Diet and Supplement Options for Kidney Disease

The kidneys consist of two organs situated on either side of the body, below the ribs. Among other functions, the kidneys filter the blood, a function that is vital to life. Kidney disease occurs when the organs’ ability to filter wastes from the blood becomes impaired, leading to an elevation of harmful compounds. Kidney failure is sometimes diagnosed as acute, which requires immediate intensive treatment and is usually reversible. Chronic renal failure (CRF), on the other hand, can develop over time and, in the absence of a kidney transplant, requires a lifetime of treatment. Other than dialysis or a transplant, can anything be done for kidney disease?


A study reported in Diabetes Care demonstrated improvement in the kidney function of type 1 diabetics who received orally administered vitamin E, as indicated by normalization of the kidneys’ ability to clear the waste product creatinine.1 Elevated creatinine is a hallmark of kidney disease.


In diabetic rats, thiamine and benfotiamine (forms of vitamin B1) inhibited the development of microalbuminuria (increased albumin in the urine, another indicator of diseased kidneys) by 70%–80% in comparison with animals that did not receive the vitamin.2 Authors R. Babaei-Jadidi and colleagues proposed that, “Clinical diabetic subjects should avoid becoming thiamine deficient, even weakly so, and that high-dose thiamine repletion should be considered for therapy to prevent the development of clinical diabetic nephropathy.”

Vitamin B6 may also play a protective role in the kidneys. In a double-blind trial, researchers assigned 317 diabetics who had protein in their urine to receive a placebo or one of two doses of the vitamin B6 derivative pyridoxamine dihydrochloride twice per day for a year.3 Among participants whose initial serum creatinine levels were among the lowest third (which indicates less advanced kidney dysfunction), treatment with the higher dose of pyridoxamine hydrochloride was associated with half the rise in creatinine levels over the course of the study in comparison with the placebo, which suggests that the compound could slow the progression of less advanced disease.

Another B vitamin, folic acid, was shown to delay the progression of chronic kidney disease in hypertensive men and women treated with the blood pressure drug enalapril.4 Among subjects who had chronic kidney disease at the beginning of the study, the risk of experiencing specific decreases in the kidney’s estimated glomerular filtration rate was significantly less among subjects who received folic acid plus enalapril than among those who received enalapril alone. "Our study is the first to show significant renal protection from folic acid therapy in a population without folic acid fortification," Xin Xu, MD, PhD, and colleagues announce." Given the magnitude of renal protection suggested by this study as well as the safety and the low cost, the potential role of folic acid therapy in the clinical management of patients with chronic kidney disease in regions without folic acid fortification should be vigorously examined."

Vitamin D

African Americans are disproportionally affected by kidney failure. A study published in 2009 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found a significant association between end stage renal disease (ESRD) and insufficient vitamin D levels in African American subjects.5 According to lead author Michal L. Melamed, MD, "We found that 25-hydroxyvitamin D deficiency was responsible for about 58 percent of the excess risk for ESRD experienced by African Americans."

Other research concluded that vitamin D deficiency is nearly universal among patients with reduced albumin levels who started hemodialysis during winter, when vitamin D levels may be lower.6 And in a study of patients with the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), those with abnormally low vitamin D levels had an 87% greater risk of kidney damage than those whose levels of the vitamin were sufficient.7 "Supplementing vitamin D reduces urine protein, which is the best predictor of future renal failure," commented researcher Michelle Petri, MD, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins University Lupus Center. "Supplementary vitamin D is very safe. It helps to prevent one of the most dreaded complications of SLE, and likely has a role in preventing blood clots and cardiovascular disease as well. Vitamin D supplementation, which can reduce proteinuria, should be a part of the treatment plan for lupus nephritis patients."


In a randomized trial that included 101 chronic kidney disease patients, those who received pomegranate juice prior to hemodialysis sessions had less oxidative stress, inflammation, lower risks of hospitalization due to infection, and atherosclerosis progression after one year compared to participants who received a placebo.8 "Considering the expected epidemic of chronic kidney disease in the next decade, further clinical trials using pomegranate juice aimed at reducing the high cardiovascular morbidity of chronic kidney disease patients and their deterioration to end-stage renal disease should be conducted," recommended lead researcher Bayta Kristal, MD, of Technicon-Israel Institute of Technology.

