Health benefits of Ophiopogon (Mondo Grass)

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Ophiopogon Quick Facts
Name: Ophiopogon
Scientific Name: Ophiopogon japonicus
Origin East Asia – China (Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Shandong, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang), India, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines
Colors Blue violet
Shapes Berry sub globose to ellipsoid–globose, 5–9 mm in diameter
Taste Sweet, bitter
Health benefits Support for Inflammation, Immune System, Coughs and Respiratory Problems, Cancer, Blood Flow, Diabetes and treat sores.
Ophiopogon japonicus commonly known as Ophiopogon, dwarf lilyturf or monkeygrass is an evergreen, perennial plant of the Liliaceae (Lily family). The plant is native to East Asia – China (Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Shandong, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Zhejiang), India, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines – Luzon (Benguet Province) and Mindanao (Mt. Apo). Apart from Ophiopogon it is also known as Dragon’s Beard, Dwarf Lily turf, Fountain Plant, Mondo Grass, Japanese Lily Turf, Japanese Snake’s Beard, Liriopogon, Monkey Grass, Snake’s Beard, Dwarf mondo grass, Black dragon grass, Dragon’s beard grass, Mai men dong, Kokuryu, Aztec grass and creeping lily-turf.

Genus name comes from the Greek ophis meaning snake and pogon meaning beard. Specific epithet means of Japan in reference to native habitat. Gyoku-ryu’ is a dwarf mondo grass cultivar that forms a dense carpet to only 1-2 inches tall. Tiny, pale lavender flowers bloom on short stalks in summer, but are often hidden from view by the leaves. Although some people think Mondo grass is a type of grass, it is actually a type of lily. The plant is often cultivated as a medicinal plant in China. It is also often grown in the ornamental garden as a ground cover.  It is often sold as a decorative plant for freshwater aquaria, but because it is not a true aquatic plant, it can live for a few months underwater before it dies. While hardy to temperatures of about – 20°C when dormant in winter outdoors in normal soil, when kept fully submerged, it requires water temperatures of 18–25°C. It grows well in full sun or partial shade. Propagation is from side shoots.

Ophiopogon Facts

Name Ophiopogon
Scientific Name Ophiopogon japonicus
Native East Asia – China (Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Shandong, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang), India, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines – Luzon (Benguet Province) and Mindanao (Mt. Apo)
Common Names Dragon’s Beard, Dwarf Lily turf, Fountain Plant, Mondo Grass, Japanese Lily Turf, Japanese Snake’s Beard, Liriopogon, Monkey Grass, Ophiopogon, Snake’s Beard, Dwarf mondo grass, Black dragon grass, Dragon’s beard grass, Mai men dong, Kokuryu, Aztec grass, creeping lily-turf
Name in Other Languages Azerbaijani: Yapon ofiopoqonu
Brazil : Grama Preta
Chinese : Mai Dong (麦冬), Mai Men Dong
Croatian: Japanska trava              
Czech : Sedoulek Japonský
Danish : Japansk Slangeskæg
Dutch : Japanse Slangenbaard, Ophiopogonus, Japans slangengras, slangebaard              
English: Dwarf lilyturf, Mondo-grass, Ophiopogon, Snake’s-beard, Lily turf grass, monkey grass
Finnish: Mukulakäärmeenparta
French : Herbe Aux Turquoises, Muguet Du Japon, Ophiopogon, barbe de serpent
German : Japanischer Schlangenbart
Italian: Mughetto giapponese, mughetto rosa
Japanese: Ja-No-Hige (ジャノヒゲ), Ryu-No-Hige (リュウノヒゲ)
Korean : Jobnipmaekmundongajaebi, so yeop maek mun dong (소엽맥문동)
Persian: افیوپگن جاپنیکا
Philippines : Langigit
Portuguese : Grama-Preta, Ofi opógão-Do-Japão, Pêlo-De-Urso, Mini-grama-preta, Pelo-de-urso
Russian : Ofi opogon Japonskij, ofiopogon yaponskiy (офиопогон японский)
Spanish: Convalaria, gramita
Swedish : Ormskägg, ciklidgräs
Vietnamese: Mạch Ðông, Mach Món, Mach Môn Dông, Tóc Tiên, Lan Tiên, Xà Thảo, Duyên Giới Thảo, Phiếc Kép Phạ, Mạch môn
Plant Growth Habit Evergreen, tuft-forming stoloniferous, tuberous-rooted, rhizomatous perennial plant
Growing Climates Occurs in shady places in lowland and foothills, forests, mossy forests, dense scrub in ravines, moist and shady places on slopes and along streams and cliffs
Soil Grows well in full sun or partial shade in well-drained, moist sandy or sandy loam soils
Plant Size About 10 – 30 cm (4 – 12 inches) in height, depending on the variety
Stem Stem suberect or prostrate, usually simple, elongate or short, sometimes indistinct.
Leaf Leaves are basal, sessile, fasciculate, linear, generally 15–50 cm long and 2–4 mm wide, 3–7 parallel veined, margin serrulate. They are dark green above and pale glaucous beneath
Flowering season July-August
Flower Flowers are solitary or paired, usually pendant; pedicel 34 mm. Tepals 6-lobed, white or pale lilac, lanceolate, 5 mm long and 2 mm wide. Filaments are very short; anthers 2.53 mm long and lanceolate. Style is narrowly conical, 4 mm long, moderately thick, basally widened.
Fruit Shape & Size Berry subglobose to ellipsoid–globose, 5–9 mm in diameter
Fruit Color Blue violet
Taste Sweet, bitter
Plant Parts Used Roots, dry tubers
Propagation Either through seeds or by division of the existing plant
Season September to October
Varieties
  • Ophiopogon japonicas
  • Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Variegata’
  • Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nana’
  • Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’
  • Ophiopogon jaburan ‘Vittatus’
Health benefits
  • Fights Inflammation
  • Boost Immune System
  • Treat Coughs and Respiratory Problems
  • Anti-Cancer
  • Improves Blood Flow
  • Diabetes Treatment
  • Antimicrobial

