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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.

Our evidence-based analysis on dendrobium features 36 unique references to scientific papers.

Research analysis led by and reviewed by the Examine team.
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Research Breakdown on Dendrobium

1Sources and Composition

Dendrobium species of plants are apparently highly prized medicinal medicines, in regards to being a 'stomach tonic' and the candidum species is known for aiding body fluid excretion (saliva, tears).[1] There are around 200 species of Dendrobium,[2] although only a few have been used medicinally.

Dendrobium moniliforme is referred to as Shi-Hu in Traditional Chinese Medicine,[3] and Dendrobium Nobile is referred to as Seokgok in Korean Medicine.[4]


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

3Neurology and the Brain

4Interactions 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]

5Cancer Metabolism


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

6Immunology 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]

7Safety and Toxicity


  1. ^ a b c Ng TB, et al. Review of research on Dendrobium, a prized folk medicine. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. (2012)
  2. ^ Takamiya T, et al. Identification of dendrobium species used for herbal medicines based on ribosomal DNA internal transcribed spacer sequence. Biol Pharm Bull. (2011)
  3. ^ a b c d e Sánchez-Duffhues G, et al. Denbinobin inhibits nuclear factor-kappaB and induces apoptosis via reactive oxygen species generation in human leukemic cells. Biochem Pharmacol. (2009)
  4. ^ a b c d Yang H, et al. Selective apoptosis in hepatic stellate cells mediates the antifibrotic effect of phenanthrenes from Dendrobium nobile. Phytother Res. (2012)
  5. ^ Yoon MY, et al. Neuroprotective effects of SG-168 against oxidative stress-induced apoptosis in PC12 cells. J Med Food. (2011)
  6. ^ Li Y, et al. Inhibitory effects of Dendrobium alkaloids on memory impairment induced by lipopolysaccharide in rats. Planta Med. (2011)
  7. ^ Okamoto T, et al. The structure of dendroxine. The third alkaloid from Dendrobium nobile. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). (1966)
  8. ^ a b Yang LC, et al. Identification of medical Dendrobium herbs by ISSR marker. Zhong Yao Cai. (2010)
  9. ^ A direct synthesis of denbinobin.
  10. ^ Bioactive Bibenzyl Derivatives and Fluorenones from Dendrobium nobile.
  11. ^ Jin J, et al. Dendroflorin retards the senescence of MRC-5 cells. Pharmazie. (2008)
  12. ^ Tsai AC, et al. Moscatilin, a bibenzyl derivative from the India orchid Dendrobrium loddigesii, suppresses tumor angiogenesis and growth in vitro and in vivo. Cancer Lett. (2010)
  13. ^ Li Y, et al. Four new bibenzyl derivatives from Dendrobium candidum. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). (2009)
  14. ^ Li Y, et al. Three new bibenzyl derivatives from Dendrobium candidum. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). (2009)
  15. ^ Song JX, et al. Chrysotoxine, a novel bibenzyl compound selectively antagonizes MPP⁺, but not rotenone, neurotoxicity in dopaminergic SH-SY5Y cells. Neurosci Lett. (2012)
  16. ^ Zhao C, et al. Copacamphane, picrotoxane, and alloaromadendrane sesquiterpene glycosides and phenolic glycosides from Dendrobium moniliforme. J Nat Prod. (2003)
  17. ^ Sritularak B, Anuwat M, Likhitwitayawuid K. A new phenanthrenequinone from Dendrobium draconis. J Asian Nat Prod Res. (2011)
  18. ^ Sritularak B, Duangrak N, Likhitwitayawuid K. A new bibenzyl from Dendrobium secundum. Z Naturforsch C. (2011)
  19. ^ Hu JM, et al. Two novel bibenzyls from Dendrobium trigonopus. J Asian Nat Prod Res. (2008)
  20. ^ Li Q, et al. Isolation and structural characterization of a neutral polysaccharide from the stems of Dendrobium densiflorum. Int J Biol Macromol. (2012)
  21. ^ Sattayasai N, et al. Dendrobium findleyanum agglutinin: production, localization, anti-fungal activity and gene characterization. Plant Cell Rep. (2009)
  22. ^ Pitakdantham W, et al. Isolation and characterization of chalcone synthase gene isolated from Dendrobium Sonia Earsakul. Pak J Biol Sci. (2010)
  23. ^ Zheng WP, et al. Dihydroayapin, a new coumarin compound from Dendrobium densiflorum. J Asian Nat Prod Res. (2000)
  24. ^ Meng H, et al. Molecular cloning and expression analysis of sucrose synthase gene from Dendrobium officinale. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. (2011)
  25. ^ Li Y, et al. Chemical constituents of Dendrobium candidum. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. (2010)
  26. ^ Bi ZM, et al. Studies on the chemical constituents of Dendrobium fimbriatum. Yao Xue Xue Bao. (2003)
  27. ^ a b c d Xiao L, et al. Dendrobium candidum extract increases the expression of aquaporin-5 in labial glands from patients with Sjögren's syndrome. Phytomedicine. (2011)
  28. ^ Steinfeld S, et al. Abnormal distribution of aquaporin-5 water channel protein in salivary glands from Sjögren's syndrome patients. Lab Invest. (2001)
  29. ^ Krane CM, et al. Salivary acinar cells from aquaporin 5-deficient mice have decreased membrane water permeability and altered cell volume regulation. J Biol Chem. (2001)
  30. ^ Lin X, et al. Dendrobium officinale polysaccharides ameliorate the abnormality of aquaporin 5, pro-inflammatory cytokines and inhibit apoptosis in the experimental Sjögren's syndrome mice. Int Immunopharmacol. (2011)
  31. ^ Yang H, Sung SH, Kim YC. Antifibrotic phenanthrenes of Dendrobium nobile stems. J Nat Prod. (2007)
  32. ^ Pan LH, et al. Preventive effect of a galactoglucomannan (GGM) from Dendrobium huoshanense on selenium-induced liver injury and fibrosis in rats. Exp Toxicol Pathol. (2011)
  33. ^ Hwang JS, et al. Phenanthrenes from Dendrobium nobile and their inhibition of the LPS-induced production of nitric oxide in macrophage RAW 264.7 cells. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. (2010)
  34. ^ Sánchez-Duffhues G, et al. Denbinobin, a naturally occurring 1,4-phenanthrenequinone, inhibits HIV-1 replication through an NF-kappaB-dependent pathway. Biochem Pharmacol. (2008)
  35. ^ Liu XF, et al. Orally administered Dendrobium officinale and its polysaccharides enhance immune functions in BALB/c mice. Nat Prod Commun. (2011)
  36. ^ Wu KG, et al. A pilot study evaluating the clinical and immunomodulatory effects of an orally administered extract of Dendrobium huoshanense in children with moderate to severe recalcitrant atopic dermatitis. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. (2011)