• Dr. Bill Rawls

    ABOUT BILL RAWLS, M.D.

    Dr. Rawls' groundbreaking approach to wellness comes from decades of practicing medicine, extensive research in alternative therapies, and firsthand experience helping thousands find their path to wellness. Dr. Rawls is a best-selling author, Medical Director and Co-Founder of Vital Plan, a holistic health company and Certified B Corporation.
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  • Japanese Knotweed (Resveratrol)
    Japanese Knotweed (Resveratrol)
    By Vital Plan
    Reviewed by Bill Rawls, MD
    Medical Director of Vital Plan

    Summary | What is it? | Benefits and How It Works | History & Traditional Use |
    How to Use and Dosing | Interactions | Precautions & Side Effects | References

    QUICK FACTS

    Common name: Japanese Knotweed
    Scientific name: Polygonum cuspidatum
    Other names: Hu zhang (Chinese), Kojo (Japanese), Mexican bamboo, Fallopia japonica, ​​Reynoutria japonica
    Location: Native to Japan and China, but now grows worldwide in temperate climates
    Known for: An excellent source of trans-resveratrol, the active form of resveratrol that is more readily absorbed by the body
    Part Used: Rhizomes (roots)
    Fun fact: Japanese knotweed was originally carried from Japan and China to Great Britain to be used as an ornamental garden plant.
    Good for: Fighting chronic infections, microbiome balance, immune health, cardiovascular support, liver protection, brain health
    Key Properties & Actions: Antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective, immunomodulator, antitumor

    Summary

    Japanese knotweed is an herbaceous perennial plant native to Japan and China that grows persistently across the world. It is a potent source of resveratrol and other phytochemicals that offer powerful medicinal benefits.

    What is Japanese Knotweed?

    A good word to describe Japanese knotweed is tenacious. Native to Japan and China, it was carried to Great Britain for use as an ornamental garden plant. From there, it was brought to Canada, the United States, and New Zealand, where it is now considered a rapidly expanding invasive.

    Japanese knotweed is an attractive plant that looks like bamboo but with broad leaves. Once planted, the rhizome (root) expands rapidly, pushing out any other plants in the vicinity.

    white japanese knotweed flowers growing between large green leaves

    While horticulturists have declared war on this invasive, herbalists are
    celebrating
    . Those tenacious rhizomes contain potent bioactive substances like trans-resveratrol, an active form of resveratrol (an age-defying and life-enhancing compound) that is best absorbed and utilized by the body.

    Beyond resveratrol, Japanese knotweed contains a wide spectrum of chemical compounds offering impressive benefits. Together, these substances offer antimicrobial activity, immune balance, cardiovascular support, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, liver protection, and nerve protection.

    Benefits of Japanese Knotweed and How It Works

    Source of Resveratrol

    Resveratrol is a natural antioxidant found in red wine, grapes, and the roots of Japanese knotweed. Modern research has shown this compound to contain strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, as well as properties that offer protection to the cardiovascular system and immune system.1

    Trans-resveratrol is the chemical form of resveratrol best absorbed and utilized by the body. While red grapes are high in resveratrol, it must be converted into trans-resveratrol in the body. Japanese knotweed contains mostly trans-resveratrol, making it a preferred source of the compound.

    Antimicrobial Support

    Japanese knotweed is a systemic antimicrobial providing activity against a wide range of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and yeast. Japanese knotweed contains phytochemical constituents that are known to pass across the blood-brain barrier, raising interesting therapeutic possibilities for brain health and the imbalances of the brain microbiome.

    Recent in vitro research out of John Hopkins University (JHU) supports the anecdotal findings of the clinical use of Japanese knotweed for combating tick-borne diseases.

    A 2020 JHU study found Japanese knotweed to be highly active against Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacteria that causes Lyme disease.2 While another study published in 2021 demonstrated the herb’s ability to inhibit Babesia duncani, a parasite acquired from ticks that sometimes presents as a coinfection alongside Lyme disease.3

    Beyond this impressive emerging research on tick-borne diseases, many other studies also demonstrate Japanese knotweed’s ability to fight various microbes.

    A 2013 in vitro study showed that Japanese knotweed can inhibit Aspergillus fumigatus, a mold that can cause allergic reactions and respiratory illness, as well as Staphylococcus aureus, a staph bacteria that is normally harmless but under the right conditions can cause an antibiotic-resistant infection.4

    Emodin and resveratrol are two of the phytochemicals found in Japanese knotweed roots that have antiviral activity. These bioactive compounds have shown in vitro activity against Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), SARS-CoV-2, human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), and more.5

    Immune Balance

    ​​Japanese knotweed is recognized as an immunomodulator, meaning it can calm overactive portions of the immune system while also boosting immunity against pathogens. It is especially useful for balancing immune system functions disrupted by chronic stress and microbes.

