Oxymatrine is an alkaloid derived from the root of sophora flavescens. Many plant alkaloids are used in medicine; the best known alkaloids are the opiates but others include quinine, atropine, vincristine and hallucinogenic plants such as datura and mandrake.
First isolated over 50 years ago the matrine alkaloids – matrines and oxymatrine – have been a focal point of Chinese medical research into the treatment of cancer, viral hepatitis, viral myocarditis and skin diseases such as psoriasis and excema over the past 15 years.
Oxymatrine has antiviral effects in cell cultures and some Chinese studies suggest it can reduce the viral load and liver damage in humans with hepatitis B. Some Chinese researchers suggest oxymatrine injections in combination with Chinese herbs may be as effective as interferon in treating hepatitis but without the side effects. A review of Chinese studies suggested oxymatrine may be able to increase blood flow, increase heart muscle contractility and reduce coxsackie virus activity in patients with viral myocarditis. It is believed to be effective against hepatitis B and C.
Oxymatrine is receiving increasing interest in the West with studies focusing on cancer, ischemia-reperfusion and hepatitis B in laboratory animals, culture studies, etc. Oxymatrine first appeared in the U.S. in tablet form in 1998.