To lower the risk of developing kidney disease in the first place, a Mediterranean diet, which is high in plant foods, fish and healthy fats, could help.9 Researchers at Columbia University determined that for each one-point increase in Mediterranean diet score (indicating greater adherence to the diet) there was a 17% reduction in the risk of developing chronic kidney disease, and among those whose scores were indicative of the closest adherence to the diet, a 50% lower risk of developing the disease was observed.

For patients with chronic renal failure, physicians typically prescribe a diet that contains limited amounts of fluids, protein, sodium, potassium and phosphorous. The results of a number of studies indicate that specific nutritional supplements may also be helpful. If you have kidney disease and are considering supplementation with any of these nutrients, it is essential to discuss with your physician whether any of these nutrients can be safely used, and to inform him/her of any changes in your supplement regimen.


  1. Bursell SE et al. Diabetes Care. 1999 Aug;22(8):1245-51.
  2. Babaei-Jadidi R et al. Diabetes. 2003 Aug;52(8):2110-20.
  3. Lewis EJ et al. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2012 Jan;23(1):131-6.
  4. Xu X et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Oct 1;176(10):1443-1450. 2017.
  5. Melamed ML et al. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2009 Dec;20(12):2631-9.
  6. Bhan I et al. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2010 Mar;5(3):460-7.
  7. Petri M et al. American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ACR/ARHP) Annual Meeting. 2017 Nov 5.
  8. Shema-Didi L et al. Free Radic Biol Med. 2012 Jul 15;53(2):297-304.
  9. Khatri M et al. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2014 Nov 7;9(11):1868-75.

Is Laughter Good for Our Health?

We all can appreciate “a good laugh”! It has been suggested that laughter occurs as a result of recognition of truth but is also triggered by exaggeration or ridiculousness.

Laughter can also be a response to anxiety — think of the “nervous laugh” — or a way of relieving it.1

Research has correlated types of laughter with social signals related to reward, affiliation, and dominance.2 By four months of age, infants laugh in response to social cues.3

Laughter and Psychological Disorders

Laughter has a significant social component and, like yawning, is notorious for being contagious. People laugh more often in the presence of others than when alone. A recent study revealed reduced laughter contagion among boys at risk for psychopathology. “Human laughter engages brain areas that facilitate social reciprocity and emotional resonance, consistent with its established role in promoting affiliation and social cohesion,” E. O’Nions and colleagues write. “We show that, compared with typically developing boys, those at risk for antisocial behavior in general (irrespective of their risk of psychopathy) display reduced neural response to laughter in the supplementary motor area, a premotor region thought to facilitate motor readiness to join in during social behavior. Those at highest risk for developing psychopathy additionally show reduced neural responses to laughter in the anterior insula. “These findings suggest that atypical processing of laughter could represent a novel mechanism that impoverishes social relationships and increases risk for psychopathy and antisocial behavior.”4

Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA) Could Help Scientists Understand Laughter

You may have seen television advertisements concerning drug treatment of pseudobulbar affect (PBA), a phenomenon that occurs in association with a number of neurologic disorders. The condition is characterized by sudden, frequent episodes of laughing and/or crying that can be socially disabling. Although it is estimated to affect up to two million people in the United States, it is currently under-recognized and undertreated.5

With PBA, laughter (and, more often, crying) is involuntary and doesn’t necessarily express how the person afflicted by the condition is feeling or thinking. It is believed to be caused by injury to the neurologic pathways that regulate the expression of emotion. Perhaps fittingly, while crying episodes have been associated with depression and poorer quality of life in PBA patients, laughter has not.6 Investigation into the causes of this pathologic laughter could shed some light on how and why people laugh.

