Costus / Saussurea lappa

Saussurea costus, commonly known as costus or kuth, is a species of thistle in the genus Saussurea native to South Asia. Essential oils extracted from the root is used in traditional medicine and in perfumes since ancient times.[5][6]

It has a large number of names in other languages, including kustha in Sanskrit; kust or qust in Arabic and Persian; kut, kur, and pachak in Hindi and Bengali, kostum, gostham, and potchuk in Tamil; upaleta and kur in Gujarati; kot or kust in Punjabi; changala in Telugu; sepuddy in Malayalam; kostha in Kannada; kuth or postkhai in Kashmiri; and koshet (קשט) in Hebrew.[7][2][8][9]

Ancient Israel

The root of Saussurea costus has been used as an incense and perfume ingredient for thousands of years and is mentioned in rabbinical writings as koshet (Hebrew: קשט‎), reflecting its arrowhead shape. It was used in Ketoret which is used when referring to the consecrated incense described in the Hebrew Bible and Talmud. It is also referred to as the Ketoret (incense). It was offered on the specialized incense altar in the time when the Tabernacle was located in the First and Second Jerusalem Temples. The ketoret was an important component of the Temple service in Jerusalem.


In traditional Chinese medicine, the root is one of the 50 fundamental herbs. It has the name (Chinese: 云木香; pinyin: yún mù xiāng, meaning “wood aroma”).[9] It forms a main ingredient in the Chinese pastille rods known as joss sticks.[8] It is also used as incense.[10]


In Tibet the root was and is used extensively as incense and medicine.


In Ayurveda the name Kushta refers to an ancient Vedic plant god mentioned in the Atharvaveda as a remedy for takman, the archetypal disease of excess or jvara (fever).[9] In ancient India Kushta was considered to be a divine plant derived from heavenly sources, growing high in the Himalayas, considered to be the brother of the divine Soma.[9] In Ayurveda Kushta is a rasayana for Vata, helping to normalize and strengthen digestion, cleanse the body of toxic accumulations, enhance fertility, and reduce pain.[9][unreliable medical source?] In India it is also given as a medicine for cough, asthma, fever, and cholera.[citation needed] Its dried powder is the principal ingredient in an ointment for ulcers; it is also a hair wash.[8][10]

Costus rhizome is used for curing woolen cloth in hill area of Uttarakhand.

^ "Saussurea costus information from NPGS/GRIN". Retrieved 2008-02-12.

^ a b Chandra P. Kuniyal, Yashwant S. Rawat, Santaram S. Oinam, Jagdish C. Kuniyal and Subhash C. R. Vishvakarma (2005)."Kuth (Saussurea lappa) cultivation in the cold desert environment of the Lahaul valley, northwestern Himalaya, India: arising threats and need to revive socio-economic values". Biodiversity and Conservation 14 (5): 1035. doi:10.1007/s10531-004-4365-x.

^ "GRIN Taxonomy for Plants". USDA.

^ "Saussurea costus (Falc.) Lipsch.". The Plant List v.1.1. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 21 January 2015.

^ Birgit Lohberger, Beate Rinner, Nicole Stuendl, Heike Kaltenegger, Bibiane Steinecker-Frohnwieser, Eva Bernhart, Ehsan Bonyadi Rad, Annelie Martina Weinberg, Andreas Leithner, Rudolf Bauer, & Nadine Kretschmer (2013). "Sesquiterpene Lactones Downregulate G2/M Cell Cycle Regulator Proteins and Affect the Invasive Potential of Human Soft Tissue Sarcoma Cells". PLoS ONE 8 (6): e66300. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066300.

^ A.V.S.S. Sambamurty (2005). Taxonomy of Angiosperms. I. K. International Pvt. Ltd. p. 417. ISBN 9788188237166.

^ a b K. Madhuri, K. Elango, & S. Ponnusankar (2011). "Sausaria lappa (Kuth root): review of its traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology". Oriental Pharmacy and Experimental Medicine 12 (1): 1–9. doi:10.1007/s13596-011-0043-1.

^ a b c d e 12px One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Putchock". Encyclopedia Americana.

^ a b c d e f

^ a b 12px "Putchock". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921.

