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Family Berberidaceae
Nandina domestica Thunb.

Nan tian zhu

Scientific names  Common names
Nandina domestica Thunb. Firepower (Engl.)
Nandina domestica var. lineanifolia C.Y. Wu ex S.Y. Bao Nandina (Engl.)
  Nanten (Engl.)
  Heavenly bamboo (Engl.) 
  Sacred bamboo (Engl.) 
Nandina domestica Thunb. is an accepted name. The Plant List

Other vernacular names
BRAZIL: Avenca japonesa, Bambu celeste, Bambu do ceu.
FRENCH: Nandine fruitiere.
ITALIAN: Nandina.
SPANISH: Bambu celestial, Bambu sagrado, Nandina.
SWEDEN: Nandina.

Despite its name, Nandina is not a bamboo. It is an evergreen shrub growing to 2.5 meters high, with numerous unbranched stems growing from the roots. Leaves are 2- to 3-pinnate, with narrow leaflets up to 5 centimeters long, pink to red before turning green. Flowers are small, white, in panicles, up to 30 centimeters long. Fruit is a bright red or purplish berry, each containing 1 to 3 seeds.

- Recently introduced to the Philippines.
- Still rare in cultivation.

- Native to Asia, occurring in India, Japan, and China.

• Berries contain alkaloids such as nanterine, used in research as an antidote to MDMA.
• All parts of the plant are poisonous, containing hydrocyanic acid, and can be fatal if ingested.

• Study has isolated an alkaloid, nantenine, with ability to block chemically induced head-twitching in mice.
• Roots yield domesticine, O-methyl domesticine(nandinine), nandazurine, berberine, jatrorrhizine. The stem yields domesticine, O-methyl domesticine, berberine, jatrorrhizine, magnoflorine, menispermine, nandinine, isoboldine, nandazurine, dehydronandinine, sinoacutine, N-nornandinine, hydroxynandinine, nuciferine, dehydroisoboldine, palmatine, coptisine, columbamine, thalifendine, thalidastine, 5- hydroxy berberine, epiberberine, groenlandicine.
• Study isolated a tyrosinase-inhibiting compound, 4-ß-D-glucopyranosyloxybenzoic acid. (see study below) (5)
• Study of seeds yielded several lignans identified as
syringaresinol (1), pinoresinol (2), medioresinol (3), 1-hydroxypinoresinol (4), gentioluteol (5), berchemol (6), berchemol-4'-O-β-D-glucoside (7). (14)
• Study of seeds yielded nine phenolic compounds: syringic acid (1), ethyl gallate (2), ellagic acid (3), caffeic acid (4), p-hydroxybenzoic acid (5), gallic acid (6), protocatechuic acid (7), 3, 3'-di-O-methylellagic-4-O-β-D-glucoside (8), and bergenin (9). (16)

- Reported toxicity of all plant parts.
- Studies suggest antifungal, antioxidant, tyrosinase inhibitory, antibacterial, radical scavenging, antiasthma, anti-inflammatory properties.

- Cyanide toxicity / Berries / All Plant Parts: The berries contain cyanogenic glycosides that liberate hydrogen cyanide when damaged. Poisoning as also been reported in cats and dogs, cautioning against consumption of all plant parts, including leaves, stems, and berries. (see study below) (7) (17) (21)

Parts utilized
Roots, leaves, and fruits.

- No reported medicinal folkloric use in the Philippines.
- In Chinese medicine, dried berries used for cough. Also, tonics are derived from the bark and root-bark are used for eye conditions, flu, muscle pain, rheumatism, gastrointestinal maladies and fever.
- Fruit used for cough, asthma, whooping cough, malaria, and penile ulcers.
- In Japan, fruit used to treat cough and breathing difficulties.