Anecdotal Evidence for Laughter as a Treatment 

In 1964, editor Norman Cousins was diagnosed with the degenerative disease ankylosing spondylitis, which was associated with constant pain and poor prognosis. Since Cousins believed that stress had contributed to his illness, he reasoned that positive emotions could improve it. He began watching funny television shows or movies, and asserted that 10 minutes of belly laughter resulted in 2 hours of pain free sleep that was not achievable with morphine. His subsequent recovery was chronicled in his popular book, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient, which became a made-for-TV movie in 1984 that starred Ed Asner.7

While it can’t be definitively concluded that laughter was the reason for Cousins’ turnaround, he survived 26 years after his ankylosing spondylitis diagnosis, and 36 years after being diagnosed with heart disease. His experience, and that of others have given rise to “laughter therapy” or so-called “laughter yoga” as an alternative therapy to manage pain and other conditions.

Is Laughter a Drug?

A recent European study found that social laughter increased pleasure and triggered endogenous opioid release in the brain’s thalamus, caudate nucleus, and anterior insula. Consequently, pain threshold was found to significantly increase in male and female volunteers after viewing laughter-inducing comedy in comparison with nonhumorous dramas. S. Manninen and colleagues reported, “Opioid receptor density in the frontal cortex predicted social laughter rates. Modulation of the opioidergic activity by social laughter may be an important neurochemical mechanism reinforcing and maintaining social bonds between humans.” 8

Therapeutic Effects of Laughing

Laughter also lowers cortisol levels, according to the results of a study of pediatric inpatients. Following a humor therapy program, salivary cortisol levels decreased and stress perception improved in comparison with children in a nonintervention group.9

A review titled “Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health,” noted that laughter decreases serum cortisol, epinephrine, and the dopamine catabolite 3,4-dihydrophenylacetic acid, which is associated with a reversal of the stress response.10 It also alters dopamine and serotonin activity, which are reduced in depression, and stimulates the secretion of pain-relieving endorphins. “Laughter therapy is effective and scientifically supported as a single or adjuvant therapy,” author J. Yim concludes.10

In a study involving hemodialysis patients, a month of hour-long weekly group sessions of simulated laughter, breathing, stretching exercises, and meditation combined with daily individual laughter sessions improved mood, symptoms, and other factors.11 Laughter yoga has also helped improve mood in adults with Parkinson’s disease.12

A study of 20,934 Japanese women and men aged 65 years and older found a 21% higher adjusted risk of cardiovascular disease and a 60% greater risk of stroke among those who reported never or almost never laughing in comparison with those who reported laughing on a daily basis.13 The authors of the report note that the association could not be explained by confounding factors such as depression.

In cancer patients being treated with radiation, three hour-long laughter therapy sessions were associated with a 14.12 point reduction in total mood disturbance compared to only a 1.21 point reduction in a control group that did not receive laughter therapy.14

In older diabetic and healthy adults, viewing humorous videos was associated with greater improvement in recall, learning, and visual recognition compared to a similar-aged control group who did not watch a video.15 In a group of people living in residential aged care homes, a six-week laughter yoga program was associated with a significant post-session increase in positive mood, happiness, and lower systolic blood pressure.16 And in depressed and lonely institutionalized individuals between the ages of 65 and 75 years, laughter therapy significantly reduced depression.17

These studies are just a few of the many investigations that have looked at the potential benefits of laughter.

The Bottom Line

For the most part, laughter benefits the young and the old, the sick and the healthy and, like smiling, transcends languages and cultures. Next time you find something amusing, try letting go with a big belly laugh. It’s more contagious than a virus and certainly more healthy to your mind, body, relationships, and outlook on life.


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  2. Wood A et al. PLoS One. 2017 Aug 29;12(8):e0183811.
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  7. Cousins, Norman, Anatomy of an illness as perceived by the patient : reflections on healing and regeneration, introd. by René Dubos, New York : Norton, 1979.
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  17. Quintero A et al. Biomedica. 2015 Jan-Mar;35(1):90-100.

6 Reasons to Include Beets in Your Eating Pattern

Beets (Beta vulgaris) may not be on everyone’s “favorite foods” list, but these ruby roots are hard to top when it comes to healthy eating. Beets have been a staple of inland diets for centuries and are now gaining attention as a sports performance-boosting food, and more.

