Last Updated: September 28 2022

Dendrobium is a family of plants (well over 200 commonly used) that has a history of medicinal usage in East Asia. The bioactivities vary depending on species, but it appears many cater towards reducing inflammation and as a digestive aid.

Dendrobium is most often used for

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Sources and Composition



Dendrobium includes a variety of bioactives, including (species listed in brackets):

  • SG-168 (nobile)[5][1]
  • Various alkaloids (nobile)[6] such as Dendroxine[7]
  • Denbinobin (nobile) an anticancer phenanthraquinone[8][3] also in moniliforme[9]
  • Nobilin D and E (nobile stem)[10] and Dendroflorin[11]
  • Moscatilin (loddigesii)[12]
  • Dendrocandins F-I(candidum)[13] and later C and E[14]
  • Chrysotoxine[15]
  • Sequesterpene aglycones such as copacamphane, picrotoxane, and alloaromadendrane (moniliforme stem)[16] as well as dendrosides A, C, and F as well as vanilloloside
  • Dendrochrysanene (chrysanthum stem)[8]
  • Batatasin III, gigantol, hircinol and 7-methoxy-9,10-dihydrophenanthrene-2,4,5-triol (draconis stem) which are associated with 'blood tonic' tea in Thailand.[17][18] Gigantol and Hircinol are also found in other species (trigonopus)[19]
  • Neutral polysaccharide (Densiflorum)[20]
  • Two lectins from Dendrobium findleyanum with anti-fungal activities[1] also in Officinale[21]
  • Chalcone, an aromatic ketone used in anthocyanin synthesis (sonia)[22]
  • Dihydroayapin (densiflorum)[23]
  • Possibly sucrose, due to presence of sucrose synthesis enzymes (officinale)[24]
  • Nucleic acids (Adenosine, Uridine, Guanosine) and other acids (candidum)[25]
  • Physcione and Rhein (found in Senna) in stems(fimbriatum)[26]

Different species in the Dendrobium family appear to have widely different bioactives, and the exact species of the plant consuming is probably going to be very important to know





Currently, one of the few human studies on Dendrobium has been conducted in persons with Sjögren's syndrome (autoimmune syndrome where salivary and tear ducts are targeted) noted improvements in salivation.[27] It was thought to help due to Sjögren's syndrome being characterized by abnormally low distribution of Aquaporin-5 in the salivary glands of these patients[28] and previous animal models establishing that abolishment of AQP-5 results in a 65% reduction in salivation.[29] This study, using a liquid form of Dendrobium Candidum at a 0.5g/mL concentration with 5mL aliquiots (so, 2.5g doses thrice a day for a weeks time) and it appeared to increase salivation rates by approximately 65% in persons with treatment relative to placebo.[27] This increase in salivation was accompanied by a normalization of AQP-5, where the protein was not expressed at the apical membrane of Sjögren's patients but was after Dendrobium treatment, the increase was about 35% relative to placebo.[27] In mice, Dendrobium reduced water intake suggesting it could aid dry mouth symptoms[27] and it is suggested this may be due to the polysaccharide content and potentially have some cross-over with Dendrobium officinale.[30]

Demonstrated in at least on human trial to increase salivation, but the trial was in persons with Sjögren's syndrome and may not apply to persons without


Neurology and the Brain


Interactions with Organ Systems



Anti-proliferative activities have been seen with the methanolic extract (and attributed to three phenanthrenes) of Dendrobium Nobile in vitro with immortalized rat HSC-T6 cells, which suggest anti-fibrotic activities of this extract in these isolated stellate cells.[31] These three phenanthrenes, denbinobin (DEN), fimbriol-B (FIM) and 2,3,5-trihydroxy-4,9-dimethoxyphenanthrene (THDMP) were reassessed in HSC-T6 cells and noted that they were nontoxic to primary liver cells, yet caused a dose dependent reduction in HSC-T6 cells at 1-50uM attibuted to apoptosis.[4] The growth inhibitory actions of these phenanthrenes was similar to EGCG from green tea catechins[4] and has also been suggested to apply to Dendrobium huoshanense, another medicinal species.[32]


Cancer Metabolism



Dendrobin, a phenanthrene isolated from Dendrobium moniliforme and Nobile, appears to have anti-cancer potential.


