Stephania cephalantha
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Menispermaceae
Subfamily: Menispermoideae
Genus: Stephania

Stephania is a genus of flowering plants in the family Menispermaceae, native to eastern and southern Asia and Australia. They are herbaceous perennial vines, growing to around four metres tall, with a large tuber. The leaves are arranged spirally on the stem and are peltate, with the leaf petiole attached near the centre of the leaf. The name Stephania comes from the Greek, "a crown". This refers to the anthers being arranged in a crown-like manner.[1]

One species, S. tetrandra, is among the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is called han fang ji (漢防己, "Chinese fang ji"). Other plants named fang ji are sometimes substituted for it. Other varieties substituted include Cocculus thunbergii, C. trulobus, Aristolochia fangchi, Stephania tetrandria, and Sinomenium acutum. Notable among these is guang fang ji (廣防己, "(GuangDong, GuangXi) fang ji", Aristolochia fangchi. Because of its toxicity, it is used in TCM only with great caution.

Selected species

There are about 45 species in the genus Stephania, native to the Far East and Australasia.[2] Species include:[3]

  • Stephania abyssinica (Quart.-Dill. & A.Rich.) Walp.
  • Stephania aculeata FM Bailey
  • Stephania bancroftii FM Bailey
  • Stephania brevipes Craib
  • Stephania capitata (Blume) Spreng.
  • Stephania cephalantha Hayata
  • Stephania corymbosa (Blume) Walp.
  • Stephania crebra Forman
  • Stephania elegans Hook.f. & Thomson
  • Stephania glabra (Roxb.) Miers
  • Stephania glandulifera Miers
  • Stephania gracilenta Miers
  • Stephania hernandiifolia (Willd.) Walp.
  • Stephania hispidula (Yamamoto) Yamamoto
  • Stephania japonica (Thunb.) Miers
Fossil species


Female flowers of Stephania delavayi

There is evidence that a few species of Stephania are toxic.[5] However, the most commonly available species in the United States, Stephania tetrandra, has not been shown to be toxic. Any confusion regarding the possible toxicity of Stephania tetrandra was entirely due to an inadvertent shipment of Aristolochia fangchi sent in its stead to a Belgian clinic in 1993. The errant batch of Aristolochia was later confirmed via phytochemical analysis.[6]


Chemical investigation of Stephania rotunda Lour. growing in Vietnam in 2005 led to the isolation and structural elucidation of three new alkaloids, 5-hydroxy-6,7-dimethoxy-3,4-dihydroisoquinolin-1(2H)-one, thaicanine 4-O-beta-D-glucoside, as well as (−)-thaicanine N-oxide (4-hydroxycorynoxidine), along with 23 known alkaloids.[7]


  1. ^ Les Robinson (2003). Field Guide to the Native Plants of Sydney. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-7318-1211-0.
  2. ^ Forman, L. L. (1988). "A Synopsis of Thai Menispermaceae". Kew Bulletin. 43 (3). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: 369–407. doi:10.2307/4118970. JSTOR 4118970.
  3. ^ GRIN. "GRIN Species Records of genus Stephania". Taxonomy for Plants. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
  4. ^ William Grant Craib, Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1922(8): 229, 1922.
  5. ^ [1] Journal of Ethnopharmacology 132 (2010). p. 380
  6. ^ Nunez, Kelvin R. (2006). Trends in Kidney Cancer Research. Vol. 18. Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers. p. 78. ISBN 1-59454-141-8.
  7. ^ Thuy, T. T; Porzel, A.; Franke, K.; Wessjohann, L.; Sung, T. V. (September 2005). "Isoquinolone and protoberberine alkaloids from Stephania rotunda". Die Pharmazie. 60 (9): 701–704. PMID 16222872.