Rootology is an herbal therapy for allergy and respiratory problems that is becoming quite popular. It utilizes a number of plants and herbs from traditional Chinese medicine. Ingredients used include xanthium fruit, magnolia flower, platycodon root, angelica root, Forsythia, cinnamon, schizonepeta, ledebauriella root, schiganda, chrysanthemum, anemarrhena root, philodendron bark and licorice root.
Once considered homeopathic by academic scientists, new research shows that many of these ingredients are truly allopathic (conventional). This in turn leads to the dichotomy that this therapy is indeed “real” medicine, but it also has the potential for significant side-effects or toxicity. These negatives can occur because there is no FDA regulation on the dosages of the various components.
To discuss a few components let’s start with the xanthium fruit – one of the most important Chinese remedies. It definitely can help nasal congestion and sinus headaches, but in too large a dose can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea — and, in overdoses, drowsiness, seizures and coma.
Platycodon root’s expectorant properties thin mucus and clear phlegm. It is generally very safe.
Angelica root helps stop runny nose, but in high doses causes uterine contractions. In extremely high doses it has been used to induce medical abortion.
Cinnamon has been used by the Chinese for 4,000 years. Research in Western academic centers reveals that the active ingredients are terpenoids and diterpenes, which have anti-microbial properties and anti-allergy benefits.
The schizonepeta thistle contains chemical compounds including menthol, cineole, hesperidin and caffeic acid – all of which can help headache and reduce inflammation.
Schiganda is a berry from Asia whose active compound is lignan, a known immune stimulant.
Anemarrhena root is a member of the lily family. The active chemical it contains is saponin, which helps chest congestion and bronchitis.
In very large doses it can severely lower blood pressure and cause cardiac irritability.
Finally licorice root: Its two main ingredients, glycyrrhin and flavonoids. Glycyrrhin inhibits cortisol breakdown, hence its anti-inflammation properties. However, in high doses the extra adrenal hormones can lower blood potassium levels. The flavonoids are antimicrobials and antioxidants.
The bottom line is Rootology has true medicinal potential but also possible toxicity. It should be taken only with the guidance of a trained Chinese herbalist.