Nutrients Found in Beets

Beets are a source of beneficial nutrients including betaine (trimethylglycine or TMG), betalains, betacyanin, betanin, folate, fiber, and iron. Like all plant foods, beets contain antioxidants, particularly in the peel, where their phenolic compounds are most concentrated.1,2 The red varieties of the root appear to have the greatest antioxidant activity.3 An analysis of commonly consumed vegetables that included fresh and frozen spinach, leek, white cabbage, Chinese cabbage, and beets found that beets had the highest concentration of beneficial nitrates, which leafy green vegetables otherwise contribute to the diet.4

Protection from Harmful Free Radicals

In rats exposed to the carcinogen carbon tetrachloride, pretreatment with beetroot juice for 28 days resulted in less liver lipid peroxidation and a decreased decline in antioxidant enzymes in comparison with no pretreatment.5 Pretreated animals had three times the activity of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) compared to those that did not receive beetroot. Beetroot product have also demonstrated an antioxidant effect in the cells of obese individuals.6

Effects on Blood Pressure, Arterial and Vascular Health

A number of investigations have found an association between beetroot and lower blood pressure. A study involving 14 healthy humans compared the effects of beetroot juice and water. Three hours after ingestion, beetroot juice was associated with an average reduction in blood pressure of 10.4/8 mm Hg, accompanied by an increase in plasma nitrite (an indicator of blood vessel dilation) converted from beet’s nitrate content. Beetroot juice was also associated with a decrease in platelet aggregation and protection against the induction of endothelial dysfunction. Interruption of the conversion of nitrate to nitrite prevented these effects. “Certain vegetables possess a high nitrate content, and we hypothesized that this might represent a source of vasoprotective nitric oxide via bioactivation,” write Andrew J. Webb and colleagues. “These findings suggest that dietary nitrate underlies the beneficial effects of a vegetable-rich diet and highlights the potential of a ‘natural’ low cost approach for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.” 7

Among individuals with peripheral arterial disease (PAD), the consumption of beetroot juice resulted in an ability to walk 18% longer before experiencing claudication pain, a 17% increase in peak walking time, and a decrease in diastolic blood pressure compared to a placebo. “These findings support the hypothesis that nitrite-related nitric oxide signaling increases peripheral tissue oxygenation in areas of hypoxia and increases exercise tolerance in PAD,” Aarti A. Kenjale and colleagues write.8

A randomized, double-blind trial that compared the effects of nitrate-rich beetroot juice to nitrate-depleted beetroot juice in 69 participants with untreated high cholesterol resulted in improved flow-mediated dilatation (which is a measure of vascular function) and other benefits after six weeks among those who received nitrate-rich juice.9

A meta-analysis of 16 crossover trials with a total of 254 participants concluded that beetroot juice and nitrate supplementation were associated with a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure.10 Another meta-analysis, that included 9 crossover trials and 3 parallel trials with a total of 246 participants confirmed an association between beetroot and inorganic nitrate intake and improvement in vascular fuction.11


Among Europeans, beetroot juice is a popular addition to standard cancer therapy.12 Green beets contain apigenin, vitexin, vitexin-2-O-xyloside and vitexin-2-O-rhamnoside, while red beetroots provide betaxanthins and betacyanins, which, in addition to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, have anti-proliferative effects in cancer cells.13 Two decades ago, Cancer Letters published the finding of an inhibitory effect for beet root extract against Epstein-Barr virus, as well as skin and lung cancer cells.14 Further investigation by the researchers uncovered a protective effect for beetroot in mice in which skin and liver tumors were initiated. “The most interesting observation is that the cancer chemopreventive effect was exhibited at a very low dose used in the study and thus indicating that beetroot warrants more attention for possible human applications in the control of malignancy,” G. J. Kapadia and colleagues conclude.15

A study in breast and prostate cancer cells found cytotoxic effects that were attributed to the pigment betanin, a constituent of beetroot extract.16 Although the ability of the extract was less than that of the chemotherapy doxorubicin, the researchers involved in the study recommend the evaluation of the addition of beetroot to the drug to reduce chemotherapy side effects. Other research suggests the use of beetroot to prevent hypertension resulting from anthracycline chemotherapy.17


Beets’ best known current use is in sports. A double-blind crossover study that evaluated the effects of six days of beetroot juice consumption found a decrease in oxygen cost with exercise as well as a reduction in systolic blood pressure compared to a placebo.18