    In a 2015 animal study, healthy mice were given a Japanese knotweed extract for three weeks to assess its effects on the immune system. The researchers found that the Japanese knotweed extract stimulated immune cells and enhanced immune functions like phagocytosis, a cellular process that can help destroy harmful microbes.6

    close up of white japanese knotweed flowers growing on stem

    Cardiovascular Support

    Resveratrol offers significant cardiovascular benefits, including support for optimal heart function, enhanced blood flow via dilation of blood vessels, enhanced integrity of blood vessel walls, and reduced blood viscosity (thickness).

    In a 2014 randomized human clinical trial, a combination of Japanese knotweed extract and hawthorn extract was found to inhibit atherosclerosis as effectively as a statin medication. The authors suggested this effect was due to the herb’s anti-inflammatory actions and ability to reduce tissue damage.7

    Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Activity

    Japanese knotweed possesses potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that protect the brain, gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, and liver.

    In a 2020 animal study, Japanese knotweed extract demonstrated its ability to protect stomach lining and reduce stomach ulcers through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.8

    Japanese knotweed can also be helpful in counteracting the inflammation and oxidative stress that can sometimes accompany physical exercise.

    In a 2013 double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trial, researchers gave 20 healthy male professional basketball players 200 mg of Japanese knotweed extract standardized to 20% trans-resveratrol daily for six weeks.

    After six weeks, inflammatory markers were significantly reduced in those taking the supplement, while those taking the placebo had no observable change. A suggested mechanism of action was the inhibition of pro-inflammatory pathways like NF-κB.1

    Brain Health

    Japanese knotweed and its key phytochemical resveratrol offer a wide range of benefits to the brain.

    Resveratrol can help balance the HPA axis (a complex feedback system that regulates the body’s reaction to stress), reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain, enhance the growth of new nerve tissue, and increase neurotransmitter production.9

    These mechanisms can help to improve mood and cognitive functions, protect the brain from excessive aging, and more.

    Resveratrol can also increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that plays a pivotal role in neuroplasticity and overall brain health.

    A 2015 animal study assessed the effect resveratrol had on decreased BDNF and depressive-like behaviors due to stress. The study found that resveratrol mitigated these effects by regulating the HPA axis and increasing brain levels of BDNF.10

    Additionally, in vitro studies show that resveratrol can reduce amyloid beta, the primary component of plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.9 While the jury is still out on the exact role of amyloid beta buildup in the progression of Alzheimer’s, Japanese knotweed may be an important herb to keep an eye on.

    History & Traditional Use

    Japanese knotweed has an extensive history of traditional use in both China and Japan for infections, inflammation, liver issues, and skin issues.11

    The root is listed in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, an official compilation of traditional Chinese and western medicines. In traditional Chinese medicine, the root is used to support the liver, promote blood circulation, and support the respiratory system.12

    Chinese herbal medicine knotweed stalk close-up

    Japanese knotweed is also used as a food in many Asian countries, often being compared to asparagus or rhubarb. In China and Japan, the young shoots are harvested and preserved in salt or cooked fresh.

    Additionally, Japanese knotweed is prepared and consumed as a tea in China and Japan. This form of preparation is known as itadori, a Japanese word that translates to “removes pain”.13

    How to Use and Dosing

    The general suggested dosage for a Japanese knotweed powdered extract is 200-800 mg (standardized to 50% trans-resveratrol) two to three times daily.

    If using a tincture, general dosing is 1-2 mL up to three times daily.

    For added cardiovascular support, Japanese knotweed can be combined with other herbs like hawthorn, garlic, ginkgo, gotu kola, and reishi mushroom.

    To support immune function and balance the microbiome, Japanese knotweed combines well with andrographis, berberine, cat’s claw, Chinese skullcap, and garlic.

    Interactions

    Caution is advised if also taking anticoagulant medications like warfarin because resveratrol has blood-thinning properties.

    Always check with your health care practitioner before use if you are taking medications. For more general education on potential interactions between herbs and medications, check out Dr. Bill Rawls’ article: Is it Safe to Take Herbs with My Medications?

    Precautions & Side effects

    Side effects are rare, with a low potential for toxicity. Japanese knotweed has been used in traditional forms of Asian medicine for thousands of years and offers a high level of safety. Check with your health care provider before using Japanese knotweed if you are pregnant or nursing.

    Disclaimer: This information is intended only as general education and should not be substituted for professional medical advice. Any mentioned general dosage options, safety notices, or possible interactions with prescription drugs are for educational purposes only and must be considered in the context of each individual’s health situation and the quality and potency of the product being used. Use this information only as a reference in conjunction with the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

    The Cellular Wellness Solution

    Discover more in Dr. Bill Rawls’ new #1 Bestselling book: The Cellular Wellness Solution: Tap Into Your Full Health Potential with the Science-Backed Power of Herbs.

    An eye-opening and empowering book that the world needs right now: The Cellular Wellness Solution will fundamentally change how you think about herbs and the powerful role they play in cultivating wellness at the cellular level.”

    Mark Hyman5 stars
    Mark Hyman, MD
    Fourteen-time #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

    Want to See the Science? Check Out Our References Below.