Saussurea is used in traditional Chinese herbal medicines, as well as traditional medicine in Korean, Tibetan, Indian, Uighur, Pakistani, and Mongolian cultures. The root, called costus root, is used to make a drug called aucklandia or mu xiang. In parts of Asia, the root is smoked in place of opium. It is also used as a spice and as incense, as well as to protect fabric from moths.

Extracts of costus, as well as many species of saussurea, are used to prevent muscle spasms, increase airflow in the lungs, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and protect the nerves and stomach.

Saussurea has been studied for its possible effects on arthritis, asthma, stomach problems, and parasites. However, reliable evidence supporting the use of saussurea for any medical condition is lacking at this time.


These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.



Early evidence suggests that Saussurea lappa may lack an effect on arthritis. More research is needed before conclusions can be made.



Evidence supporting the use of saussurea for asthma is lacking. More research is needed before conclusions can be made.



Early research suggests that healthy people who take saussurea by mouth may experience a shorter time for food in the stomach to reach the small intestine, as well as higher levels of a protein that stimulates the gut muscle to contract. However, there was a lack of effect in people who had gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining). More research is needed.



Early research suggests that saussurea may protect against parasites in children. More research is needed before conclusions can be made.


*Key to grades:

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;

B: Good scientific evidence for this use;

C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;

D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);


The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

Aging, aggression, Alzheimer's disease, antioxidant, antispasmodic (prevents muscle spasms), anxiety, autoimmune disorders, bacterial infection, bile secretion, blood thinner, brain tumors, cancer, cavities, cholera, cognitive disorders, colon cancer, constipation, dementia, diabetes, diabetic complications, digestion, exercise performance, fever, fungal infections, headache, heart disease, Helicobacter pylori infection, hiccups, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, immune stimulant, inflammation, kidney disorders, leukemia, liver cancer, liver disorders, liver inflammation, memory, nervous system function, pain, painful menstruation, prostate cancer, respiratory ailments, sepsis, skin disorders, stimulant, stomach cancer, stomach disorders, stomach spasms, stroke, tonic (blood), typhoid, ulcers, uterus stimulant, viral infections.


The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

Saussurea has been taken by mouth as a tea or as tablets. Saussurea has also been given under the skin.

Children (under 18 years old)

To treat parasite infections in children, a single dose of 30, 40, or 50 milligrams of Saussurea lappa per kilogram has been taken by mouth.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.


Avoid if allergic or sensitive to Saussurea species, their parts (including the sesquiterpene lactones), or members of the Asteraceae family. Allergy and sensitivity in the form of skin reactions to Saussurea have been reported, including skin lesions and redness.

There have been reports of people with light-sensitive skin allergic reactions, low peripheral blood lymphocyte counts, and lung cancer who were also sensitive to costus root and costus root oil. People who have late-stage stomach cancer tended to lose sensitivity to costus root oil compared to people with colon cancer.

There have been reports of cross-reactions to 8-deoxycumambrin, arbusculin A, arbusculin C, rothin A, damsin, and other compounds that are similar to the sesquiterpene lactones found in costus root oil.

Side Effects and Warnings

Saussurea is possibly safe when used according to traditional recommendations. Costus root oil may cause blood cell damage.

Use cautiously in people who have dehydration or dryness.

Saussurea may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people with low pressure or in those taking drugs or herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure.

Saussurea may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or low blood sugar, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

There is currently a lack of scientific evidence on the use of saussurea during pregnancy or breastfeeding.


  • Chen Q, Jiang P, Zhao J. Measurement of total flavone content in snow lotus (Saussurea involucrate) using near infrared spectroscopy combined with interval PLS and genetic algorithm. Spectrochim.Acta A Mol.Biomol.Spectrosc. 2010;76(1):50-55. View Abstract

  • Chen RD, Zou JH, Jia JM, et al. Chemical constituents from the cell cultures of Saussurea involucrata. J Asian Nat.Prod.Res 2010;12(2):119-123. View Abstract

  • Hsiao WL and Liu L. The role of traditional Chinese herbal medicines in cancer therapy--from TCM theory to mechanistic insights. Planta Med 2010;76(11):1118-1131. View Abstract

