Scutellaria Baicalensis/Baicalein Update

I am doing the groundwork for my Scutellaria baicalensis experiment, which has brought me to view a few new studies, such as one published in the November 2007 issue of “Molecular Cancer Therapeutics,” see abstract: (many thanks to a new friend for sending me the full study AND also to my friend Sherlock for trying to locate it).

Here’s a quick review taken from this study (you can also see my Page on Scutellaria baicalensis). Baicalein, extracted from the root of Scutellaria baicalensis, is an active flavonoid that has been found to have anticancer properties, leading “to cell cycle arrest and suppression of proliferation in cancer cells. And yes, in case you were wondering, that includes myeloma cells in vitro only, thus far. Hence, my upcoming experiment…on myself.

Baicalein (just like curcumin, let me add: see my link to the article on curcumin and survivin, right-hand side of my homepage) reduces the expression of survivin, a protein that inhibits apoptosis in cancer cells, including myeloma cells. If you need convincing that survivin (not to be confused with the adjective “SURVIVING,” by the way!) has relevance for myeloma, take a look at this February 2007 Leukemia abstract: My comment: survivin may be fascinating, but, according to the above-mentioned Molecular Cancer Therapeutics study, it is associated with decreased survival, unfavorable prognosis, and accelerated rates of recurrences in cancer therapy. Nothing “fascinating” about that, methinks…

Anyway, the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics study suggests that the inhibition of CDC2/cyclin B1 by baicalein contributes to the reduction of survivin and the proliferation inhibition in cancer cells. CDC2 is a kinase also present in myeloma…hmmm. Six flavonoids, baicalin, catechin, genistein, quercetin and rutin, in addition to baicalein, were examined by these researchers. The most toxic to bladder cancer cells was found to be baicalein, which was, and, this is significant!, NOT toxic to healthy cells. Does that sound familiar?

I have read the same thing over and over again: Toxic to cancer cells, Not Toxic to healthy cells! Okay, so where ARE the clinical trials!?! Well, quelle coincidence (!), since I wrote my May 31st post on Scutellaria baicalensis, two more clinical trials testing Scutellaria-derived substances have been added to the one I mentioned. One is testing an aqueous extract from herba Scutellaria Barbata D. Don on metastatic breast cancer patients; the other is testing a botanic formulation called PHY906, consisting of: Scutellariae baicalensis Georgi, white peony root, licorice, and the fruit of Fructus ziziphi (date). According to the patent application (see:, This specific formulation was established more than 1500 years ago for the treatment of diarrhea, abdominal spasms, fever, headache, vomiting, nausea, extreme thirst, and subcardial distention,” and “each herb possesses a distinct pharmacological profile that includes anticancer and antiviral activity, hematological and immunological stimulation, analgesic activity, vasodilation, liver protection, antioxidation, and appetite improvement. PHY906 is being tested together with a chemo drug on advanced pancreatic cancer patients. Well, three trials are better than just one, I suppose. If you want to read more about these trials, just go to

Speaking of clinical trials, according to the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics study, Although this study provides the potential cancer therapy of baicalein by human cancerous cells in vitro, the human cancer therapeutics by baicalein or combination of the survivin gene knockdown need to be determined by in vivo model before clinical trials. Moreover, the possible pharmacokinetic and toxicologic barriers need further characterization. Very true, but let me point out that Scutellaria baicalensis has been used as an anti-inflammatory remedy in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2000 years to treat fevers, hypertension, coughing, and other ailments, according to Drugs dot com (see: This brings me to my warnings section.

Warnings: according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering website, Scutellaria baicalensis MAY cause stupor, confusion, and seizures. Am I worried about that? Naaaah, not in the slightest. In the past, I have taken HUGE doses of antibiotics, even recently (now that I think about it), and if you paid any attention to the list of possible side effects associated with half the stuff you take for common ailments, you wouldn’t let it come within a few meters of you, let alone swallow it (or, worse, have your mother-in-law inject it into your hip, as happened to me earlier this fall when I was forced to take elephant-doses of antibiotics for a case of acute bronchitis…). The only other big warning about Scutellaria is that it may interact with cyclosporine, a drug that suppresses the immune system. And then there are the usual pregnancy or breastfeeding warnings, which don’t apply to my case anyway.

Final note: I would like to take this opportunity to thank the two people who have been sending me the full studies that give more “flesh” to my blog posts. One is my beloved Italian friend Sherlock, the other lives and works in the U.S. Thanks to them, I now have the FULL studies of the abstracts that I quoted in my first baicalein post. And much much more! Thank you so very very very much, both of you. Now, I just have to find the time to read all this stuff…eh!!!

True Or Not, It’s A Great Story!

One of my blog readers (thank you!) sent me this story, which gave me quite a few chuckles. Before telling the story, though, I just wanted to reassure all of Peekaboo’s many fans that she is doing just fine, scampering about, terrorizing the other cats…in sum, she’s as mischievous as ever! Ok, here goes:

The following concerns a question in a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen: “Describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer.”

One student replied: “You tie a long piece of string to the neck of the barometer, then lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building.”

This highly original answer so incensed the examiner that the student was failed immediately. He appealed on the grounds that his answer was indisputably correct, and the university appointed an independent arbiter to decide the case. The arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but did not display any noticeable knowledge of physics. To resolve the problem, it was decided to call the student in and allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer which showed at least a minimal familiarity with the basic principles of physics. For five minutes the student sat in silence, forehead creased in thought. The arbiter reminded him that time was running out, to which the student replied that he had several extremely relevant answers, but couldn’t make up his mind which to use. On being advised to hurry up the student replied as follows:

“Firstly, you could take the barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H =0.5g x t squared. But bad luck on the barometer.”

“Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper’s shadow, and thereafter it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper.”

“But if you wanted to be highly scientific about it, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T = 2 pi square root (l / g).”

“Or if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer lengths, then add them up.”

“If you merely wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, of course, you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof of the skyscraper and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building.”

But since we are constantly being exhorted to exercise independence of mind and apply scientific methods, undoubtedly the best way would be to knock on the janitor’s door and say to him ‘If you would like a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper’.”

The student was Nils Bohr, the only Dane to win the Nobel prize for Physics. 🙂