flavescens
  3. My Experience With Ku Shen
  4. Where To Buy Ku Shen
  5. Ku Shen Synergies
  6. Caveats
  7. Mechanism Of Action
  8. More Research

Basics Of Sophora flavescens

Sophora flavescens (Ku Shen, Kushen, Ku-Shen, Kujin,  shrubby sophora) is a commonly used root in Traditional Chinese Medicine. (TCM).

This post is a little more general, as I have done extensive posts on some specific alkaloids of Kushen (see below). 

Kushen contains: R

  • Matrine
  • Oxymatrine
  • Sophoraflavanone G
  • Sophoflavescenol
  • Allomatrine
  • Dehydromatrine (leontalbinine)
  • Isomatrine
  • kurarinone
  • Maackiain
  • N-methylcytisine
  • Oxysophocarpine
  • Sophocarpine
  • Sophoramine
  • Sophoranol
  • Sophoridine
  • 5α-hydroxymatrine
  • 9α-hydroxymatrine
  • 9α-hydroxysophoramine
  • 9α-hydroxysophocarpine
  • 14β-hydroxymatrine

Benefits Of Sophora flavescens

1. Combats Cancer


Ku shen is a powerful multipurpose anti-cancer therapeutic agent that is strong alone at fighting cancer and can synergize with other chemo-therapies. R R

For example, the main chemical from Kushen have been approved by Chinese FDA (CFDA) in 1995 as an anticancer drug to treat non-small cell lung cancer and liver cancer in combination with other anticancer drugs. R

Kushen has been used for:

  • Bile Duct Cancer R
  • Bone Cancer R
  • Brain Cancer (neuroblastomas and glioblastomas) R R R
  • Breast Cancer (incl ER neg) R R R R
  • Cervical Cancer R
  • Colon Cancer R R R R
  • Gallbladder Carcinoma R
  • Leukemia R R R
  • Liver Cancer R R R R
  • Lung Cancer R R R R
  • Medulloblastoma R
  • Myeloid Leukemia R
  • Prostate Cancer (incl castration-resistant) R R R R R
  • Synovial Sarcoma R

Ku shen can also help with cisplatin resistant cancers. R

2. Reduces Pain 

Ku shen can reduce pain symptoms associated with cancer, such as leukopenia and nausea. R

Ku shen can help reduce neuropathic pain (via NMDA). R R

3. Improves Skin And Wound Healing


Ku shen can help with wound healing by increasing mRNA levels of growth factors such as IGF-1 and KGF in skin. R

Ku shen also helps with wound healing by pro-inflammatory cytokines such as PGE2 and IL-8. R

Ku shen may also help with dermatitis. R

Ku shen is commonly blended Scutellaria baicalensis, Rheum tanguticum, Dictamnus dasycarpus, Phellodendron chinense, and Kochia scoparia and used to treat skin inflammation. R

Also, Ku shen can reduce melanin synthesis and may help improve skin whitening (via reduction of tyrosinase). R

4. Protects The Vascular System 

Ku shen is a potent and selective inhibitor of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP)-specific phosphodiesterase type 5  (PDE5) , PDE4, and PDE3, thus making it useful for erectile dysfunction and overall vascular inflammation. R

For example, ku shen can combat atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by chronic vascular inflammation. R

Ku shen helps with blood flow and blood pressure by relaxing vascular smooth muscle (via NO-sGC-cGMP signaling). R

By regulating abnormal calcium-induced rhythms in the heart, ku shen can improve heart failure. R R

Ku shen can also be therapeutic for septic shock‑induced heart injury. R

5. Combats Diabetes

Ku shen may be beneficial for metabolic diseases as it can activate peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors gamma and alpha (PPAR-gamma and PPAR alpha, respectively). R

For example, it can help with diabetes by reducing sodium-glucose linked transporter (SGLT) activity, thus helping remove excess glucose (hyperglycemia) through the kidneys. R R

Ku shen can also act as inhibitors of a-glucosidase and b amylase, thus helping with glucose levels after eating starchy foods. R R

Ku shen can also help with diabetes as it improves oral glucose tolerance, increases serum high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and reduces body weight, blood glucose levels and other related blood-lipid indexes (via increasing AMPK and GLUT4). R

6. Has Antimicrobial Properties

Ku shen has antibacterial against: 

  • Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans R
  • Escherichia coli R
  • Fusobacterium nucleatum R
  • Mycobacterium aurum R
  • Prevotella intermedia R
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis R
  • Staphylococcus aureus R
  • Streptococcus anginosus R
  • Streptococcus criceti R
  • Streptococcus gordonii R
  • Streptococcus mutans R
  • Streptococcus ratti R
  • Streptococcus sanguinis R
  • Streptococcus sobrinus R

