Xi Shu

Camptotheca acuminata

Herbs gallery - Xi Shu

Common names

  • Cancer Tree
  • Happy Tree
  • Tree of Joy
  • Xi Shu

Xi shu (botanical name Camptotheca acuminata) belongs to the Nyssaceae family and is a huge tree growing up to a height of 25 meters having thin reddish-brown bark and a small number of branches close to its apex.

This tree produces shiny green, leathery leaves, while the small, white flowers have curved heads. Currently, herbalists are developing cultivars having more yields of active compounds.

As is evident from the name of the tree, it is native to China and currently, it is cultivated in the form of an ornamental tree in various countries, such as the United States, India and Japan.

In China, Xi shu has been categorized in the list of endangered plants and, hence, exports of Camptotheca acuminata from China have been restricted.

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In China people have named this tree as the happy tree owing to its effectiveness in treating a number of ailments and colds. The American species of xi shu is known as Camptotheca. This particular tree has been used since long past in Chinese herbal medicine.

For several centuries, xi shu has been effective in treating conditions like liver ailments, psoriasis, stomach problems, gallbladder disease as well as ailments of the spleen.

Xi shu encloses a chemical substance known as camptothecin, a medication that is used for treating various forms of cancer. Findings of numerous researches with xi shu have demonstrated that the extracts obtained from this tree inhibit tumors or cancerous growth.

It is interesting to note that many anti-cancer medications have been developed from camptothecin. Two such drugs have been approved for sale and use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It has been proved that using xi shu is safe and it does not cause any harm to the body. However, it is advisable that when you are using this herb to treat any health condition, you should essentially consult a qualified and competent medical practitioner.

This herb should never be used to treat any form of cancer unless the patient is under the supervision and care of a physician. Currently, scientists have undertaken a number of studies with this tree in Texas, where it is being grown. In addition, xi shu is also being studied by researchers at the Louisiana State University.

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Parts used

Wood, bark, leaf, fruit.


Camptotheca is known by several names in the land of its origin - China. Xi shu literally translated into English denotes a 'happy tree' and has been known by this name by people who have been cured of colds as well as other ailments by using this herb.

This tree has several other names, such as long shu (dragon tree), tian zi shu (heaven wood tree) and jia shu (fine tree). Apart from using this tree for therapeutic purpose, the Chinese have used xi shu in the form of firewood as well as an ornamental plant.

It may be noted here that the American species of xi shu is actually offspring of two trees that have been germinated and purchased from China in the 1930s.

For several hundred or possibly even thousand years now, the Chinese have employed xi shu as a traditional medication. In effect, they have used this herb to treat psoriasis as well as to cure ailments related to the stomach, liver, spleen and gallbladder.

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Interestingly enough, xi shu has also been employed to cure leukemia. In effect, 'cancer tree' is one of the common names of Camptotheca. The major active constituent of Camptotheca called camptothecin is known to be effective in treating cancer.

This element actually slows down the secretion of topoisomerase I, an enzyme related to cell division as well replication of the DNA. It has been found that camptothecin actually stunts the growth of tumours by slowing down the production of this particular enzyme.

Several other anti-cancer drugs have been developed using camptothecin and two among these have even been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for sale and use to treat different forms of cancer.

While the prescription drug Topotecan, which has been modified from camptothecin, is given to patients suffering from ovarian and small lung cancers, the other medication developed from camptothecin is irinotecan, which is used to treat metastatic colorectal cancer (a form of cancer which develops in the colon or rectum and subsequently extends to other parts of the body).

In effect, today metastatic colorectal cancer is the second most important cause of deaths owing to cancer in the United States. It may be noted here that other anti-cancer drugs developed from camptothecin are not used any longer owing to their acute toxicity.

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Habitat and cultivation

As aforementioned, xi shu (Camptotheca acuminata) is native to China and Tibet. This tree grows most excellently in places having warm and damp climatic conditions. Xi shu can also grow and thrive in sunny positions and soil having rich humus content. Xi shu loathes drying out.


Chemical analysis of xi shu has revealed that it contains camptothecine, a pentacyclic quinoline alkaloid, which is the main chemical compound present in this herb.

Precisely speaking the stem bark of the tree contains approximately 0.01 per cent, root bark contains 0.02 per cent, while the fruits of the tree enclose 0.03 per cent of camptothecine.

It may be noted that camptothecine is not very water soluble and results in acute side effects like hemorrhagic cystitis and diarrhea.

Therefore, a variety of partially synthetic equivalents have been developed - counting 9-amino-20S-camptothecine, topotecan (Hyacamptin) and irinotecan (which is also called irinotecan hydrochloride trihydrate, Camptosar or CPT-II).

It has been proved that camptothecine possesses cytostatic as well as anti-tumour actions. However, it is also somewhat noxious.

The herb's anti-cancer actions is owing to the exceptional competence of camptothecine as well as associated compounds to slow down the production of the nuclear DNA topoisomerase I enzyme, which actually disrupts the reproduction as well as duplication of cancerous cells.

As mentioned earlier, camptothecin (a pentacyclic quinoline alkaloid) is the most active constituent of xi shu. The tree's root bark, stem bark as well as the seeds have the aptitude to yield some amounts of camptothecin. However, the maximum concentration of this alkaloid is found in the young and tender leaves of this tree.

Usual dosage

Genuine alkaloids obtained from xi shu, for instance camptothecine, are administered to patients via intravenous drip. If you are using irinotecan, the dosage is 100 mg per m² of the patient's body surface in a weekly therapy repeated six times or more. In folk medicine, lesser potent infusions are employed.


From Tim - Mar-04-2014
I always drink xi shu herbal tea after a heavy meal. I find it good for the liver and spleen.
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