Another crossover study involving nine competitive cyclists that compared the effects of beetroot juice to nitrate-depleted beetroot juice resulted in an increase in power output and performance during four kilometer and 16.1 kilometer cycling time trials in association with nitrate-containing juice.19 Other research by the team that compared the effects of six days of beetroot juice intake to six days of beetroot juice that was nitrate-depleted found a decrease in the oxygen cost of walking, moderate intensity running, and severe intensity running among those who received beetroot that contained nitrate, as well as increased time to exhaustion during severe intensity running.20 “The novel findings of Lansley et al. have several clinical implications,” commented Leonardo F. Ferreira and Bradley J. Behnke in an accompanying editorial. “A dietary therapy that lowers blood pressure and increases exercise tolerance may obviate the use of expensive drugs with potentially deleterious side effects . . . we can be cautiously optimistic that a relatively simple approach for treating cardiovascular perturbations and exercise intolerance is within our sight.”21

An analysis of 23 articles that provided data on beetroot juice supplementation concluded that beetroot can improve cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes by increasing efficiency which improves performance.22

Looking Ahead

Future research will undoubtedly uncover more exciting benefits for this humble root.

“Beetroot supplementation is a new and exciting area of research that to date has been shown to induce favorable effects in several facets of health and disease,” conclude Tom Clifford and colleagues in a 2015 review. “This indicates that beetroot supplementation holds promise as an economic, practical, and important natural dietary intervention in clinical settings. Because of beetroot’s high biological activity, there are still several unexplored areas in which supplementation might confer health benefits. This includes but is not limited to; pain reduction, cognitive function, vascular function, insulin resistance, cancer, and inflammation, especially in older and diseased populations.”23


  1. Kähkönen MP et al. J Agric Food Chem. 1999 Oct;47(10):3954-62.
  2. Kujala TS et al. J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Nov;48(11):5338-42.
  3. Wettasinghe M et al. J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Nov 6;50(23):6704-9.
  4. Petersen A et al. Food Addit Contam. 1999 Jul;16(7):291-9.
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  6. Zielińska-Przyjemska M et al. Phytother Res. 2009 Jan;23(1):49-55.
  7. Webb AJ et al. Hypertension. 2008 Mar;51(3):784-90.
  8. Kenjale AA et al. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 Jun;110(6):1582-91.
  9. Velmurugan S et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jan;103(1):25-38.
  10. Siervo M et al. J Nutr. 2013 Jun;143(6):818-26.
  11. Lara J et al. Eur J Nutr. 2016 Mar;55(2):451-459.
  12. Obrist R et al. Dtsch Med Wochenschr. 1986 Feb 21;111(8):283-7.
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  15. Kapadia GJ et al. Pharmacol Res. 2003 Feb;47(2):141-8.
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  19. Lansley KE et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Jun;43(6):1125-31.
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  23. Clifford T et al. Nutrients. 2015 Apr 14;7(4):2801-22.

How to Find the Best Vitamins and Supplements

Holli Lapes RD, LD/N

What are the Best Vitamin Supplements?

Some of the best vitamin supplements to take are vitamin D and vitamin B12. The reason for this is that certain individuals may be deficient in these two vitamins. 1,2 According to the 2015– 2020 dietary guidelines for Americans, the following are categorized as under-consumed nutrients of public health concern: vitamins A, D, E, and C.3

Until recent years, the role of vitamin K2 has been vastly underrated. It plays an important role in cardiovascular and bone health.4,5 Vitamin K2 in the Menaquinone-7(MK-7) form assists in the transport of calcium from the bloodstream into the bone. Vitamin K2 is also required by calcium-regulating proteins in the arteries.6 Without adequate vitamin K, calcium can accumulate in soft tissues such as the arteries.

Let’s backtrack for a moment. Why do we even need to take vitamin supplements at all?

Well, frankly, the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) are often inadequate to support optimal health. While the government developed RDAs, these values only represent minimal amounts of nutrients that are intended to protect you from a deficiency. However, that sometimes fails as well, as is the case with vitamin D. But why should we settle for borderline health, shouldn’t we want to be in the best health that we could possibly be? Shouldn’t we strive for optimal health?