  • Li G, Sun Z, Song C, et al. A sensitive fluorescence reagent, 2-[2-(7H-dibenzo[a,g]carbazol-7-yl)-ethoxy]ethyl chloroformate, for amino acids determination in Saussurea involucrate and Artemisia capillaris Thunb using high-performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection and identification with mass spectroscopy/electrospray ionization source. Biomed.Chromatogr. 2011;25(6):689-696. View Abstract

  • Li XW, Guo ZT, Zhao Y, et al. Chemical constituents from Saussurea cordifolia. Phytochemistry 2010;71(5-6):682-687. View Abstract

  • Lin YC, Hung CM, Tsai JC, et al. Hispidulin potently inhibits human glioblastoma multiforme cells through activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). J Agric.Food Chem. 9-8-2010;58(17):9511-9517. View Abstract

  • Liu YD and Aisa HA. Three new lignans from the seeds of Saussurea involucrata. J Asian Nat.Prod.Res 2010;12(10):828-833. View Abstract

  • Nguyen DT, Gopfert JC, Ikezawa N, et al. Biochemical conservation and evolution of germacrene A oxidase in asteraceae. J Biol.Chem. 5-28-2010;285(22):16588-16598. View Abstract

  • Qiu J, Xue X, Chen F, et al. Quality evaluation of snow lotus (Saussurea): quantitative chemical analysis and antioxidant activity assessment. Plant Cell Rep. 2010;29(12):1325-1337. View Abstract

  • Shen S, Qian J, Ren J. Ethnoveterinary plant remedies used by Nu people in NW Yunnan of China. J Ethnobiol.Ethnomed. 2010;6:24. View Abstract

  • Way TD, Lee JC, Kuo DH, et al. Inhibition of epidermal growth factor receptor signaling by Saussurea involucrata, a rare traditional Chinese medicinal herb, in human hormone-resistant prostate cancer PC-3 cells. J Agric.Food Chem. 3-24-2010;58(6):3356-3365. View Abstract

  • Yang JL, Wang R, Liu LL, et al. Phytochemicals and biological activities of Saussurea species. J Asian Nat.Prod.Res 2010;12(2):162-175. View Abstract

  • Yi T, Zhao ZZ, Yu ZL, et al. Comparison of the anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects of three medicinal plants known as "Snow Lotus" herb in traditional Uighur and Tibetan medicines. J Ethnopharmacol. 3-24-2010;128(2):405-411. View Abstract

  • Yoo JH, Lee HJ, Kang K, et al. Lignans inhibit cell growth via regulation of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling. Food Chem.Toxicol. 2010;48(8-9):2247-2252. View Abstract

  • Zhao Q, Yokozawa T, Yamabe N, et al. Kangen-karyu improves memory deficit caused by aging through normalization of neuro-plasticity-related signaling system and VEGF system in the brain. J Ethnopharmacol. 9-15-2010;131(2):377-385. View Abstract

Saussurea lappa

There are 300 known Saussurea species. Among them, Saussurea lappa (S. lappa) is a representative perennial herb, globally distributed across Himalaya region. S. lappa has been traditionally used in medicines without obvious adverse effects. Despite significant progress in phytochemical and biological analyses of S. lappa over the past few years, inclusive and critical reviews of this plant are anachronistic or quite limited in scope. The present review aims to summarize up-to-date information on the active constituents, pharmacology, traditional uses, trade and challenges in conservation and sustainable use of S. lappa from the literature. In addition to botanical studies and records of the traditional use of S. lappa in over 43 diseases, scientific studies investigating the latent medicinal uses of this species and its constituent phytochemicals for a range of disorders are presented and discussed. The structure, bioactivity, and likely mechanisms of action of S. lappa and its phytochemicals are highlighted. Although some progress has been made, further scrupulous efforts are required to investigate the individual compounds isolated from S. lappa to validate and understand its traditional uses and develop clinical applications. The present review offers preliminary information and gives direction for further basic and clinical research into this plant.