Ku shen has antiviral against:

  • Cervical HPV R
  • Coxsackievirus B3 R
  • HBV R R R
  • Human type 1-3 reoviruses (HRV1-3) R
  • Influenza A Virus (H1N1) R
  • Korean porcine reovirus (PRV) R
  • Porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) R
  • Porcine reproductive respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) R

Ku shen also has properties to combat Flavi viruses (including Zika, Dengue and Hepatitis C virus). R

7. Enhances Liver Function


Polysaccharides in Ku shen can protect the liver from HBV and liver cancer. R

Ku shen helps with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) by acting on ubiquinol-cytochrome c reductase binding protein (UQCRB) R

Ku shen can also prevent liver failure (via TLR4/PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β suppression). R

By inhibitiing epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and Y‑box binding protein 1 (YB‑1) in the liver, ku shen can prevent fibrosis of the liver. R R

8. Potentiates GABA

Ku shen acts on gamma -aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors and may be a therapeutic alternative to benzodiazepines. R 

9. Improves Spinal Cord Injury

Ku shen may help with motor function and axon repair after spinal cord injuries (SCI). R

For example in animals, consecutive oral administrations of ku shen extract to SCI mice for 31 days increased the density of 5-HT-positive axons at the lesion site and improved the motor function. R

10. Reduces Allergies And Histamine

Maackiain in kushen has antiallergic compounds that inhibit upregulation of histamine H1 receptor (H1R) and interleukin (IL)-4 gene expression (inhibits inhibition of PKCδ activation). R R

Maackiain can also suppress H1R by heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90). R

Ku shen is also able to inhibit histamine release (via FAT10-NF-κB signaling) from mast cells. R R

11. May Help An Overactive Bladder

Ku shen can help with an overactive bladder (relaxes acetylcholine-induced contraction and decreases the micturition frequency by potentiating BKCa channels). R

12. Ameliorates Neuroinflammaiton

Ku shen can combat neuroinflammation from lipopolysaccharides (LPS) by inhibiting microglial activation (via HSP60-TLR4 signaling). R R

Ku shen can also fight neuroinflammation by inhibiting inducible NO synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) signaling. R

13. May Help Bone Disease

Ku shen can be benefical for certain bone diseases. R

For example, ku shen can prevent post-menopause osteoporosis (PMOP) after an ovariectomy by acting on ribosomal protein S5 (RPS5). R

Also, ku shen can prevent implant loosening through inhibiting osteoclast formation and bone resorption. R

14. Combats Arthritis

Ku shen can combat collagen induced-arthritis (CIA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). R R R R

One ways it does this is by inhibiting of inflammation and regulating of Treg/Th17. R

Another way is by reducing the levels of Th1 cytokines (IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-1β), but increasing Th2 cytokine (IL-4 and IL-10) through attenuating the NF-κB signaling in T cells. R

15. Improves Sleep


Ku shen is able to promote sleep by increasing serotonin (5-HT) levels in the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus (VLPO), a sleep promoting region. R

Ku shen is also able to normalize caffeine-induced hyperactivity and promoting a shift toward non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. R

16. Protects Against Hippocampal Hypoxia

Ku shen can protect the hippocampus from hypoxia (loss of oxygen and glucose) via downregulation of MAPK and regulating lactate (LDH) levels. R

17. Reduces Oxidative Stress

By activating the transcription factor nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) and other downstream targets (such as NQO1 and HO-1), ku shen can protect the body against advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and reactive oxygen species (ROS). R R

18. Buffers Arsenic Poisoning

Ku shen may help with arsenic poisoning. R

For example, ku shen is able to reduce the retention of arsenic in the liver by improving the expression of Nrf2 and HO-1. R

19. Protects Against Endotoxemia

Ku shen can suppress endotoxemia-induced inflammation. R

For example, Ku shen has shown to prevent endotoxemia (sepsis) in the heart and lungs. R R R

20. Improves Psoriasis

Ku shen may be beneifical for psoriasis as it can suppress the expression of Pan-Cytokeratin, p63 and keratin 10, thus having having anti-proliferation effect skin cells. R

21. Ameliorates Ulcerative Colitis

In the gut, ku shen is able to ameliorate Ulcerative Colitis (UC) by preventing inflammation in the gut. R R

22. Fights Asthma

Ku shen is powerful at suppressing lung inflammation. R

For example, Ku shen can suppress asthmatic reactions (Tnf-a driven). R

Ku shen can also protect against mycobacterial-induced lung growths and inflammation. R 

