Tujia ethnomedicine is an important part of the national medicine system in
China. Two Panax japonicus (Araliaceae) varietals known as Bai San Qi and Kou Zi Qi in Tujia
ethnomedicine are of interest for further study due to their traditional use, biological effects and potential use
in clinical applications. The plants have traditionally been used to treat weakness, fatigue and rheumatism for
over a thousand years. As Bai San Qi and Kou Zi Qi are members of the genus Panax, both contain
significant levels of saponins. Saponins have been shown to have a variety of bioactivities including, antiinflammatory,
anti-tumor and α-glucosidase inhibitory activities. Thus far, 109 different saponins have been
isolated from and identified in the two plants. This review describes, classifies and provides information on
reported biological activities and characteristic 1H-NMR and 13C-NMR signals for the saponins found in the two
species. It aims to decrease the difficulties in structure elucidation of typical saponins and provides instruction
and theoretical basis for further research of the two plants.
Keywords: Araliaceae, Panax japonicus, Triterpenoid saponins, Tujia ethnomedicine, zhu jie shen,
zhu zi shen.
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