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Family Betulaceae
Alnus japonica Steud.

Scientific names Common names
Alnus harinoki Siebold Arnus (If.)
Alnus japonica (Thunb.) Steud. Japanese alder (Engl.)
Alnus reginosa Nakai Japanese alnus (Engl.)
Betula japonica Thunb.  
Alnus japonica (Thunb.) Steud. is an accepted name The Plant List

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Ri ben qi mu.
JAPANESE: Han no ki.


Arnus is a small- to medium-sized deciduous tree growing to a height of 15 meters. Leaves are alternate, narrow-elliptic, acuminate, wedge-shaped at the base, up to 12 centimeters long, glossy and dark green above and pale underneath, the margins slightly toothed. Flowers are staminate, in long catkins; the pistillate flowers are in short catkins, becoming woody cones with 5-lobed scales.

- Indigenous to Korea.
- Grows in Baguio and other parts of the Mountain Province.
- Propagated by seed or grafting.

- Two diarylheptanoids, oregonin and hirsutanone were isolated by bioassay-guided fractionation of the methanol extracts of the leaves of Alnus japonica Steud and their structures were elucidated from their spectroscopic data. Compounds exhibited significant low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-antioxidant activities.
- Study of ethanol extract of stem bark isolated a new diarylheptanoid named alnuheptanoid A [(5S)-7-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)-1-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-5-methoxyheptan-3-one] (8), along with seven known diarylheptanoid derivatives: platyphyllenone (5), (5S)-1,7-bis(4-hydroxyphenyl)-5-methoxyheptan-3-one (6), 1-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)-7-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-4-hepten-3-one (7), hirsutenone (9), (5R)-O-methylhirsutanonol (10), hirsutanonol (11) and oregonin (13), three triterpenes: α-amyrin (1), betulinaldehyde (3) and betulinic acid (4), and two sterols: β-sitosterol (2) and daucosterol (12). (20)
- Crude extract of stem bark isolated two novel diarylheptanoids, known as alnuside C (2) and alnuside D (3), and three known compounds, 1-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)-7-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-heptan-3(R)-O-β-D-glucopyranoside (1), oregonin (4) and hirsutanone (5). (see study below) (21)

- Studies suggest antioxidant, hepatoprotective, cytotoxic, anticancer, antiatherosclerotic, antiviral, anti-trypanosomal properties.

Parts used
Stem bark, leaves.

- No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
- Popular folk medicine in Korea, used for cancer, gastric disorders, hepatitis and fatty liver.
- Various species of alder, including this species, seem to contain antitumor compounds.
- In Oriental medicine, bark used for fever, hemorrhage, gastroenteric disorders, lymphatic disease and cancers. (15)
Other uses
- Dye is obtained from the bark.
- Wood - close grained; used for turnery, charcoal.