If one is eating 5−7 servings of fruit and vegetables daily (that are grown in nutrient-rich soil) along with a balanced diet, this can be very beneficial in helping to meet nutrient needs. However, due to various factors such as age, health status, genetics, environment, lifestyle, and health goals — one may choose to optimize their nutrient intake, or at least help to fill in the gaps with vitamin supplements such as individual vitamins or a multi-nutrient formula. If you’re not sure of your status, ask your doctor for blood testing or you can purchase blood tests through Life Extension.

What are the Best Supplements to Take?

The best supplements to take are really those that are based on your individual needs. For example, many common over-the-counter and prescription medications deplete nutrients. So, you’ll need to replenish those that are depleted from your medications. Also, it depends on the health goal / health concern that a given nutrient has been researched for, and if that same goal aligns with your health goal. Here are some of the best supplements categorized by health goal.

The best vitamins and supplements are those that are of high quality and produce desired results (provide health benefits) as evidenced by clinical research studies. Keep in mind that individual results will vary due to our individual biochemistries. In other words, everybody is different, and our bodies don’t always process foods, supplements, and medications in the same way.

Duration of use and formula characteristics are important factors when it comes to results. Take this question as an example; how long was this nutrient taken in the clinical study before the participants saw results? One would want to mimic the research study as much as possible in order to achieve those same beneficial results.

When it comes to quality, look for supplements that have been tested for purity and potency. Ask the company who is formulating your supplements about their quality standards. A trusted company will be transparent and have answers for you.

What are the Best Weight Loss Supplements?

The bad news is that there is no such thing as a magical weight loss pill. However, there are supplements that can facilitate weight loss, especially when combined with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Also, some of the best weight loss supplements may not be named as such. Did you know that whey protein may actually help with weight loss?7 Yet whey protein isn’t necessarily categorized as a weight loss supplement. First, ask yourself why you’re not losing weight. Is it because of cravings and snacking? Is it because of hormones? Once you find out why, then you can find out how.

What are the Best Workout Supplements?

Protein powder and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) are two of the best workout supplements. Look for a protein powder that contains creatine (supports muscle strength),8 whey (builds lean muscle),9 and an amino acid profile including glutamine (supports muscle recovery and endurance).10 CoQ10 is very active in our muscles and this co-enzyme helps our body repair itself because of its role as an antioxidant.11 Also, CoQ10 is required to generate cellular energy from the food we eat and use it for activity throughout our bodies.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to our health, there is no one size fits all approach. If you need assistance finding the best supplements for your individual needs, call us at 1-800-226-2370! You can also take this online quiz to help get you started: Custom Supplement Guide: Individualized Quiz



Flowering Herb for Life: 4 Health Benefits of Chinese Skullcap

Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) is a flowering herb used in Chinese medicine that has gained recognition for its role in the treatment of inflammatory conditions such as arthritisScutellaria baicalensis is not to be confused with other members of the Lamiaceae, or mint family, such as Scutellaria lateriflora found in North America. Both of these species and others are referred to as skullcap because of the shape of their flowers’ calyx.

Bacterial and Viral Infections

Chinese skullcap has other effects in addition to its anti-inflammatory property. Some of the earliest published research documented a bactericidal effect against oral bacteria.1 This effect was subsequently documented in a trial that tested the effects of a toothpaste containing an extract of the herb, which found a reduction in the extent of gingivitis, plaque development, and associated bacteria.2

The Scutellaria baicalensis flavonoid baicalin has shown an ability to inhibit human T cell leukemia virus.3 Baicalin has also demonstrated an ability to inhibit HIV-1 infection and replication in human lymphoid and mononuclear cells.4 Another in vitro study found that the Scutellaria flavonoid wogonin suppressed hepatitis B virus surface antigen production.5 And in a study of patients with severe hand, foot, and mouth disease which compared the effects of Scutellaria baicalensis to those of the antiviral drug ribavirin, Scutellaria baicalensis was more effective at reducing fever duration, time to nervous system involvement, and viral loads, as well as the number of participants with oral ulcers and skin rashes.6

