The genus Atractylodes belongs to the family Asteraceae and comprises eight species of perennial herbs distributed in East Asia ():Atractylodes japonica Koidz. ex Kitam. in Japan, Korea, and China; Atractylodes koreana Kitam. (A. lancea var. simplicifolia Kitam.) () in Korea and China; Atractylodes lancea DC, Atractylodes chinensis Koidz. (A. lancea DC. var. chinensis Kitam.), Atractylodes ovata DC. (A. macrocephala Koidz.) and a few other species in China (Beijing Institute of Botany 1975). They grow wild, and some of them are cultivated in these countries as medicinal plants. Figure 1 shows A. lancea at the flowering stage. Flowers of Atractylodes are mostly (Institute of Materia Medica 1979) or entirely (Beijing Institute of Botany 1975) unisexual, and interspecific hybridization occurs ().
The chromosome number is 24 in somatic cells of A. chinensis (), A. lancea (), A. lancea DC. var. simplicifolia Kitam. (), and A. ovata ().
Usage of Atractylodes spp.
Although young shoots of A. japonica are served as a wild vegetable in Japan, Atractylodes plants are mainly of medicinal value. Their rhizomes are important crude drugs prescribed in various preparations of Chinese medicine as Jutsu in Japanese or Zhu in Chinese. Jutsu is classified into two groups according to the original plant; Sojutsu or Cangzhu originating from A. lancea and A. chinensis, Byakujutsu or Baizhu from A. macrocephala and A. japonica (Pharmacopeia of People’s Republic of China 1990; Pharmacopeia of Japan 1991). The former has antisudorific activity and the latter diaphortic activity. Both crude drugs are said to regulate water circulation in the human body and to improve stomachic disorders in general ().
Modern pharmacological studies on Jutsu disclosed various activities of this crude drug. Sojutsu has a depressive effect on the central nervous system (), antihepatotoxic activity due to β-eudesmol and hinesol (), bile secretion-promoting activity due to attractylodin (), ulcer-protective activity (), luteolytic activity (), intestinal motility enhancing effect due to β-eudesmol and hinesol (), and an antianoxic action due to β-eudesmol (). β-Eudesmol induced potentiation of depolarizing neuromuscular blockade in diaphragm muscles of mice (). Hinesol contracted guinea pig ileum (). This compound was isolated from A. lancea also as a chlorophyll-preserving principle ().
The Encyclopedia of Chinese Medicines (Jiangsu New Medical School 1975) describes positive experimental results in diuretic, blood-sugar lowering, anticoagulant, tonic, and antibacterial activities of this crude drug.
Atractylodes plants are perennial herbs of medicinal value, containing essential oils consisting of sesquiterpenes and acetylenic compounds.
Atractylodes lancea, Atractylodes ovata (Atractylodes macrocephala), and Atractylodes japonica were successfully micropropagated through shoot cultures. The micropropagated plants gave more homogeneous populations than the original plants, but need more than 3-4 years of cultivation to reach an essential oil content comparable to control plants propagated by division of the rhizome. Shoot cultures of Atractylodes lancea are able to survive refrigerated storage at 0-4 °C for 1 year without decrease in the proliferation rate.
Selections from the book: “Medicinal and Aromatic Plants V”, 1993.