Hepatoprotective / Antioxidant: Alnus japonica showed antioxidant activity and hepatoprotective effects against acetaminophen-induced cytotoxicity in cultured hepatocytes in vitro. (4)
Cytotoxic / Diarylheptanoids: Study isolated 10 compounds from the bark of Alnus japonica. The diarylheptanoids showed potent cytotoxic activities against murine B16 melanoma cells and human SNU-C1 gastric cancer cell line. (1)
Anti-Influenza / Diarylheptanoids / Bark: Study isolated two rare acylated diarylheptanoids from the bark of A japonica – oregonoyl A and oregonoyl B, with nine known compounds. Platyphyllone, was strongly active, and platyphyllonol-5-xylopyranoside was moderately active on antiviral testing, compared with positive control, zanamivir. (5)
Anti-Atherosclerosis / Diarylheptanoids: Study isolated reported the inhibitory effects of two diarylheptanoids from the methanolic extracts of Alnus japonica leaves on the expression of adhesion molecules in human umbilical vein endothelial cells. Results suggest the compounds may be useful in prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis.
Antioxidant: Study isolated naturally occurring bioactive compounds from AJ that showed significant radical-scavenging antioxidant activity in a concentration-dependent manner.
Antioxidant / Anti-LDL Oxidation / Anti-Inflammatory: Study isolated 5-O-methylhirsutanonol (5-MH) from the leaves of A japonica which exhibited antioxidant activities on Cu2+ and AAPH-mediated LDL oxidation and well as macrophage-mediated LDL oxidation. 5-MH also suppressed the expression of inflammation-associated genes, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha, COX-2 and IL-1ß.
Hirsutenone / Atopic Dermatitis: Study isolated hirsutenone from the bark of Alnus japonica. Results showed hirsutenone may specifically inhibit calcium-activated processes in both T cells and mast cells and presents a potential for a new topical drug for atopic dermatitis, probably through a calcineurin inhibitor-mimicking mechanism. (9)
Anti-Influenza Component / Bark: Study of bark isolated four lupane-type triterpenes (1-4) and one steroid (5). Compound 3, betulinic aldehyde, exhibited a particularly strong anti-influenza effect against KBNP-0028 relative to a positive control. (10)
Oregonin / I/R Induced Mesentery Oxidative Stress / Inhibition of NADPH Oxidase Activation/ Bark: Study suggests that ORG restrained I/R-induced ROS production might be correlated to its inhibitive effect on NADPH activation. (11)
Diarylheptanoids / Inhibition of Papain-Like Protease of SARS: The papain-like protease, which controls replication of the acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus is identified as the potential drug target for the treatment of SARS. Of the nine diarylheptanoids isolated from Alnus japonica, hirsutenone (compound 2) showed the most potent PL inhibitory effect. (12)
Atopic Dermatitis: Study evaluated the immunomodulatory effect of A. japonica in a model of atopic dermatitis in NC/Nga mice. Leaf and bark extract suppressed the development of AD-like skin lesions, with decrease in blood eosinophils and decrease in serum IgE and Th2-related cytokine levels. Results suggest the leaf and bark extract may prove useful in the treatment of atopic dermatitis and other allergic skin diseases. (13)
Cytotoxicity / Oregonin and Hirsutanone: Study evaluated the cytotoxic effects of four different extracts from A. japonica on Caco-2 cells using MTT assay. The water extract showed highest cytotoxicity results. The 70% methanol extract showed highest content for both oregonin and hirsutanone. (15)
Anticancer / Antioxidant / Caspase-Dependent Pathway: Study evaluated A. japonica extracts for in vitro antioxidant and anticancer effects in AGS human gastric carcinoma cell lines. Results showed ethanol extracts have greater antioxidant activity than water extracts. The ethanol extract inhibited cell growth and induced cell death by increasing reactive oxygen species production in AGS cells. The extract triggered apoptosis when caspase-8, 7, 3 and PARP were activated. Results suggest a potential strategy for clinical chemotherapy. (16)
Dyeing Properties / Bark and Heartwood: Study evaluated the dyeing properties of cotton and silk fabrics dyed with A. japonica bark and heartwood extracts. Results showed tannin to be the major colorant component. Silk dye intake was better than that of cotton. Although washing fastness was not good, light, dry cleaning, and perspiration fastness were moderate. Also, rubbing fastness was moderately good grade. Dyed fabrics showed very good antimicrobial abilities of 99.9% against S. aureus and K. pneumonia. (17)
Hepatoprotective / Antioxidant / Bark: Study of Alnus japonica bark isolated one new diarylheptanoid, named alusenone (1A), and 11 known one (1B-2-11). Mixtures 1, 2-6, 10 and 11 showed good antioxidative and hepatoprotective effects compared to controls. (19)
Anti-Trypanosomal / Bark: A crude extract of Alnus japonica bark exhibited a strong effect on the growth of Trypanosoma brucei. Study isolated two novel diarylheptanoids and three known compounds. Among the isolated diarylheptanoid, oregonin and hirsutanone exhibited potent in vitro inhibitory activity against T. brucei growth in the bloodstream with IC50 of 1.14 and 1.78 µM, respectively. (see constituents above) (21)

- Wildcrafted.
- Cultivated.
- Seeds in the cybemarket.

Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

Last Update September 2016

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Cytotoxic activities of diarylheptanoids from Alnus japonica / Sun Eun Choi et al / Archives of Pharmacal Research • Volume 31, Number 10 / October, 2008 / DOI 10.1007/s12272-001-2108-z
Alnus japonica / Plants For A Future
Further investigation of the phenolic components
Hepatoprotective and antioxidant effects of Alnus japonica extracts on acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity in rats / Sang Tae Kim et al / PTR. Phytotherapy research • 2004, vol. 18, no12, pp. 971-975

