Isatis

What other names is Isatis known by?

Ban Lan Gen, Ban Lang Gen, Baphicacanthus cusia, Chinese Indigo, Clerodendron cyrtophyllum, Da Qing Ye, Da Quing Ye, Dyer's Woad, Farberwaid (Färberwaid), Folium Isatidis, Genêt des Teinturiers, Guède, Hierba Pastel, Indigo, Indigo Naturalis, Indigo Woad, Isatis indigotica, Isatis tinctoria, Pastel des Teinturiers, Persicaria tinctoria, Polygonum tinctorium, Qing Dai, Quing Dai, Radix Isatidis, Strobilanthes cusia; Woad.

What is Isatis?

Isatis is a plant with small yellow flowers. It grows in different parts of northern and central China. The leaves and roots of the plant are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Isatis is used to treat the common cold and other infections of the nose, throat, and sinuses (upper respiratory tract infections), as well as infections of the glands that make saliva (parotitis). It is also used for encephalitis, which is a swelling of the brain that is usually caused by infection; a liver disorder (hepatitis); pockets of infection (abscesses) in the lungs; digestive tract infections including dysentery and acute gastroenteritis; prostate cancer; and AIDS/HIV.

Isatis is applied directly to the skin for a skin condition, psoriasis. Some people also take isatis by mouth for this condition.

In manufacturing, isatis is used to make indigo dye.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Scaly, itchy skin (psoriasis). Some research suggests that applying a specific product containing indigo naturalis oil extract (Lindioil) to the fingernails and the skin beneath the edge of the nail twice daily for 24 weeks improves psoriasis by 50% to 80%. There is also one report suggesting that an ointment containing isatis plus phellodendron and Baikal skullcap improved psoriasis in an 8-year old boy after usual treatments did not help.

SLIDESHOW

Vitamin D Deficiency: How Much Vitamin D Is Enough? See Slideshow

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

More evidence is needed to rate isatis for these uses.

How does Isatis work?

Isatis might be able to fight bacteria and viruses that can cause infections. It also seems to be able to reduce fever and swelling. There is some interest in using isatis for cancer because it contains chemicals that might keep cancer cells from multiplying.

Are there safety concerns?

Isatis is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin appropriately, short-term. A specific product containing the isatis constituent indigo naturalis as an oil extract (Lindioil), applied to the skin in doses of 0.05 to 0.1 mL twice daily, has been used safely for 24 weeks.

There isn’t enough reliable information available to know if taking isatis by mouth is safe or what the side effects might be.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking isatis if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Aspirin allergy: Isatis contains chemicals that are similar to the chemicals in aspirin. There is a concern that isatis might trigger an asthma attack or an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to aspirin.

Dosing considerations for Isatis.

The following dose has been studied in scientific research:

APPLIED TO THE SKIN:

  • For scaly, itchy skin (psoriasis): A specific product containing a chemical in isatis called indigo naturalis as an oil extract (Lindioil), applied in doses of 0.05-0.1 mL to nail folds and the skin beneath the edge of the nail twice daily for 24 weeks, has been used.

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Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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Reviewed on 9/17/2019
References

Danz H, Stoyanova S, Thomet OA, et al. Inhibitory activity of tryptanthrin on prostaglandin and leukotriene synthesis. Planta Med 2002;68:875-80. View abstract.

Hamburger M. Isatis tinctoria - From the rediscovery of an ancient medicinal plant towards a novel anti-inflammatory phytopharmaceutical. Phytochemistry Reviews 2002;1:333-44.

Ho YL, Chang YS. Studies on the antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory and anti pyretic effects of Isatis indigotica root. Phytomedicine 2002;9:419-24. View abstract.

Hoessel R, Leclerc S, Endicott JA, et al. Indirubin, the active constituent of a Chinese antileukaemia medicine, inhibits cyclin-dependent kinases. Nat Cell Biol 1999;1:60-7. View abstract.

Lin YK, Chang YC, Hui RC, See LC, Chang CJ, Yang CH, Huang YH. A Chinese Herb,Indigo Naturalis, Extracted in Oil (Lindioil) Used Topically to Treat Psoriatic Nails: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Dermatol. 2015 Mar 4. Epub ahead of print. View abstract.

Lin YK, Yen HR, Wong WR, et al. Successful treatment of pediatric psoriasis with Indigo naturalis composite ointment. Pediatr Dermatol 2006;23:507-10. View abstract.

Mak NK, Leung CY, Wei XY, et al. Inhibition of RANTES expression by indirubin in influenza virus-infected human bronchial epithelial cells. Biochem Pharmacol 2004;67:167-74. View abstract.

Molina P, Tarraga A, Gonzalez-Tejero A, et al. Inhibition of leukocyte functions by the alkaloid isaindigotone from Isatis indigotica and some new synthetic derivatives. J Nat Prod 2001;64:1297-300. View abstract.

Oberthur C, Graf H, Hamburger M. The content of indigo precursors in Isatis tinctoria leaves--a comparative study of selected accessions and post-harvest treatments. Phytochemistry 2004;65:3261-8. View abstract.

Xu T, Zhang L, Sun X, et al. Production and analysis of organic acids in hairy-root cultures of Isatis indigotica Fort. (indigo woad). Biotechnol Appl Biochem 2004;39:123-8. View abstract.