Plant Description

Ophiopogon (Mondo Grass) is an evergreen, tuft-forming stoloniferous, tuberous-rooted, rhizomatous perennial plant that normally grows about 10 – 30 cm (4 – 12 inches) in height, depending on the variety. The plant is found growing in shady places in lowland and foothills, forests, mossy forests, dense scrub in ravines, moist and shady places on slopes and along streams and cliffs. The plant grows well in full sun or partial shade in well-drained, moist sandy or sandy loam soils. This species has large stolons with tuberous roots. Stolons are creeping and slender, roots moderately thick, usually with tuberous part near middle or tip.

Leaves

Leaves are basal, sessile, fasciculate, linear, generally 15–50 cm long and 2–4 mm wide, 3–7 parallel veined, margin serrulate. They are dark green above and pale glaucous beneath. Scape is 6–15 (−27) cm, much shorter than leaves. Foliage is similar to that of Liriope (also in the lily family), but leaves are narrower and more refined.  Ophiopogon leaves are evergreen and have a leathery appearance.

Leaf arrangement Most emerge from the soil, usually without a stem
Leaf type Simple
Leaf margin Entire
Leaf shape Linear
Leaf venation Parallel
Leaf type and persistence Evergreen
Leaf blade length 8 to 12 inches
Leaf color Variegated
Fall color No fall color change
Fall characteristic Not showy

 

Flower

Inflorescence in axillary racemes, 1–20 cm long, several to more than 10 flowered with lanceolate white bracts. Flowers are solitary or paired, usually pendant; pedicel 34 mm. Tepals 6-lobed, white or pale lilac, lanceolate, 5 mm long and 2 mm wide. Filaments are very short; anthers 2.53 mm long and lanceolate. Style is narrowly conical, 4 mm long, moderately thick, basally widened. Flowering normally takes place in between July-August.

Flower color White
Flower characteristic Summer flowering

 

Fruit

Fertile flowers are followed by subglobose to ellipsoid–globose, pea-sized, blue-black berries, 5–9 mm in diameter. Flowers and fruits are usually partially hidden by the foliage. This plant is ornamentally grown for its tufts of grass-like leaves.

Fruit shape Unknown
Fruit length Unknown
Fruit cover Unknown
Fruit color Brown
Fruit characteristic Inconspicuous and not showy

 

Types of Ophiopogon (Mondo Grass)

Ophiopogon is the name for the plant’s genus.  There are many different species within this genus.   The most popular species of Ophiopogon are listed below:

Ophiopogon japonicas

Of all the types of Ophiopogon, japonicas are the best known for health benefits. Most scientific studies on the plant also focus on the japonicas species. It has pretty flowers and blue fruits.

Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Variegata’

It is also called Silver Mist mondo grass because of the lines on its blades.

Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nana’

This variant is called dwarf mondo grass because it only grows to be about 6 inches tall.

Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’

This type of Ophiopogon is also known as black mondo grass because of its dark blades and pretty pink flowers. It grows to be about 12 inches tall.

Ophiopogon jaburan ‘Vittatus’

The plant is also called variegated mondo grass; this species is larger and more robust. The blades have yellow and green stripes going down them.

