Cynomorium songaricum Rupr. and its relation C. coccineum L. are both exciting plants, uniquely placed in their own family the Cynomoriaceae. C. songaricum is an extremely interesting root parasitic plant which is widespread from the eastern Mediterranean to north western China. It has no chlorophyll and must gain its energy from other plants such as the Nitrariaceae. It has gained notoriety as a tonic in folk medicine because it is thought to improve male sexual capability, especially erectile dysfunction, to lengthen life, acts as a laxative and is used to treat back problems. In China, it is known as ‘Suo Yang’ and said to ‘nourish the kidney’ and ‘strengthen the yang’. The stem is eaten raw, cooked with meat and flour where it is known as ‘Bu Lao Yao’ which means ‘keeps people from becoming old’. The plant is also served as a tea and like Camellia based teas, acts as a stimulant or pick-me-up.
C. coccineum is found in more westerly regions such as North Africa, Malta and other parts of the Mediterranean. In the Islamic world it’s known as ‘Tarthuth’ and to the Europeans as the ‘Maltese Mushroom’. In the Arabic medical system, it is ‘the treasure of drugs’ and is used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure), venereal disease, irregular menstruation (Nickrent et al., 2005).
Compounds And Components
The active components in the genus Cynomorium have recently been comprehensively reviewed (Hao-Cong et al., 2013). Most recent studies in the area cover the antioxidant properties using DPPH (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl free radical) linked to HPLC were evaluated (Liu et al., 2011). These have previously been shown to scavenge various free radicals (Jiao et al., 2007) and superoxide anions (Lu et al., 2008).
The plant also contains triterpenes which has been shown to have inhibitory properties against the HIV-1 protease (Ma et al., 1999), the HCV-1 protease (Ma et al., 2009), and against α-glucosidase (Ma et al., 2010). The extract also contains a variety of organic acids, polysaccharides and flavonoids such as catechin (Tao et al., 1999; Zhou et al., 2009).
Clearly there is a great deal of interest in the plant and one which will continue to attract interest from all sorts of quarters.
Hao-Cong, M., Wang, S., Kuang, Y-Y., Chao-Mei. M.A. (2013) Chemical Constituents and Pharmacologic Actions Of Cynomorium Plants. Chin. J. Nat. Medicines 11(4) pp. 321-329
Jiao Y, Li CX, Ni LF, Li LY, Zhen, X.F. (2007) Research of antioxidant action of the Cynomorium songaricum Rupr. polysaccharide. Food Sci. Technol. 11 pp. 113–5.
Liu, Y., Li, H., Wang, X., Zhang, G., Wang, Y. Di, D. (2011) Evaluation of the Free Radical Scavenging Activity of Cynomorium songaricum Rupr. by a Novel DPPH-HPLC Method. J. Food Sci., 76 (9) C1245-C1249
Lu, Y., Wang, Q.G., Melzig, M.F., Jenett-Siems, K. (2008) Extracts of Cynomorium songaricum protect
SK-N-SH human neuroblastoma cells against staurosporine-induced apoptosis potentially through their radical scavenging activity. Phytother Res. 23 pp. 257–61.
Ma, C.M., Li XY, Nakamura N, Hattori M. 2010. Flavan-3-ol contents, antioxidative and α-glucosidase inhibitory activities of Cynomorium songaricum. Food Chem. 118 pp. 116–9.
Ma CM, Wei Y, Wang ZG, Hattori M. (2009) Triterpenes from Cynomorium songaricium-analysis of HCV protease inhibitory activity, quantification, and content change under the influence of heating. J Nat. Med. 63 pp. 9–14.
Ma CM, Nakamura N, Miyashiro H, Hattori M, Shimotohno K. (1999). Inhibitory effects of constituents from Cynomorium songaricum and related triterpene derivatives on HIV-1 protease. Chem. Pharm. Bull. 47 pp. 141–5.
Nickrent DL, Der JP, Anderson FE. Discovery of the photosynthetic relatives of the “Maltese mushroom” Cynomorium [J]. (2005) BMC Evol. Biol., 5 (1): p. 38.
Tao J, Tu PF, Xu WH, Chen, D.Y. (1999) Studies on chemical constituents and pharmacological effects of the stem of Cynomorium songaricum Rupr. China J. Chin. Mater. Med. 24 pp. 292–4.
Zhang, S.J., Liu, L., Yu, J.Y. (2003) Determination of catechin in herb Cynomorium by RP-HPLC. Chin. Pharm. J. 38 pp. 578–80.