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Wednesday, June 15, 2011
SNOW LOTUS: SPECTACULAR SNOW LOTUS - AN AMAZING HERB
SNOW LOTUS, SAUSSUREA LANICEPS AND OTHERS
Saussurea laniceps is the white snow lotus pictured here. There are twelve types of Saussurea which grow in China and Tibet and they are used in traditional medicine. They have been used for centuries but now there are environmental concerns regarding the use of Saussurea laniceps and medusa (the purple one pictured here). Saussurea laniceps and S. medusa grow at heights over 13, 000 feet.
One of the problems is that tourists are picking them and taking them home as souvenirs of their trip, and as these plants are not fully protected, they are not breaking the law. They are protected only, it would seem on a sacred mountain in Tibet. The plants are harvested for their flowers, and so these are picked before the seeds appear, which means that the plants can’t propagate. The plants only flower once in a lifetime, so this is really bad news for their chances of survival.
They are used for menstrual problems, headaches and stomach aches as well as to treat arthritis. In Tibet the flowers are combined with green tea to make Tibetan Taiyang green tea with snow lotus. In Tibet you can see the dried plants hung up in shops, ready to be sold either for medical use or to tourists.
The Chinese are attempting to try sustainable harvesting of the plants and flowers, and are using Saussurea involucrata rather than S. laniceps as this grows all over China whereas the white S laniceps only grows in Sichuan, Sinkiang and Qinghai provinces. The plants are used medicinally and in cosmetic preparations. However the Chinese say they are beginning a programme and hope “with careful picking of the plants to ensure maintenance of the future supply of the herb.”
There are 12 species of this plant in China and Tibet, but clinical trials have shown that S. laniceps has the most potent anti-nociceptive effect (which means it can inhibit messages from the brain telling the nerves that they are painful) followed by S. involucrata and the most potent anti-inflammatory properties of the three plants mentioned here. It would seem that all three possess different compounds which support their different uses in traditional medicine. New sesquiterpenoids and glycosides have been isolated from these plants and medical trials are continuing. They have antioxidant activities which come from the phenolic compounds and flavonoids found in the plants.
Botanists have studied the wild plants, the plants in the protected area and those in Botanical Gardens around the world and have compared data which show that in he last hundred years, the S. laniceps has decreased in height by four inches. This has been ascribed to the fact that the larger plants have the largest flowers, so these are harvested, while only the smaller plants (with smaller flowers) are left to propagate. This could be really bad news for their continued survival, but as modern medical science advances, so other alternatives may be found for the cures these plants are used for currently.