S. lappa is a medicinally important plant. Various active compounds isolated from plant are reported to have medicinal properties e.g. the major components are sesquiterpene lactones such as costunolide and dehydrocostus lactone. S. lappa possesses various bioactivities such as antifungal[17], antidiabetic[18], anthelmintic[19], antitumor[20], antiulcer[21], antimicrobial[22], i m m u n o s t i m u l a n t[23], a n t i i n f l a m m a t o r y [24] a n d antihepatotoxic[25].

[17] Barrero AF, Oltra JE, Alvarez M, Raslan DS, Saude DA, Akssira M. New sources and antifungal activity of sesquiterpene lactones. Fitoterapia 2000; 71: 60-64.

[18] Upadhyay OP, Singh RH, Dutta SK. Studies on antidiabetic medicinal plants used in Indian folklore. Aryavaidyan 1996; 9: 159-167.

[19] Seki K, Hashimoto A, Kobayashi H, Kawahara Y. Yamahara J. Motility inhibitory effect on Anchusan and Jintan and its active components in Anisakis type larvae. Yakuri to Chiryo 1991; 19: 265-289.

[20] Ko SG, Kim HP, Jin DH, Bae HS, Kim SH, Park GH, et al. Saussurea lappa induces G2-growth arrest and apoptosis in AGS gastric cancer cells. Cancer Lett 2005; 220: 11-19.

[21] Sutar N, Garai R, Sharma US, Singh N, Roy SD. Antiulcerogenic activity of Saussurea lappa root. Int J Pharm Life Sci 2011; 2: 516- 520.

[22] Khalid A, Uzair-ur-Rehman, Sethi A, Khilji S, Fatima U, Khan MI, et al. Antimicrobial activity analysis of extracts of Acacia modesta, Artimisia absinthium, Nigella sativa and Saussurea lappa against Gram positive and Gram negative microorganisms. Afr J Biotechnol 2011; 10: 4574-4580.

[23] Hamilton AC. Medicinal plants, conservation and livelihoods. Biodivers Conserv 2004; 13: 1477-1517.

[24] Yashvanth S, Robinson A, Babu KS, Naidu VGM, Vishnuvardhan MVPS, Ramakrishna S, et al. Anti-inflammatory and cytotoxic activity of chloroform extract of roots of Saussurea lappa Clarke. J Pharm Res 2010; 3(8): 1775-1778.

[25] Yaeesh S, Jamal Q, Shah AJ, Gilani AH. Antihepatotoxic activity of Saussurea lappa extract on D-galactosamine and lipopolysaccharide-induced hepatitis in mice. Phytother Res 2010; 2: S229-S232.


The root, containing both the essential oil and the alkaloid, is a reliable insect repellant. In China, it is the basis of incense, made into sticks which are burned in home and in the temples for worship, and also serve through their smoke to keep gnats, mosquitoes, and other flying insects at

a space. In India, the dried root yields brilliant fumigatory pastilles, which burn fairly well and as the Chinese josssticks, it serves the same insectifugal function[58,59].[58] Kapoor LD. Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants. Washington D. C: CRS Press; 2001. [59] Chopra RN, Chopra IC, Handa KL, Kapur LD. Chopra’s indigenous drugs of India. 2nd ed. Calcutta: U.N. Dhur & Sons Private Ltd; 1958, p. 402-407

The powdered roots are sprinkled over crops as insecticides. The roots are used as insecticide to protect woollen fabrics, and as incense. The upper parts of its plants are used as fuel and fodder and dried leaves are smoked as tobacco[43]. It is also used to improve complexion, as a hair

wash to kill lice and to turn grey hair to black[62,79]. Other traditional applications of S. lappa are shown in Table 2. [62] Sarin YK. A survey of vegetable raw material resources of Lahul. Indian Forester 1967; 93: 459-462. [79] Matsuda H, Kageura T, Inoue Y, Morikawa T, Yoshikawa M.

Absolute stereo structures and syntheses of saussureamines A, B, C, D and E, amino acid-sesquiterpene conjugates with gastroprotective

effect from the roots of Saussurea lappa. Tetrahedron 2000; 56: 7763-7777. [43] Butola JS, Samant SS. Saussurea species in Indian Himalayan

Region: diversity, distribution and indigenous uses. Int J Plant Kulsoom Zahara et al./Asian Pac J Trop Med 2014; 7(Suppl 1): S60-S69 S69 Biol 2010; 1: 43-51

Costus oil

The oil extracted from the roots of S. lappa is known as costus oil, which is used in the preparation of hair oil and in high quality perfumes. Costus oil is pale yellow to brownish in color and is also said to be valuable in treating leprosy.