Antifungal: Study of oil and extracts revealed antidermatophytic effect against Trichophyton rubrum, T mentagrophytes, Microsporum canis. Results suggest that N domestica mediated oil and extracts could be a potential source of natural fungicides to control certain important dermatophytic fungi. (2)
Nantenine / Adrenergic Pressor Inhibition: Nantenine isolated from Nandina domestica showed it has antagonistic activities on a1-adrenoreceptors, a2-adrenoreceptors and 5-HT2A receptors in pithed rats. (3)
Cyanogenic Glucoside: Study isolated a new cyanogenic glucoside, p-glucosyloxymandelonitrile, in the young shoots of N domestica. The amount of cyanogen varies from 10-20% of dry weight in young shoots. (4)
Tyrosinase Inhibitory Activity: Study investigated the extracts of 53 parts of 36 plants species for tyrosinase inhibitory activity. The extract of Nandina domestica showed potent activity attributed to a known compound 4-ß-D-glucopyranosyloxybenzoic acid, revealed to have tyrosinase inhibiting activity for the first time. (5)
Radical Scavenging: Study to determine free radical scavenging activity of leaf extracts showed N domestica to be among those with the highest IC50 values. (6)
Cyanide Toxicity from Berries:
Study reports of cyanide toxicity in Cedar Waxwing birds attributed to ingestion of N. domestica berries. In 2009, dozens of Cedar Waxwings were found dead. All the birds had pulmonary, mediastinal, and tracheal hemorrhages. Intact and partly digested berries were the only food found in the GI tract of the birds. Nandina berries contain cyanide and other alkaloids extremely poisonous to animals. (8)

Nantenine / Potential MMDA (Ecstasy) Hyperthermia Antidote: Nantenine has been isolated from Nandina domestica. It has been shown to effect both the serotonin and epinephrine neurotransmitter systems and calcium channels. Studies suggest a potential for use in people who develop high fever with Ecstasy overdose. (9) (±)-Nantenine displayed high affinity and selectivity for the α1A adrenergic receptor among several other receptors suggesting that this α1 subtype may be significantly involved in the anti-MDMA effects of the enantiomers. (10) Study on the compound's chemical structure suggested it may be neurobiological activity. Nantenine, like MDMA might bind in the brain to serotonin and a1--adrenergic receptors, and block MMDA from occupying those sites and causing destructive changes. (19)
Higenamine / Tracheal Relaxation: A crude extract has been shown to inhibit histamine- and serotonin-induced contraction of isolated pig trachea, an effect that was not explained by nantenine. Study yielded a major constituent from the most active sub fraction, higenamine, a benzyltetrahydroisoquinoline alkaloid. Results indicate that higenamine was the constituent responsible for the tracheal relaxation through stimulation of ß-2 receptors. (11)
Biphasic Tracheal Relaxation / Comparative Effects of Higenamine and Nantenine: Results suggest a NDE relaxes the trachea quickly through ß-adrenoceptor stimulation by higenamine and slowly through Ca(2+) antagonism by nantenine. (12)
• Antibacterial / Antiasthma / Leaves: Study evaluated the antibacterial and antiasthmatic effects of Nandina domestica leaf extract. In a guinea pig model of asthma, the extract alleviated animal allergy and asthma. Extracted alkaloids inhibited gram-positive bacteria and prevented asthma, while flavones inhibited gram-negative bacteria. The extract showed no toxic effect on mice. (15)
• Poisoning in Cats: Nandina is a popular landscaping plant and presents a risk poisoning in cats. Poisoning is caused by ingestion of any portion of the plant, including roots, stem, leaves, and pollen. This blog page describes symptoms and diagnostic clues. Treatment is prevention of further consumption and administration of cyanide antidote as soon as possible. Gastric lavage and oxygen therapy may be indicated in some cases. (17)
• Higenamine: Higenamine is a chemical found in several plants including aconite, asarum, lotus, Lamarck's bedstraw, sacred bamboo, and others. The product shows up in pre-workout supplements for improving athletic performance. Its use is prohibited in sports and is on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) 2017 Prohibited List. It works as a stimulant, increases heart rate and heart contractions, and also relaxes some tissues of the body. Higenamine should be discontinued at least 2 weeks before surgery. While there is not enough information on safety during pregnancy and breast feeding, it should be avoided. (18)
• Caffeoyl Glucosides / Inhibition of LPS-Induced Endothelial Inflammatory Responses / Fruits: Endothelial dysfunction is a key pathological feature of many inflammatory disease. Study of fruits isolated a new caffeoyl glucoside (1) and two known caffeoylated compounds (2 and 3). The compounds were evaluated for their effects against lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-mediated endothelial inflammatory responses. Compounds 1 and 2 inhibited LPS-induced hyperpermeability, adhesion, and migration of leukocytes across a human endothelial cell monolayer in a dose dependent manner. Results suggest potential as a therapeutic agent to treat vascular inflammatory disorders. (20)

- Cultivated.

- Extracts, leaf powder in the cybermarket.

