Effectiveness Not Established

Indigowood Root

for Mucositis

Isatis indigotica Fort. (indigowood) is a medicinal plant belonging to the Brassicaceae family. Its root is a commonly used Chinese herb to remove toxic heat, to reduce heat in blood, and to relieve convulsions. According to modern medical research, the major components of radix of Isatis indigotica Fort. include indirubin, indigotone, and indigo pigment contents, with antivirus, fever detoxification, and anti-inflammatory efficacy. Indigowood root has been evaluated in mucositis.

Research Evidence Summaries

You, W. C., Hsieh, C. C., & Huang, J. T. (2009). Effect of extracts from indigowood root (isatis indigotica fort.) on immune responses in radiation-induced mucositis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), 15(7), 771-778.

Study Purpose

To evaluate the effect of indigowood root on acute mucositis induced by radiation

Intervention Characteristics/Basic Study Process

Patients gargled with 30 mL of double distilled water with 0.5g indigowood root (IR) powder for three minutes and then swallowed before meals daily. Control group did same with 30 mL of NS.

Sample Characteristics

The study was comprised of 20 patients; tx group N = 11, control group N = 9

Age Information: IR group mean age was 56.45 (SD = 10.57).

Control group mean was 57.89 (SD+ 13.11) P = 0.789. There were two females in the IR group and 0 in the control group. There were nine males in the IR group and nine in the control group.

Diagnosis Information: Nasopharyngeal cancer

Oropharyngeal, salivary gland


Single site Outpatient Tian Sheng Memorial Hospital Taiwan

Study Design

Randomized controlled trial

Measurement Instruments/Methods

  • NCI-CTC version 3
  • Body weight
  • Serum interleukin 1-beta; IL-6


IR group had reduced severity of mucositis (p = 0.01). anorexia (p = 0.002), and swallowing difficulty (p = 0.002). Serum interleukin-6 was significantly lower in the IR group during the first, fifth, and seventh weeks. Resting days were fewer in the IR group but not statistically significant; body weight decreased less in IR group (p = 0.06).


IR may be effective to reduce the severity of maximal mucositis and improved anorexia and swallowing ability. Indirubin may play a pharmaceutical role in improvement of radiation mucositis, anorexia, and difficulty in swallowing.


Small sample <30

Did not look at pain outcomes.

No information regarding adherence.

Nursing Implications

While this treatment may have some effect, the authors did not explore how the treatment was tolerated; patient adherence and side effects or medication interactions. Further research with this agent is warranted.