By regulating fibroblast proliferation and collagen production, ku shen has shown to reduce antibiotic-induced scarring in the lungs. R

23. Combats Alopecia

kushen alopecia.jpg

Androgenetic alopecia (AGA) is a hair loss disorder that commonly affects middle-aged men. R

Ku shen (L-maackiain and medicarpin specifically) can promote the growth of human hair cells and may be effective for treating AGA. R

24. May Protect Against EMFs

Ku shen may be able to offer radioprotection from Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) by modulating mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways. R

25. May Improve Depression

Ku shen (maackiain) can Monoamine oxidase (MAO)-A and MAO-B, making ku shen a possible candidate for depression. R R

26. Reduces Excitotoxicity

Ku shen is neuroprotective and can protect neurons against NMDA-induced neurotoxicity. R

For example, by inhibiting PDE10A, ku shen can protect against the central nervous system from glutamate‑induced oxidative stress. R

27. Improves Kidney Function

Ku shen can protect the kidneys during chemotherapy by enhancing kidney function and modulating TH17/Treg levels. R

Ku shen can also protect the kidneys from oxidative stress by hyperglycemia making it beneficial for diabetic nephropathy (DN). R

28. May Help Treat Alzheimer's Disease

Ku shen may help treat Alzheimer's Disease (AD) as it can improve cognitive deficits in mice by inhibiting Amyloid-Beta (AB) plaque aggregation (suppresses the Aβ/RAGE signaling pathway). R

29. May Help Treat Parkinson's Disease

Ku shen may be useful for treating Parkinson's Disease (PD) as it can improve mitochondrial function (by Parkin, PINK1 and DJ-1 expression levels). R

My Experience With Ku Shen

...currently trying multiple sophora extracts such as Ku shen...

Where To Buy Ku Shen


This is the Ku shen I am using.

Ku Shen Synergies


Sophora can act on cytochorome P450 (CYP450) enzymes and increase CYP2a, Cyp2b, and CYP3a. R R

This effect on liver enzymes may be gender specific, for example, male rodents taking sophora have an increased 7-ethoxyresorufin O-deethylation (EROD), 7-pentoxyresorufin O-dealkylation (PROD), coumarin hydroxylation, and nifedipine oxidation (NFO) activities, while females do not have any changes in coumarin hydroxylation and NFO activities. R

Ku shen contains kurarinone which can be toxic to the liver (reduces l-carnintine and PPAR-α pathway, ultimately leading to lipid accumulation and liver injury). R

Oxymatrine (in ku shen) at high doses (320mg/kg) may also be toxic to the liver by causing endoplasmic reticulum stress. R R

