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Xi Shu in herbal medicine

Xi Shu – (Camptotheca acuminate) - Xi Shu is also known as Cancer Tree, Happy Tree, Heaven Tree, Dragon Tree, and Tree of Joy. Native to China and Tibet, most American specimens of the plant originate from just two seeds germinated here in the 1930’s. Xi Shu is used in herbal medicine for treating cancer, psoriasis, and diseases of the liver, gallbladder, spleen, and stomach.

Xi Shu is used as a treatment for many kinds of cancers including leukemia. The plant is known to be effective in the treatment of rectum and large intestine cancer. Xi Shu can inhibit cell division and DNA replication which can slow tumor growth. Many other anticancer medications are derived from Xi Shu and two are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Topotecan is used to treat ovarian and small lung cancers. Irinotecan is used to treat metastatic colorectal cancer. Xi Shu may prove to be a lifesaver for thousands of cancer patients around the world.

Xi Shu is currently being tested for applications in HIV / AIDS treatments. The plant shows promise in clinical trials.

Currently, manufacturing of the two FDA approved anti-cancer drugs continues to depend on extraction from plant materials that are primarily harvested from naturally grown trees.

This fast-growing, attractive “Happy Tree” of northern China is currently being grown at Louisiana State University's (LSU) Agricultural Center's Experiment Station. The expense of extracting and shipping medicinal Xi Shu compounds from China averages $35,000 per kilogram, but LSU researchers hope to cultivate the tree in Louisiana. The state's climate matches northern China's and 5,000 trees have been grown successfully so far. (LSU researchers see this as a model for a program to research other medicinal plants.) The trees are also being grown in Texas.

Xi Shu wood, bark, leaves, and fruit are all used in herbal remedies. Medicinal compounds are especially concentrated in the young, developing leaves and may actually poison livestock due to the high level of active ingredients. The herb can be purchased in various forms and is often an ingredient in over-the-counter Chinese medicines.

The Chinese people have used Xi Shu for thousands of years. They use the plant for treating intestinal problems, stomach conditions, and skin diseases. They also use it for soothing sore throats and colds.

Xi Shu is a slender tree that grows up to eighty feet tall. The attractive tree has small, white flowers that mature into small fruit in summer. Xi Shu grows extremely fast in warm humid zones. The tree likes sun and moist, rich soil. Xi Shu is easily grown from seed.

* Xi Shu is toxic when taken in large doses. Xi Shu is generally regarded as safe, but use of this herb for treating cancer should be done under the supervision of a physician. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease is not known. Always consult with a physician before using any herbal remedy.