Immunology and Inflammation



When Dendrobium Nobile has its phenanthrenes tested (showing efficacy in reducing liver fibrosis in vitro) they do not appear to significantly influence TNF-α production in stimulated macrophages by LPS[4] although this inhibition has been noted in RAW 264.7 macrophages elsewhere with moderate potencies (9.6μM to 35.7μM).[33] However, TNF-α induced inflammation (as well as PMA-induced) via NF-kB translocation has been demonstrated to be inhibited by Denbinobin, also in Nobile.[3] This study was done in leukemic cells, and noted that Denbinobin inhibited NF-kB secondary to TAK1 inhibition, which prevented IKK and IκBα activation at 2.5uM.[3] This inhibition of NF-kB has been noted previously in HIV-1 cells,[34] and does not interfere with MAPK, ERK, JNK, or p38 signalling.[3]



Oral administration of Dendrobum officinale polysaccharides to mice appears to beneficially influence cellular immunity and nonspecific immunity while a non-polysaccharide fragment exerts benefit to humoral immunity.[35]

The huoshanense species, in a pilot study in youth (4-18), appears to benefit atopic dermatitis symptoms, and reduce circulating cytokines assocaited with atopic dermatitis.[36]


Safety and Toxicity

1.^Ng TB, Liu J, Wong JH, Ye X, Wing Sze SC, Tong Y, Zhang KYReview of research on Dendrobium, a prized folk medicineAppl Microbiol Biotechnol.(2012 Mar)
2.^Takamiya T, Wongsawad P, Tajima N, Shioda N, Lu JF, Wen CL, Wu JB, Handa T, Iijima H, Kitanaka S, Yukawa TIdentification of dendrobium species used for herbal medicines based on ribosomal DNA internal transcribed spacer sequenceBiol Pharm Bull.(2011)
3.^Sánchez-Duffhues G, Calzado MA, de Vinuesa AG, Appendino G, Fiebich BL, Loock U, Lefarth-Risse A, Krohn K, Muñoz EDenbinobin inhibits nuclear factor-kappaB and induces apoptosis via reactive oxygen species generation in human leukemic cellsBiochem Pharmacol.(2009 Apr 15)
5.^Yoon MY, Hwang JH, Park JH, Lee MR, Kim HJ, Park E, Park HRNeuroprotective effects of SG-168 against oxidative stress-induced apoptosis in PC12 cellsJ Med Food.(2011 Jan-Feb)
7.^Okamoto T, Natsume M, Onaka T, Uchimaru F, Shimizu MThe structure of dendroxine. The third alkaloid from Dendrobium nobileChem Pharm Bull (Tokyo).(1966 Jun)
8.^Yang LC, Deng H, Yi Y, Zhang XM, Wang YZ, Lin JQIdentification of medical Dendrobium herbs by ISSR markerZhong Yao Cai.(2010 Dec)
11.^Jin J, Liang Y, Xie H, Zhang X, Yao X, Wang ZDendroflorin retards the senescence of MRC-5 cellsPharmazie.(2008 Apr)
12.^Tsai AC, Pan SL, Liao CH, Guh JH, Wang SW, Sun HL, Liu YN, Chen CC, Shen CC, Chang YL, Teng CMMoscatilin, a bibenzyl derivative from the India orchid Dendrobrium loddigesii, suppresses tumor angiogenesis and growth in vitro and in vivoCancer Lett.(2010 Jun 28)
13.^Li Y, Wang CL, Wang YJ, Wang FF, Guo SX, Yang JS, Xiao PGFour new bibenzyl derivatives from Dendrobium candidumChem Pharm Bull (Tokyo).(2009 Sep)
14.^Li Y, Wang CL, Wang YJ, Guo SX, Yang JS, Chen XM, Xiao PGThree new bibenzyl derivatives from Dendrobium candidumChem Pharm Bull (Tokyo).(2009 Feb)
