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Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Marlberry, is a native of East Asia and is a plant indigenous to parts of China and Japan. It is a member of the Myrsinaceae family and is used by gardeners as an evergreen ground cover, for which it is ideally suited. It can grow to around 40 centimetres tall so can make a low hedge, and has white to pale pink flowers which give way to a small fruit which turns dark-purple to black when ripe in early winter. It looks a little like Butcher’s Broom, to which it is not related.
  It has the distinction of being one of the Fifty Fundamental Herbs in Chinese traditional medicine and is used in a decoction either alone or with other herbs as an expectorant. This decoction, made only with marlberry is also used to relieve the stomach cramps associated with menstruation, and those of rheumatoid arthritis, as well as to reduce painful swellings. It is also used as a diuretic, for jaundice and to cleanse the blood.                                                               
  In one research study it was shown to have “moderate in vitro anti-HIV activity” which is believed to have been brought about by bergenin and norbergenin. In another study it was shown to have only weak activity against the HIV virus.
   Bergenin is known to be effective against coughs.
   It is particularly used for bronchitis, and also reduces flatulence. The leaves of the shrub have been used against cancer, and a decoction of the leaves and stem is used for coughs and uterine bleeding. The root is a diuretic and an antidote to poison. Saponins generally have some anti-cancer actions and this plant contains them. A paper from the 2011 Conference on Biomedical Engineering Technology by Myat Myat Monetal et al. “Qualitative Determination of Free Radical Scavenging, anti-tumor and Antimicrobial Activities of some Myanmar Herbal Plants” concluded “Ardisia japonica can be used as anti-malarial drug or antioxidant diet or as food preservative” This was published in the Journal of the 2011 International Conference on Biomedical Engineering Technology IPCBET Vol 11.
  It is clear that marlberry has been used in Chinese traditional medicine for centuries so perhaps further studies will bring to light further benefits of this plant.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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