Health Benefits of Ophiopogon (Mondo Grass)

In Chinese medicine, Ophiopogon is known as mai men dong.  It has been used for thousands of years medicinally. It’s still popular today in natural medicine.  There are thousands of scientific studies which support the many health benefits of Ophiopogon.  Below are some of the main benefits which are supported by scientific research.

1. Fights Inflammation

Mondo grass consists of good amount of different anti-inflammatory components including ruscogenin, ophiopogonin D, homoisoflavonoids, and fatty acids. Some of these components are completely new and haven’t been found in other plants. Studies on animals found Ophiopogon extract helps to reduce inflammation markers and swelling. (1), (2), (3)

2. Boost Immune System

Ophiopogon consists of polysaccharides which activate macrophages in the body.  Macrophages are the specialized cells which kill bacteria and harmful pathogens in the body. Experiments show that taking Ophiopogon helps to increase white blood cell count, DNA synethesis and also make antibodies last longer.  The result is a significant boost to immune health. (4), (5), (6)

3. Treat Coughs and Respiratory Problems

Ophiopogon is considered good for different respiratory problems including coughs.  It helps the body produce mucus to moisten the lungs while reducing lung inflammation. (7), (8), (9)

4. Anti-Cancer

Mondo grass consists of fifteen steroidal saponins, which are a type of naturally-occurring sugar.  These steroidal saponins are interesting because they can kill tumor cells. They are cytotoxic against several human cancer cell lines.  Many studies conclude that they have potential as a cancer treatment. (10), (11), (12), (13)

5. Improves Blood Flow

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in mongo grass are good for heart health. Animal studies discovered that mondo grass extract decreased blood clots (thrombosis), improved blood flow, and fought against cardiovascular damage. (14), (15), (16)

6. Diabetes Treatment

Mondo grass root consists of a type of water-soluble polysaccharide (OJP1). Studies show that it has many benefits for diabetes treatment, such as reducing blood sugar levels, increasing insulin sensitivity, and treating damage to organs affected by diabetes. (17), (18)

7. Antimicrobial

Extracts from mondo grass root consists of antimicrobial compounds which can kill certain types of fungi and bacteria, including Staph and E. coli.  Because mondo grass root also boosts immunity, this makes it a good natural treatment for mild infections.  It is also often used as an antibacterial mouth wash for treating sores. (19), (20)

Traditional uses and benefits of Ophiopogon (Mondo Grass)

  • The tuber is antitussive, aphrodisiac, expectorant, pectoral, sedative, sialogogue, stomachic, mucolytic, emollient, demulcent, anti- pyretic, anti-angina, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, cardio tonic, antibacterial, hemostatic, laxative calming, anti-scrofulatic and tonic.
  • It is said to have anticancer activity.
  • Ophiopogon japonicus is a traditional Chinese medicine used to treat diabetes for thousands of years and a traditional Chinese medicine used to treat cardiovascular disease.
  • It is a traditional Chinese medicine being used for treatment of coronary heart disease.
  • Shengmai injection (SMI), one of the most popular herbal preparations, is widely used for the treatment of coronary atherosclerotic cardio-pathy and viral myocarditis.
  • It has been used to relieve coughing, phlegm and heat in the lungs caused by bacterial infection.
  • It is also frequently used to lower blood pressure.
  • It is used internally in the treatment of dry coughs, fevers, thirst, dry constipation, insomnia, anxiety and palpitations.
  • It is also frequently used in poly-herbal treatments of diabetes mellitus.
  • Roots have an antibacterial action, inhibiting the growth of Staphylococcus, E. coli, Bacillus subtilis, B. typhi etc.
  • Nodules on the fibrous roots are used as a nutritive tonic in the treatment of TB.
  • They are primarily used as a yin tonic, but can also be used for healthy functioning of the heart and lungs.
  • It can also be used for moisturizing dry, scaly and itching skin.
  • Ingestion of the herb can cool you off internally and is therefore ideal for those who experience acidity, gastric reflux, and other gastric problems.
  • The chemical compositions of the herb are useful for the treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia, somnambulism, and some other parasomnias.
  • Ophiopogon can be used to soothe irritated and dried lungs, especially in those who have upper respiratory infections and those who smoke.
  • Public speakers and singers, or anyone who uses their vocal chords extensively, may use ophiopogon to soothe and moisten the vocal chords.
  • Ophiopogon can also help relieve accumulation of phlegm in the nasal passages as well as sticky sputum in the throat.
  • Ophiopogon can be combined with other herbs such as dang gui for relieving severe constipation.
  • Ophiopogon can be used to soothe skin affected by eczema.
  • Ophiopogon is an antiseptic that is particularly useful in the healing of mouth sores.
  • It provides relief for insomnia, heart palpitations, anxiety, and restlessness.
  • Ophiopogon is used in formulas to treat constipation, dry throat, and chronic dry bronchitis.
  • It is also considered useful in treating the fluid imbalance caused by diabetes, as showed by excessive thirst and urination.
  • It is used in treating nearly all lung-related illnesses, including bronchitis, whooping cough, tuberculosis, hemoptysis (coughing up blood), sore throat, laryngitis, and cough.
  • The plant is highly effective in addressing dry cough, chronic pharyngitis, pediatric cough, and persistent pneumonia in children especially when in combination with mulberry leaves.
  • It prevents various cardiovascular diseases and respiratory infections.
  • It alleviates the risk of diabetes and other digestive system diseases.