Mechanism Of Action


  • Increases AMPK R
  • Increases Bax R R R R
  • Increases Caspase-3 R R R R R
  • Increases Caspase-8 R R
  • Increases Caspase-9 R R R
  • Increases CHOP R
  • Increases Cytochrome C R
  • Increases DJ-1 R
  • Increases E-cadherin R R
  • Increases eIF2α R
  • Increases FOXP3 R
  • Increases GADD45B R
  • Increases GLUT4 R
  • Increases GRP78 R
  • Increases HO-1 R
  • Increases IGF-1 R
  • Increases IL-4 (Maackiain/kujin reduces it) R R R
  • Increases IL-10 R R
  • Increases KGF R
  • Increases MLKL R
  • Increases NRF2 R
  • Increases NQO1 R
  • Increases Parkin R
  • Increases PINK1 R
  • Increases PPAR-alpha R
  • Increases PPAR-gamma R
  • Increases PTEN R
  • Increases RIP3 R
  • Increases TRB3 R
  • Increases UQCRB R
  • Increases 5-HT R
  • Reduces AB R
  • Reduces ALT R
  • Reduces AKT R R R R R R R R
  • Reduces a-Glucosidase R R
  • Reduces alpha-SMA R R
  • Reduces AP-1 R
  • Reduces Arkadia R
  • Reduces AST R
  • Reduces B Amylase R R
  • Reduces Bcl-2 R R R R R
  • Reduces BDNF (in brain cancer) R
  • Reduces B-catenin R
  • Reduces COX-2 R R R
  • Reduces CYP450 3A4 R
  • Reduces EGFR R
  • Reduces ERK R
  • Reduces FAT10 R
  • Reduces FN R R
  • Reduces FOXM1 R
  • Reduces FOXO3a R
  • Reduces GSK-3beta R R
  • Reduces HSP60 R
  • Reduces HSP90 R
  • Reduces H1R R
  • Reduces Histamine R
  • Reduces ICAM‑1 R R
  • Reduces IFN-gamma R
  • Reduces IKB R
  • Reduces IL-1b R R R R
  • Recudes IL-5 R
  • Reduces IL-6 R R R R R R
  • Reduces IL-8 R R R
  • Reduces IL-17a R R R
  • Reduces iNOS R R R
  • Reduces IKKa/b R
  • Reduces JAK2 R R
  • Reduces Keratin-10 R
  • Reduces LDH R
  • Reduces LPSBP R
  • Reduces MAO-A R
  • Reduces MAO-B R
  • Reduces MAPK R R R R
  • Reduces MMP-2 R R R R R R
  • Reduces MMP-3 R
  • Reduces MMP-9 R R R R R R
  • Reduces MRP1 R
  • Reduces MTOR R R R R
  • Reduces MyD88 R
  • Reduces NF-kb R R R R
  • Reduces NMDA R
  • Reduces PAI-1 R
  • Reduces Pan-Cytokeratin R
  • Reduces PARP R
  • Reduces PDE3 R
  • Reduces PDE4 R
  • Reduces PDE5 R
  • Reduces PDE10a R
  • Reduces PGE2 R
  • Reduces P-gp R
  • Reduces PI3K R R R R R R R
  • Reduces PKCδ R
  • Reduces PTEN R 
  • Reduces P27 R
  • Reduces P38 R
  • Reduces P53 R R
  • Reduces P63 R
  • Reduces P65 R R R R R
  • Reduces RAGE R
  • Reduces RORγt R
  • Reduces ROS R
  • Reduces SGLT2 R
  • Reduces Smad2 R R
  • Reduces Smad3 R
  • Reduces Smad4 R 
  • Reduces SNAI1 R
  • Reduces SNAI2 R
  • Reduces SNON R
  • Reduces STAT1 R
  • Reduces STAT3 R R
  • Reduces TGF-b1 R R
  • Reduces TLR3 R
  • Reduces TLR4 R R R
  • Reduces TNF-a R R R R R R R
  • Reduces TrkB R
  • Reduces Tyrosinase R
  • Reduces VCAM‑1 R
  • Reduces VEGF R R
  • Reduces Vimentin R
  • Reduces Wnt R
  • Reduces YB-1 R


  • Matrine binds to Annexin 2. R
  • Sophoridine significantly increased cytotoxicity and caspase-3/8 activity in human medulloblastoma... sophoridine suppresses the protein expression of FoxM1, TrkB, BDNF NF-κB and AP-1 in human medulloblastoma cells R
  • IGF-1 inhibits oxymatrine's affect on cancer cells. R R
  • Matrine not only promoted the occurrence of ER stress but also inhibited the expression of hexokinase II, down-regulated energy metabolism. R
  • In brain cancer, causes g2/m cell cycle arrest. R
  • Matrine inhibited the expression of VCAM‑1 and ICAM‑1 in TNF‑α‑stimulated HASMCs via the suppression of ROS production as well as NF‑κB and MAPK pathway activation. R
  • Sophoridine could improve heart failure by ameliorating cardiac Ca(2+) induced Ca(2+) transients, and that this amelioration is associated with upregulation of DHPR. R
  • S. flavescens extract promotes the axonal extension of at least raphespinal tracts, even in the presence of Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans (CSPG) in vivo, and the axonal extension by the S. flavescens extract does not seem to be blocked by the S. flavescens extract-induced CSPG increase. R
  • SFP-100 significantly decreased hepatocytes apoptosis, inhibited the infiltration of neutrophils and macrophages into liver, and improved the production of IFN-γ and IL-6 of splenocytes in ConA-induced hepatitis mice. SFP-100 and its two sugar fractions increased LO2 cell proliferation and reduced cell apoptosis induced by ConA. R
  • OMT pretreatment significantly inhibited the LPS-induced secretion of nitric oxide (NO), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) in supernatant, attenuated the mRNA levels of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), IL-1β, TNF-α, and Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), increased TLR4 and phosphorylation of inhibitor of kappa B-alpha (p-IBα) in cytosol, and decreased the nuclear level of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) p65 in macrophages. R
  • In arthritis models, matrine decreased the levels of TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-17A, MMP-2, MMP-3, MMP-9, p-IκB, Cox-2, and iNOS, but up-regulated IκB in synovial tissues in CIA rats. R

More Research

  • The endophyte Aspergillus terreus has the ability to produce matrine. R
  • Sophora can produce lactic acid used to treat water. R