Rehmanniae Radix in osteoporosis: A review of traditional Chinese medicinal uses, phytochemistry, pharmacokinetics and pharmacology

Chenyue Liu, Rufeng Ma, Lili Wang, Ruyuan Zhu, Haixia Liu, Yubo Guo, Baosheng Zhao, Shangang Zhao, Jinfa Tang, Yu Li, Jianzhao Niu, Min Fu, Dongwei Zhang, Sihua Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Ethnopharmacological relevance Emerging clinical usage and pharmacological effects have been achieved in using Rehmanniae Radix either singly or in combination with other herbs to treat skeletal diseases in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in the recent years. This study is aimed to provide a comprehensive review about the historical TCM interpretation of the action of Rehmanniae Radix in osteoporosis, its usage in clinical trials and osteoporotic models, its main phytochemical constituents, and its pharmacokinetics. Materials and methods Several databases included PubMed, China Knowledge Resource Integrated Database, China Science and Technology Journal Database, National Science and Technology Library and the Web of Science Database were consulted to locate the publications pertaining to Rehmanniae Radix. The initial inquiry was conducted for the presence of the following terms combinations in the abstracts: Rehmanniae Radix, Dihuang, phytochemistry, pharmacokinetics, osteoporosis, bone, osteoclast and osteoblast. About 330 research papers and reviews were consulted. Results In TCM, Rehmanniae Radix exerts the anti-osteoporotic effect via regulating the functions of kidney and liver as well as improving blood circulation. 107 clinical trials are identified that used Rehmanniae Radix in combination with other herbs to treat post-menopausal, senile and secondary osteoporosis. Most of the clinical trials are characterized by high efficacy and no obvious adverse effects. However, the efficacies of these clinical trials are limited because of small patient sample size, short treatment duration and poor clinical design. In addition, TCM herbs under the clinical study are not clear because of a lack of standardization and authentication. The pharmacokinetics data demonstrate that the ingredients of Rehmanniae Radix are widely distributed after administration, and that catalpol and ajugol as well as acetoside are supposed to be the active constituents. More than 140 individual compounds have been currently isolated from this plant and reported to show pleiotropic effects on various diseases. Rehmanniae Radix displays bone protecting features in the osteoporosis models via the delicate balance between osteoclastogenesis and osteoblastogenesis through single herb extracts and its isolated compounds. Conclusions The successful inclusion of Rehmanniae Radix in clinical trials and preclinical studies for the management of osteoporosis has attracted rising attentions for identifying potential anti-osteoporotic candidates from this plant and clinical existing TCM formulas, which will further speed up anti-osteoporosis drug discovery processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-362
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
StatePublished - Feb 23 2017


  • Clinical trial
  • Osteoporosis
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Pharmacology
  • Phytochemistry
  • Rehmanniae Radix

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmacology


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