How to Use Ophiopogon

Decoctions

Traditionally, Ophiopogon root is prepared as a decoction. This involves boiling the root in water for about one hour or even longer.  Decoction is strained and the liquid is consumed.  The benefit of decoctions is that concentrate medicinal components of the plant into the water.  However, it is tricky to control dosage with decoctions and boiling can destroy some of the nutritional benefits of the Ophiopogon root. To make, you’ll need to take a heaping tablespoon of mondo grass root and gently cook it in 1 quart of

Dried Decoctions

Dried (or granular) decoctions are made by cooking mondo grass root in large tanks.  The liquid is strained and evaporated so only syrup is left.  The syrup goes through a spray dryer to produce a dried product.

The benefit of mondo grass dried decoctions is that they are very concentrated.  The final product should be better than what you’d make at home, thus allowing you to get more health benefits out of a smaller dosage.  Then drink the decoction throughout the day.

This mondo grass decoction is made by an Asian brand which specializes in natural medicine. The decoction is in a granular form.  It consists of five main ingredients: mondo grass, pinellia ternata (crow dipper root), Zizyphus jujube (red date), ginseng and licorice.  These ingredients are particularly good for treating coughs and lung ailments, but also good for a general immunity boost.

Powders

Powdered Ophiopogon root is made by drying the root and then grinding it into a fine powder.  You can mix the powder in water or smoothies.   Sometimes the powder is pressed into tablets or put in capsules.  The powders of Ophiopogon root won’t be as potent as a decoction because it contains the fiber, starches, etc. from the plant. However, some people prefer mondo grass powders because they are raw and theoretically more healthy compounds stay alive.

It’s hard to find Ophiopogon powder though.  If you have a garden, consider growing Ophiopogon (it’s easy) so you can harvest the roots for medicinal use.

Culinary uses

  • The plant is more widely known as a medicinal herb than a food plant.
  • Tuberous root is edible and eaten as a famine food.
  • Root is used as food ingredient in Taiwan and as functional food in China often as a substitute for ginseng.
  • japonicus is a traditional medicine, admitted as one of functional food ingredient by the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China.
  • Root is considered aromatic, sweet and mucilaginous, but other reports say that the bitterness has to be removed before consumption.

Other Facts

  • In many countries, it is used as ornamental for borders and lawns.
  • It is often sold as a decorative plant for freshwater aquaria, but does not last long in water.
  • It forms a good carpeting plant, spreading rapidly and is commonly planted as a ground cover or as a low- maintenance grass substitute.
  • It is particularly valuable for preventing soil erosion.
  • Dwarf lilyturf has been known to be both a cover crop with weed suppression for gardening in Japan and a medicinal plant.
  • It is a good carpeting plant that spreads quite freely; it is commonly planted as a ground cover or as a low-maintenance grass substitute.
  • Plants should be spaced about 45 cm apart each way.

Precautions

  • Avoid use in case of Weak spleen, coldness in stomach and diarrhea.
  • It may cause drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, restlessness, acute abdominal pain, itching and delirium.
  • Ophiopogon is a therapeutic herb with many benefits; it can cause side effects when consumed in large quantities.
  • It is best to use it sparingly if you have a cold.
  • Also try and avoid using this herb when you have a deficient or a malfunctioning spleen.
  • Excessive consumption of the herb can also cause diarrhea.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=506477#null

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomydetail?id=25788

https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Ophiopogon+japonicus

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/115956

https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=s960

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/OPPJA

https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:429781-1

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-279475

http://www.stuartxchange.com/MondoGrass.html

https://www.uaex.uada.edu/yard-garden/resource-library/plant-week/black-mondo-grass-2-24-12.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ophiopogon_japonicus

http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Ophiopogon+japonicus

https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=OPJA

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