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What is Sho-Saiko-To?

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  • Written By: Ann Olson
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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Sho-Saiko-To is a Japanese herbal supplement that reportedly improves liver health. It is also known as Xiao Chai Hu Tang and minor bupleurum decoction. Sho-Saiko-To is made up of several ingredients, including bupleurum root, pinellia tuber, scutellaria root, ginseng, jujube, licorice, and ginger. In Japan, this supplement is classified as a prescription drug and is commonly used in Kampo, or the Japanese form of traditional Chinese medicine.

Sho-Saiko-To contains several active constituents that may promote liver health, including baicalin, baicalein, glylcyrrhizin, saikosaponins, ginsenosides, wogonin, and gingerols. Baicalin, baicelein and wogonin are types of antioxidants called flavonoids, which herbalists claim can reduce inflammation and improve liver function. Ginsenosides are the active agents in ginseng, a root vegetable purported to improve immune system function. Although there is little evidence ginsenosides can improve liver health, it is classified as promoter of yin in Chinese medicine, which promotes balance in the body.

Gingerol is also an active constituent of ginger, which is chemically similar to capsaicin and piperine, the spicy active ingredients in chili peppers. Studies suggest that it may reduce rheumatoid arthritis, motion sickness, and the pain associated with migraines. Other studies suggest it may improve the immune system, preventing general feelings of sickness.

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Herbalists have made numerous claims about Sho-Saiko-To. In Japan, this herbal supplement is promoted as a treatment for hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver. Herbalists also claim it can improve immune function in humans, especially for those with poor function due to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It may help people undergoing chemotherapy improve their immunity against diseases. In animals, Sho-Saiko-To has been shown to increase liver regeneration and prevent injury to the liver.

It may also be a potential treatment for ovarian cancer. Sho-Saiko-To can induce cell death in active ovarian cancer cells, which can slow its growth or potentially prevent it. Although some herbalists claim it can cure ovarian cancer, no studies have demonstrated such an effect.

There have been negative side effects reported with its use, however. Some users have reported experiencing liver injury, leading to hepatitis and slowed liver function. There have also been 74 reports of lung tissue inflammation, or pneumonitis, a life-threatening infection. This risk increases if it is used with interferon, a naturally-occurring immune system protein used to improve disease immunity in humans. Women who are pregnant, or are expected to become pregnant, must also avoid its use, as it may damage the fetus.

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