Benefits, Side Effects, and Preparations of Ligustrum

Ligustrum tincture

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Ligustrum (Ligustrum lucidum), also known as glossy privet, is an herbal supplement originating from China and eastern Asia. Having spread in popularity, it can now be found and grown as brush cover in gardens and landscapes in the United States. "Ligustrum is commonly used in Chinese herbal formulations for its positive impact on the immune system and to assist in fighting infections.

Health Benefits

In vitro studies have shown that ligustrum has properties that could enhance the immune system and fight infections, but there have not yet been studied in humans showing a clinical benefit.

When originally used in China, ligustrum, taken in the form of a tonic, was used for other conditions including premature aging and tinnitus or ringing in the ears.

Ligustrum is also reportedly used to treat impaired vision, dizziness, fever, and insomnia. However, there is limited research to support the present-day use of ligustrum for these purposes.

In vitro studies also have shown ligustrum has anti-tumor, anti-oxidative, hepatoprotective, and anti-diabetic properties. There have not been enough studies to prove the efficacy of ligustrum for these purposes in humans.

Oleanolic acid or ligustrin is the primary active ingredient in ligustrum. The anti-tumor properties of ligustrum are thought to result from reversing macrophage suppression, increasing phagocytes and lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells. The glucosides in ligustrum have an antioxidant effect on the erythrocytes and associated free radicals. Oleanolic acid has been thought to increase the body’s ability to regenerate glutathione, resulting in hepatoprotection.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Berries from the privet shrub can be made into a tea by boiling them in water. Ligustrum powder can also be taken as a tincture or in capsule form.

It is safe for ligustrum in any form to be taken with astragalus, due to the similarity in their properties. The powder of each of these herbs can be mixed together in tea or formed into a tincture. It is also common to find pre-mixed herbal remedies with both ligustrum and astragalus, intended to promote improved immune functions. The powder form of ligustrum can also be mixed into food, as this has no known effect on the potency of the herb.

There are no specific storage instructions; however, it is good practice to keep herbs in a cool, dark place to increase their shelf life.

Possible Side Effects

It has been noted that those who have a sensitivity to ligustrum should avoid taking it in order to avoid complications from usage. Those who have allergies to plants such as olive, ash, and lilac should avoid taking ligustrum, as these plant species are of the same family and have similar characteristics, including allergic reactions.

Allergic reactions to ligustrum and plants of the same family include a runny nose and an increase in asthmatic symptoms. It is a good idea to seek medical advice before taking ligustrum if you have an allergy to olive, ash, or lilac. As with most herbal supplements, women who are pregnant and breastfeeding should avoid the use of ligustrum.

Common Questions

Is glossy privet poisonous to humans?

Berries from ligustrum shrubs found in nature can be poisonous to humans as well as animals in large quantities. It is important to note the ligustrum plant found in gardens and landscapes are different from the herb able to be ingested, though they are from the same family.

Is it safe to take ligustrum before going on a plane?

Many people like to take immune-boosting supplements to decrease their chances of picking up a common cold when in large public places. This is certainly safe to do; however, it should not substitute a diet full of the necessary vitamins and minerals, nor should it substitute basic hand hygiene and protective measures.

Be sure to consult with your doctor or healthcare professional before adding this or any supplement to your diet regularly.

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