15.^Song JX, Shaw PC, Wong NS, Sze CW, Yao XS, Tang CW, Tong Y, Zhang YBChrysotoxine, a novel bibenzyl compound selectively antagonizes MPP⁺, but not rotenone, neurotoxicity in dopaminergic SH-SY5Y cellsNeurosci Lett.(2012 Jul 11)
17.^Sritularak B, Anuwat M, Likhitwitayawuid KA new phenanthrenequinone from Dendrobium draconisJ Asian Nat Prod Res.(2011 Mar)
18.^Sritularak B, Duangrak N, Likhitwitayawuid KA new bibenzyl from Dendrobium secundumZ Naturforsch C.(2011 May-Jun)
19.^Hu JM, Chen JJ, Yu H, Zhao YX, Zhou JTwo novel bibenzyls from Dendrobium trigonopusJ Asian Nat Prod Res.(2008 Jul-Aug)
21.^Sattayasai N, Sudmoon R, Nuchadomrong S, Chaveerach A, Kuehnle AR, Mudalige-Jayawickrama RG, Bunyatratchata WDendrobium findleyanum agglutinin: production, localization, anti-fungal activity and gene characterizationPlant Cell Rep.(2009 Aug)
22.^Pitakdantham W, Sutabutra T, Chiemsombat P, Pitaksutheepong CIsolation and characterization of chalcone synthase gene isolated from Dendrobium Sonia EarsakulPak J Biol Sci.(2010 Oct 15)
23.^Zheng WP, Tang YP, Zhi F, Lou FCDihydroayapin, a new coumarin compound from Dendrobium densiflorumJ Asian Nat Prod Res.(2000)
24.^Meng H, Duan C, Xiao F, Yang S, Zha Y, Wen GMolecular cloning and expression analysis of sucrose synthase gene from Dendrobium officinaleZhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi.(2011 Apr)
25.^Li Y, Wang C, Wang F, Dong H, Guo S, Yang J, Xiao PChemical constituents of Dendrobium candidumZhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi.(2010 Jul)
26.^Bi ZM, Wang ZT, Xu LS, Xu GJStudies on the chemical constituents of Dendrobium fimbriatumYao Xue Xue Bao.(2003 Jul)
27.^Xiao L, Ng TB, Feng YB, Yao T, Wong JH, Yao RM, Li L, Mo FZ, Xiao Y, Shaw PC, Li ZM, Sze SC, Zhang KYDendrobium candidum extract increases the expression of aquaporin-5 in labial glands from patients with Sjögren's syndromePhytomedicine.(2011 Jan 15)
28.^Steinfeld S, Cogan E, King LS, Agre P, Kiss R, Delporte CAbnormal distribution of aquaporin-5 water channel protein in salivary glands from Sjögren's syndrome patientsLab Invest.(2001 Feb)
29.^Krane CM, Melvin JE, Nguyen HV, Richardson L, Towne JE, Doetschman T, Menon AGSalivary acinar cells from aquaporin 5-deficient mice have decreased membrane water permeability and altered cell volume regulationJ Biol Chem.(2001 Jun 29)
31.^Yang H, Sung SH, Kim YCAntifibrotic phenanthrenes of Dendrobium nobile stemsJ Nat Prod.(2007 Dec)
33.^Hwang JS, Lee SA, Hong SS, Han XH, Lee C, Kang SJ, Lee D, Kim Y, Hong JT, Lee MK, Hwang BYPhenanthrenes from Dendrobium nobile and their inhibition of the LPS-induced production of nitric oxide in macrophage RAW 264.7 cellsBioorg Med Chem Lett.(2010 Jun 15)
34.^Sánchez-Duffhues G, Calzado MA, de Vinuesa AG, Caballero FJ, Ech-Chahad A, Appendino G, Krohn K, Fiebich BL, Muñoz EDenbinobin, a naturally occurring 1,4-phenanthrenequinone, inhibits HIV-1 replication through an NF-kappaB-dependent pathwayBiochem Pharmacol.(2008 Nov 15)
35.^Liu XF, Zhu J, Ge SY, Xia LJ, Yang HY, Qian YT, Ren FZOrally administered Dendrobium officinale and its polysaccharides enhance immune functions in BALB/c miceNat Prod Commun.(2011 Jun)