Anti-influenza diarylheptanoids from the bark of Alnus japonica / Nguyen Huu Tung et al / Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters • Volume 20, Issue 3, 1 February 2010, Pages 1000-1003 / doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2009.12.057
Effects of Diarylheptanoids on the Tumor Necrosis Factor-α-Induced Expression of Adhesion Molecules in Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / Jong-Min Han et al / J. Agric. Food Chem., 2007, 55 (23), pp 9457–9464 / DOI: 10.1021/jf072157h
Diarylheptanoid and Flavonoid with Antioxidant Activity from Alnus japonica Steud on DPPH Free Radical Scavenging Assay
Effect of 5- O-Methylhirsutanonol on Nuclear Factor-κB-Dependent Production of NO and Expression of iNOS in Lipopolysaccharide-Induced RAW264.7 Cells / Jon-Min Han et al / J. Agric. Food Chem., 2008, 56 (1), pp 92–98 / DOI: 10.1021/jf0721085
Suppression of T cell activation by hirsutenone, isolated from the bark of Alnus japonica, and its therapeutic advantages for atopic dermatitis / Joo SS, Kim S G et al / Eur J Pharmacol. 2009 Jul 1;614(1-3):98-105. Epub 2009 May 3.
An Anti-Influenza Component of the Bark of Alnus japonica / Nguyen Huu Tung, Hyuk-Joon Kwon, Jae-Hong Km, Jeong Chan Ra, Jeong Ah Kim, and Young Ho Kim / Archives of Pharmacal Research, March 2010, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 363-367
Oregonin from the bark of Alnus japonica restrained ischemia-reperfusion induced mesentery oxidative stress by inhibiting NADPH oxidase activation / Nguyen Huu Tung, Kai Sun, Jing-Yu Fan, Yukihiro Shoyama,* andJing-Yan Han* / DOI: 10.1111/micc.12147
Diarylheptanoids from Alnus japonica Inhibit Papain-Like Protease of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus / Ji-Young Park, Hyung Jae Jeong, Jang Hoon Kim, Young Min Kim, Su-Jin Park, Doman Kim, Ki Hun Park, Woo Song Lee,* and Young Bae Ryu* / Biol. Pharm. Bull. 35(11) 2036–2042 (2012) Vol. 35, No. 11
Effect of Alnus japonica extract on a model of atopic dermatitis in NC/Nga mice. / Sun Eun Choi, Kwan Hee Park, Mi Sook Jeong, Han Hyuk Kim, Do Ik Lee, Seong Soo Joo, Chung Soo Lee, Hyoweon Bang, Young Wook Choi, Mi-Kyung Lee, Seong Jun Seo, Min Won Lee / Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2010 / DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.12.024
Alnus japonica (Thunb.) Steud. / Synonyms / The Plant List
Quantitative Analysis and Preformulation of Extracts from Alnus Japonica
/ Jong-Suep Baek*, Hee-Chul Kang*, Chang-Gu Keum, Ji-Ho Lim, Chan-Ju Hwang, Young-Guk Na, N.H. Tung, Young-Ho Kim and Cheong-Weon Cho / Journal of Pharmaceutical Investigation, Vol. 41, No. 4, 227-232 (2011)
Anticancer effect of Alnus japonica extracts through the caspase-dependent pathway / BI You, SE Kim, YS Kim, JW Hwang, NJ Jeon, X Dong / PJ Park 1Planta Med 2015; 81 - PM_81 / DOI: 10.1055/s-0035-1565458
Dyeing Properties and Functionalities of Alnus japonica Bark and Heartwood Extracts / Sa, A-Na; Choi, Hyo Jin; Lee, Jung Soon / Textile Science and Engineering, Vol 50, Issue 5 (2013) pp 283-291 / DOI : 10.12772/TSE.2013.50.283
Bioactive constituents and medicinal importance of genus Alnus / Sushil Chandra Sati, Nitin Sati, and O. P. Sati / Pharmacogn Rev. 2011 Jul-Dec; 5(10): 174–183. / doi: 10.4103/0973-7847.91115
Antioxidative and Hepatoprotective Diarylheptanoids from the Bark of Alnus japonica
/ Nguyen Huu Tung, Sang Kyum Kim, Jeong C Ra, Young Ho Kim / Planta Medica 76(6):626-9 · November 2009 / DOI: 10.1055/s-0029-1240595
Alnuheptanoid A: a new diarylheptanoid derivative from Alnus japonica / Sabrin R.M. Ibrahim, Mostafa A. Fouad, Ahmed Abdel-Lateff, Tatsufumi Okino & Gamal A. Mohamed / Natural Product Research, Volume 28, 2014 - Issue 20
Anti-Trypanosomal Activity of Diarylheptanoids Isolated from the Bark of Alnus japonica / Nguyen Huu Tung et al / Am. J. Chin. Med. 42, 1245 (2014). / DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1142/S0192415X14500785

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