Updated May 2019 / May 2017 / June 2015
Sept 2010

Photo © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Sacred bamboo fruit. / Photo © by James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org / Click on photo to go to source page / USDA

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Nandina / Wikipedia
Antifungal potential of essential oil and various organic extracts of Nandina domestica Thunb. against skin infectious fungal pathogens / Vivek K Bajpai et al / Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology • Volume 83, Number 6 / July, 2009 / DOI 10.1007/s00253-009-2017-5
(+)-Nantenine isolated from Nandina domestica Thunb. inhibits adrenergic pressor responses in pithed rats / Hisatoshi Tsuchida and Yasushi Ohizumi / European Journal of Pharmacology • Volume 477, Issue 1, 5 September 2003, Pages 53-58 / doi:10.1016/j.ejphar.2003.08.002
Studies on the identification, biosynthesis and metabolism of a cyanogenic glucoside in Nandina domestica Thunb. / Y P Abrol et al / Phytochemistry • Volume 5, Issue 5, September 1966, Pages 1021-1027 / doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(00)82800-9
Tyrosinase Inhibitory Activity of Ethanol Extracts from Medicinal and Edible Plants Cultivated in Okinawa and Identification of a Water-Soluble Inhibitor from the Leaves of Nandina domestica
/ Toshiya Masuda et al / Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, Sept 2007; 71(9): pp 2316-2320 /
PMID: 17827684 / DOI: 10.1271/bbb.70249
Studies on scavenging activity against DPPH free radical in fresh leaves from some common subtropical plants of garden and afforestation in China / He YunHe et al / Acta Horticulturae Sinica / Faculty of Forest Utilization, Anhui Agricultural University, Hefei 230036, China.
Heavenly Bamboo — Nandina domestica / Steven Foster
Feeding Behavior-Related Toxicity due to Nandina domestica in Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) / Moges Woldemeskel* and Eloise L. Styer / Vet Med Int., 2010; 2010: 818159 / doi: 10.4061/2010/818159 / PMID: 21197466
Plant Compound Blocks Hyperthermia Caused by Ecstasy
Synthetic studies and pharmacological evaluations on the MDMA ("Ecstasy") antagonist Nantenine / Onica LeGendre, Stevan Pecic, Sandeep Chaudhary, Sarah M. Zimmerman, William E. Fantegrossi, and Wayne W. Harding* / Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2010 Jan 15; 20(2): 628. / doi: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2009.11.053
Beta2-adrenoceptor-mediated tracheal relaxation induced by higenamine from Nandina domestica Thunberg
/ Tsukiyama M, Ueki T, Yasuda Y, Kikuchi H, Akaishi T, Okumura H, Abe K. / Planta Med. 2009 Oct; 75(13): 1393-9. / doi: 10.1055/s-0029-1185743. Epub 2009 May 25.
Biphasic tracheal relaxation induced by higenamine and nantenine from Nandina domestica Thunberg.
Ueki T, Akaishi T, Okumura H, Morioka T, Abe K. / J Pharmacol Sci. 2011;115(2):254-7. Epub 2011 Jan 26
Nandina domestica / Synonyms / The Plant List
Study on the Lignan Constituents in Seeds of Nandina Domestica Thunb. / SHU Jicheng, LIU Jianqun, PENG Caiying, WANG Yali / Chinese Journal of Modern Applied Pharmacy, 2013-02
Antibacterial Effects of Leaf Extract of Nandina domestica and the Underlined Mechanism / Zhao-Yu Guo, Zhuo-Yang Zhang, Jia-Qi Xiao, Hin-Hong Qin,, and Wei Zhao / Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2018, Article ID 8298151 / https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/8298151
Phenolic Acid Constituents in Seeds of Nandina domestica / PENG Cai-ying; LIU Jian-Qun; ZHANG Rui; SHU Ji-Cheng / Chinese Journal of Experimental Traditional Medical Formulae, 2014-23
Nandina Poisoning in Cats Home Cat Conditions  / WagWalking
Higenamine / WebMD
Plant Derivative Blocks MDMA's Hyperthermic Effects /
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Caffeoyl glucosides from Nandina domestica inhibit LPS-induced endothelial inflammatory responses.
/ Kukkarni RR, Lee W, Jang TS, Lee J, Kwak S, Park MS, Lee HS, Bae JS, Na M / Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 12 Sept 2015; 25(22): pp 5367-5371 / DOI: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2015.09.031 / PMID:26410076
What Are the Treatments for Nandina Ingestion for a Dog? / Melodie Anne / Blog


It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page.

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