Scutellaria baicalensis flavonoidsbaicalin, baicalein, and wogonin have demonstrated an anti-inflammatory effect similar to that of the drug prednisolone.7 A study published in 2016 found that baicalein inhibits the activation of nuclear factor-kappa beta transcription factors that are involved in inflammation, immunity and other processes.8

Blood Flow

In an experiment involving cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells, baicalein inhibited the reduction of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA, involved in the breakdown of blood clots) production induced by the enzyme trypsin.9 Elsewhere, Y. Kimura and colleagues concluded that baicalein “might be active as a drug in the treatment of arteriosclerosis and thrombosis.”10

A review of baicalein’s cardiovascular properties noted that “Baicalein is a potent free radical scavenger and xanthine oxidase inhibitor, thus improving endothelial function and conferring cardiovascular protective actions against oxidative stress-induced cell injury. The pharmacological findings have highlighted the therapeutic potentials of using plant-derived baicalein and its analogs for the treatment of arteriosclerosis and hypertension.”11

In rat brain cortex mitochondria, baicalein and baicalin inhibited lipid peroxidation, and in human neuroblastoma cells, the flavonoids protected against hydrogen peroxide-induced injury. It was suggested that baicalein and baicalin could be used to scavenge free radicals that occur in excess in head injuries.12


Scutellaria baicalensis has been used historically in Chinese medicine for its anticancer effects.13 In a study involving human squamous cell carcinoma, breast cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, and prostate cancer, the herb inhibited growth of all cell lines while dose-dependently inhibiting prostaglandin E2, a metabolite of arachidonic acid that is involved in inflammation.13 In four types of human prostate cancer cells, baicalin inhibited cancer cell proliferation, which was associated with the induction of apoptosis (programmed cell death).14 Investigation of Scutellaria baicalensis extract as well as its compounds skullcapflavone, wogonin, baicalein and neobaicalein in prostate cancer cells revealed comparable cell cycle modifications, growth inhibitory levels, and global gene expression profiles.15 In mice, the compounds decreased the growth of prostate cancer grafts by 55%.15

Scutellaria baicalensis and baicalin have been shown to inhibit the overgrowth of human prostate cancer cells stimulated by the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT).16 Also, baicalin has been shown to inhibit androgen activation signaling and to promote human dermal papilla cell proliferation, suggesting that these extracts could be used for treating androgen-associated disorders, such as androgenetic alopecia.16

In a study involving human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cell lines, Scutellaria baicalensis inhibited growth as well as COX-2 expression.17 And in human brain tumor cells, Scutellaria baicalensis inhibited cell growth in recurrent and drug resistant cell lines, supporting a potential use against glioblastoma multiforme.18

Investigation of baicalin and baicalein has revealed an anti-angiogenic effect (ability to prevent new blood vessel formation), which may contribute to its anticancer effect.19

A study that tested the effects of Scutellaria extract enriched with baicalin in peripheral white blood cells obtained from children with acute lymphocytic leukemia resulted in lower viability of these cells, without affecting the survival of healthy white blood cells.20 Scutellaria extract was found to induce apoptosis in these as well as B-type human leukemia cells.20

Scutellaria baicalensis may also be helpful to reduce side effects of chemotherapy. Lung cancer patients treated with chemotherapy and Scutellaria baicalensis underwent stimulation of red blood cell formation, which can be suppressed by chemotherapy.21 The herb was also shown to increase T-lymphocytes in chemotherapy-treated lung cancer patients.22

Brain Health and Aging

Human subjects who received Scutellaria baicalensis and Acacia catechu exhibited significant improvement in accuracy and speed of processing information in computer tasks, suggesting that the combination could help maintain memory, support processing speed, and reduce memory errors that occur with aging.23 In a rat study, baicalein has been shown to reduce the release of glutamate in nerve terminals of the brain’s hippocampus and help protect neurons against kainic acid-induced excitotoxicity.24

Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi is the most widely used medicinal plant in traditional Eastern medicine, especially in Chinese medicine,” note B. P. Gaire and colleagues in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine.25 Like most herbs, Scutellaria baicalensis has a variety of traditional and modern uses. Future research could see the development of Scutellaria baicalensis as a source of new prescription drugs for cancer and other needed areas.


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