    1. Zahedi HS, Jazayeri S, Ghiasvand R, Djalali M, Eshraghian MR. Effects of polygonum cuspidatum containing resveratrol on inflammation in male professional basketball players. Int J Prev Med. 2013;4(Suppl 1):S1-S4.
    2. Feng J, Leone J, Schweig S, Zhang Y. Evaluation of Natural and Botanical Medicines for Activity Against Growing and Non-growing Forms of B. burgdorferi. Front Med (Lausanne). 2020;7:6. Published 2020 Feb 21. doi:10.3389/fmed.2020.00006
    3. Zhang Y, Alvarez-Manzo H, Leone J, Schweig S, Zhang Y. Botanical Medicines Cryptolepis sanguinolenta, Artemisia annua, Scutellaria baicalensis, Polygonum cuspidatum, and Alchornea cordifolia Demonstrate Inhibitory Activity Against Babesia duncani. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2021;11:624745. Published 2021 Mar 8. doi:10.3389/fcimb.2021.624745
    4. Zhang L, Ravipati AS, Koyyalamudi SR, et al. Anti-fungal and anti-bacterial activities of ethanol extracts of selected traditional Chinese medicinal herbs. Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2013;6(9):673-681.
    doi:10.1016/S1995-7645(13)60117-0
    5. Jug U, Naumoska K, Malovrh T. Japanese Knotweed Rhizome Bark Extract Inhibits Live SARS-CoV-2 In Vitro. Bioengineering (Basel). 2022;9(9):429. Published 2022 Sep 1. doi:10.3390/bioengineering9090429
    6. Chueh FS, Lin JJ, Lin JH, Weng SW, Huang YP, Chung JG. Crude extract of Polygonum cuspidatum stimulates immune responses in normal mice by increasing the percentage of Mac-3-positive cells and enhancing macrophage phagocytic activity and natural killer cell cytotoxicity. Mol Med Rep. 2015;11(1):127-132. doi:10.3892/mmr.2014.2739
    7. Liu LT, Zheng GJ, Zhang WG, Guo G, Wu M. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2014;39(6):1115-1119.
    8. Kim YS, Nam Y, Song J, Kim H. Gastroprotective and Healing Effects of Polygonum cuspidatum Root on Experimentally Induced Gastric Ulcers in Rats. Nutrients. 2020;12(8):2241. Published 2020 Jul 27. doi:10.3390/nu12082241
    9. Moore A, Beidler J, Hong MY. Resveratrol and Depression in Animal Models: A Systematic Review of the Biological Mechanisms. Molecules. 2018;23(9):2197. Published 2018 Aug 30. doi:10.3390/molecules23092197
    10. Ali SH, Madhana RM, K V A, et al. Resveratrol ameliorates depressive-like behavior in repeated corticosterone-induced depression in mice. Steroids. 2015;101:37-42. doi:10.1016/j.steroids.2015.05.010
    11. Peng W, Qin R, Li X, Zhou H. Botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology, and potential application of Polygonum cuspidatum Sieb.et Zucc.: a review. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013;148(3):729-745. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.05.007
    12. Zhang H, Li C, Kwok ST, Zhang QW, Chan SW. A Review of the Pharmacological Effects of the Dried Root of Polygonum cuspidatum (Hu Zhang) and Its Constituents. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:208349. doi:10.1155/2013/208349
    13. Burns J, Yokota T, Ashihara H, Lean ME, Crozier A. Plant foods and herbal sources of resveratrol. J Agric Food Chem. 2002;50(11):3337-3340. doi:10.1021/jf0112973
    14. Rege SD, Geetha T, Griffin GD, Broderick TL, Babu JR. Neuroprotective effects of resveratrol in Alzheimer disease pathology. Front Aging Neurosci. 2014;6:218. Published 2014 Sep 11. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2014.00218
    15. Guan SY, Zhang K, Wang XS, et al. Anxiolytic effects of polydatin through the blockade of neuroinflammation in a chronic pain mouse model. Mol Pain. 2020;16:1744806919900717. doi:10.1177/1744806919900717
    16. Ghanim H, Sia CL, Abuaysheh S, et al. An antiinflammatory and reactive oxygen species suppressive effects of an extract of Polygonum cuspidatum containing resveratrol. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010;95(9):E1-E8. doi:10.1210/jc.2010-0482
    17. Ma X, Leone J, Schweig S, Zhang Y. Botanical Medicines With Activity Against Stationary Phase Bartonella henselae. Infectious Microbes and Diseases. 2021;3(3):158-167. doi:10.1097/im9.0000000000000069

    *This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult your qualified healthcare provider before beginning any diet or program.
    About the Medical Director
    Dr. Bill Rawls
    Dr. Rawls is a licensed medical doctor in North Carolina and a leading expert in integrative health. He has extensive training in alternative therapies, and is the Medical Director of Vital Plan, a holistic health and herbal supplement company in Raleigh, NC.
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