What is Rhinacanthus Nasutus?
Rhinacanthus nasutus is a plant found in various Asian countries but originally a native of India. More commonly known by the name – Snake jasmine – the plant is a slender shrub that grows up to 2 meters in height.
While native to India, the plant can now be found growing in many tropical counties with humid climates. It is widely distributes across sub-continental parts of India and China as well as various countries in Southeast Asia such as Thailand.
The plant has been used traditionally in Asian countries to treat a wide range of medical conditions including ringworm, prickly heat and tuberculosis. (1)
The leaves and roots of this shrub are also used applied topically as a poultice to treat various skin conditions including eczema.
The plant gets its common name because it was historically used to treat snake bites.
Health Benefits of Rhinacanthus Nasutus (Snake jasmine)
According to various studies, snake jasmine contains various compounds with a number of medicinal actions. Studies have concluded that the shrub contains active ingredients with anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-tumor, antioxidant and antiproliferative properties. (1)
The plant contains a range of active compounds including tannins, phenols, saponins, beta-sitosterol and lupeol.
According to a number of laboratory and animal studies, snake jasmine has antiproliferative activity and may help treat certain types of cancer.
One of the earlier studies, published by a Japanese team in 2004, found that Rhinacanthus nasutus extracts had antiproliferative activity both in vitro against cervical, prostate and bladder cancer cells. The same study also found that the plant was effective against cancer cells in mice fed with an oral extract daily for 14 days.
The researchers believe that a compound called rhinacanthin C was responsible for the antiproliferative effects of the plant. (2)
Another study, published in 2009, was the first study to show that the plant might induce apoptosis – the programmed death of cancer cells. The researchers concluded that rhinacanthone was a promising agent in the treatment of cervical cancer. (3)
More recently, a study published in 2018, looked at the effects of rhinacanthin-C on cholangiocarcinoma – a particularly malignant hepatic tumor with a high mortality rate. The researchers found that rhinacanthin-C extracted from snake jasmine was effective against these cancer cells in the laboratory. (4)
However, results have been mixed. Another study published in 2009 looked at the effects of rhinacanthus extracts on mice with colon cancer. The researchers found that not only was the treatment ineffective, but it also increased the number of colonic tumors in the animals. (5)
To sum up, a number laboratory and animal studies have found that a compound called rhinacanthin C extracted from the plant may have antiproliferative and apoptosis inducing effects against certain types of cancer. However, some studies have found that the plant has no effect against other types of cancer.
More research is needed in the future before we can say for sure whether the plant has the potential to prevent and treat cancer but the results so far are quite promising.
Snake jasmine contains an impressive range of antioxidants that may help protect against a number of diseases including degenerative brain disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The impressive range of powerful antioxidants found in this plant might help stimulate the health of neural pathways and protect against the progression of cognitive disease.
One study, published in 2012, examined the effects of Rhinacanthus nasutus (L.) Kurz on neuronal loss. the loss of neurons is linked to a number of conditions including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and is believed to result, at least partly., from oxidative stress.
In the study, the researchers found that extracts made from R. nasutus helped attenuate the death of neuron cells caused by glutamate. The researchers believe the antioxidant compounds found in the plant were responsible for this effect.
According to the study, compounds found in the plant such as lupeol, β-sitosterol and stigmasterol had a protective effect against glutamate toxicity. (6)
The results suggest that snake jasmine may offer a potential future treatment to slow the progression of age-related dementia.
Blood Sugar Levels and Diabetes
One of the major traditional uses of Rhinacanthus nasutus is to treat diabetes mellitus and several studies seem to support this traditional use of the herb.
Studies suggest that using rhinacanthus nasutus may help keep blood sugar levels in check. While more studies are necessary, the results of several studies indicate that snake jasmine could be a potential preventive treatment in people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
One animal study, published in 2013, found that rhinacanthus rich extracts from the plant was worthy of further review for the treatment of diabetes. (7)
A very recent study from 2019, found that rhinacanthin rich extracts from the plant had significant antidiabetic effects when given to diabetic rats. The researchers also found that the treatment was safe and non-toxic and bioavailable. This prompted the researchers to suggest it could represent an effective natural treatment for diabetes. (8)
These studies as well as the traditional use of the herb suggest that rhinacanthus nasutus has potential for regulating blood sugar. however, the research is still at an early stage and human studies have yet to be performed.
Rhinocanthus nasutus has been used traditionally to treat high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor in heart disease or strokes and reducing blood pressure naturally is a major goal of much scientific research.
However, there is no scientific research into the plant’s effects on hypertension and we have nothing more than anecdotal evidence to go on.
Rhinacanthus nasutus has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and has been traditionally used to treat a range of common digestive complaints.
It is used in Thailand to treat common gastrointestinal conditions including bloating, gas, indigestion, cramps and constipation. However, there is no scientific support for these traditional uses of the herb.
Rhinacanthus nasutus may also help decrease allergic responses and is sometimes used by people to combat allergies. It might work by inhibiting the release of histamines in the body which in turn reduces the severity of allergic response.
Studies have found that rhinacanthus nasutus has antimicrobial properties including antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties.
One very recent study, published in 2019 found that the herb was effective against a range of bacterial strains including helicobacter pylori, Streptococcus mutans, Staphylococcus aureus and Probionibacterium acnes. (9)
The plant is rich in antioxidants while its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects make it an effective remedy for a number of skin complaints.
Where I live in the North of Thailand, the stems and the leaves of the plant are used to treat a range of common skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis as well as fungal infections.
Studies have found the herb has anti-fungal activities making it an effective remedy against dermatophytes. (10)
The leaves are often applied to affected parts of the body in the form of a poultice.
Side Effects and Precautions
Rhinacanthus nasutus is not widely available but can be found in certain supplementary forms including powdered form.
There is little scientific information available regarding the safety of using Rhinacanthus nasutus. The vast majority of the studies have been done in the laboratory or on animals.
Reported side effects include stomach upset and nausea.
If you are pregnant or breast feeding, you should avoid using this herb.
Children should not use the herb.
You should speak to your medical expert or a trained herbalist before you use the herb and make sure that you read the instructions on the labels carefully.
Rhinacanthus nasutus, commonly known as snake jasmine is a medicinal plant native to India. It is commonly used in Thailand, India and some other Asian countries to treat a range of conditions including diabetes, digestive issues and skin complaints.
Recent studies suggest that the plant contains various active ingredients with antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-fungal activities. A growing body of research has looked at the anticancer effects of the herb – specifically a compound called rhinacanthin C.
Rhinacanthus nasutus is not easy to find but is available online in several supplementary forms and the leaves can also be applied topically in the form of a poultice to treat skin conditions such as eczema.
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