Planta Med 2009; 75(10): 1107-1111
DOI: 10.1055/s-0029-1185468
Original Paper
© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Qianliguang (Senecio scandens) Safety Dilemma: Dose Is the Key?

Ge Lin1 , Song-Lin Li1 , Mi Li1 , Na Li1 , Sunny Sun-Kin Chan1 , Wood-Yee Chan2 , Zhong-Zhen Zhao3
  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong SAR
  • 2Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong SAR
  • 3School of Chinese Medicine, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong SAR
Further Information

Publication History

received Sept. 2, 2008 revised Feb. 2, 2009

accepted Feb. 5, 2009

Publication Date:
18 March 2009 (eFirst)


Qianliguang (Senecio scandens) is a common Chinese medicinal herb. Qianliguang-containing herbal proprietary products are registered as over-the-counter remedies in China and exported to Western countries. The safety of using Qianliguang and its products has raised general concerns because of a potential risk of the presence of hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). A systematic toxicological study is thus required to verify this public concern. In the present article, we report, for the first time, that S. scandens contains nine hepatotoxic PAs with a content of 6.95–7.19 µg/g. At a dose equivalent to the daily intake recommended by the Pharmacopoeia of China, the total content of toxic PAs in Qianliguang was determined to be 3.48 µg/kg/day, which is far below the lowest dose to cause hepatotoxicity (15 µg/kg/day) suggested by the International Program on Chemical Safety. No significant hepatotoxic effects were observed in rats fed with the extract at this human-equivalent dose for 14 consecutive days. However, a single overdose of the herbal water extract (6 g/kg), which was about 8-fold higher than the recommended dose, produced typical PA-induced hepatotoxicity in rats. Therefore, appropriate dosage guidelines should be implemented for the herbal industry, for export/import retailers, and for herbal medicine practitioners to ensure the safe and beneficial use of these herbal medicines.