Anthraquinones and their medical
uses, are there risks? by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.
Four anthraquinones, physcion, emodin, citreorosein and anthraglycoside B, and two stilbenes, resveratrol, and piceid, are found in the root of Polygonum cuspidatum. Anthraquinone glycosides are poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract but are cleaved by gut bacteria to produce aglycones (such as emodin) that are more readily absorbed and are responsible for the purgative properties of these preparations.
Anthraquinones are moderate to strong inhibitors of tyrosinase. Physcion exhibit has potent tyrosinase inhibition and is comparable to kojic acid. Anthraquinones permeate skin. Physcion can permeate skin more potently than emodin. As naturally occurring tyrosinase inhibitors, anthraquinones from Polygonum cuspidatum may be useful as skin-whitening agents to inhibit tyrosinase for dermal use.
I am concerned with the promotion of the use of plants containing anthraquinones as they are a proven mutagen and carcinogen. I am an Art Professor and my wife and I are writing a book on sustainable andnon-toxic pigments in studio art practices. I have read several MSDS forms and spoken with several leading toxicologists including Dr. Woodhall Stopford at Duke. I know all plants have different quantities of anthriquinones. I am sure Rhubarb, Aloe, Madder, and Knotweed all have different concentrations. I am just concerned that the above mentioned plants if used chronically and used in a medicinal way could have mutagenic carcinogenic effect. Obviously this would vary from plant to plant. I read this study years ago on Rhubarb and the consumption of Charred Beef. It was about how injestion of charred beef is a carcinogen and eating Rhubarb after can have antioxidant and anti-mutigentic effects due to its purgative qualities. I know there are advantages to these medicinal plants. I know everything has their risks and benefits. I personally use Madder in my studio art practice. I have grown madder. It is a very sustainable source for paint pigments, but it a possible carcinogen. I am very cautious with the material as I know the risks. The only thing I am concerned with is that people do not know the risks. It is common with herbal, enzymatic, and amino acid therapies for people not to know the risks as people see them as innocuous as they are similar to food and things that are produced by the body. People who are consuming thee therapies definitely do not always do their research.