In a recent study, 39 components have been identified from the essential oil of S. lappa roots. The chief compounds were dehydrocostus lactone (46.75%), costunolide (9.26%), 8- cedren-13-ol (5.06%) and α-curcumene (4.33%). However, β-costol (13.55%) and δ-elemene (12.69%), α-selinene (5.02%), β-selinene (4.47%), α-costol (4.02%), 4-terpinol (3.38%), elemol (3.21%), α-ionone (3.13%), β-elemene (3.00%), (-)-γ-

elemene (2.08%), p-cymene (1.96%) and 2-β-pinene (1.57%), (-)-α-selinene, (+)-selina-4, 11-diene, (-)-α-transbergamotene, (-)-α-costol, (+)-γ-costol, (-)-elema-1,3,11 (13)-trien-12-ol, (-)-α-costal, (+)-γ-costal, (-)-elema- 1,3,11(13)-trien-12-al, (-)-(E)-trans-bergamota-2,12-dien-

14-al, (-)-ar-curcumene, (-)-caryophyllene oxide and 12-methoxydihydrodehydrocostuslactone were also reported[14,15].

However, in the other reported studies, the proportion of all these compounds greatly differs. Existing variations in the composition of S. lappa essential oil may be due to various factors related to ecotype, phenophases, chemotype and variations in environment conditions such as relative

humidity, temperature, photoperiod and irradiance.

Saussurea lappa CB Clarke (Asteraceae)

Andrieu, Bastien (2014) Saussurea lappa CB Clarke (Asteraceae). Thèse d'exercice en Pharmacie, Université Toulouse III - Paul Sabatier.

Saussurea lappa est une plante appartenant à la famille des Astéracées qui provient des hauts plateaux himalayens. Sa racine, aussi appelée racine costus, est aromatique et elle est utilisée dans de nombreux domaines comme la fabrication de l'encens, de répulsif à insectes mais aussi en tant que plante médicinale. Elle contient divers composés comme les sesquiterpènes Costunolide et Dehydrocostuslactone, mais aussi des triterpènes, des phénols, des lignanes ainsi que de l'inuline. De nombreuses études ont mis en évidence ses propriétés notamment anti-infectieuses, anti-inflammatoire et anticancéreuses. Cependant, son utilisation présente certaines limites, en effet, Saussurea lappa cause de nombreux cas d'allergie de contact et peut être confondue avec des plantes toxiques.

Sea Incense Costus (Qust al-Bahri) and Indian Wood Costus ('Oud al-Hindi or Qust al-Hindi)

The plant of the Qust, which is known as Costus is 2 metres in length and is generally found in the northwest and northeast of the sub Himalayan regions. The roots are used for medicinal purposes. Ibn Hajr (may Allah have mercy upon him) quotes Ibn 'Arabi (may Allah have mercy upon him) as saying that there are 2 types of costus; Qust al-Bahri (Sea Incense Costus) and 'Oud al-Hindi or Qust al-Hindi (Indian Wood Costus). As for Qust al-Bahri (Sea Incense Costus) then it is white and as for 'Oud al-Hindi or Qust al-Hindi (Indian Wood Costus) then it is hotter Qust al-Bahri (Sea Incense Costus) and darker. [vol. 10, 148 Shamila].

The Messenge salallahu alaihi wa salam said, "Use this 'Oud al-Hindi (Indian Wood Costus) because it contains 7 types of cures, it is sniffed by the one having throat trouble, and is put inside the mouth of one suffering from pleurisy". [Saheeh al-Bukhari (5692)].

The Messenger salallahu alaihi wa sallam said, " Cupping (Hijama) and Qust al-Bahri (Sea Incense Costus) are the best of your remedies". He added, "You should not harm your children by treating tonsillitis by pressing their tonsils, rather use Qust al-Bahri (Sea Incense Costus)". [Saheeh al-Bukhari (5696)].

Ibnul Qayim (may Allah have mercy upon him) said, "There are 2 kinds of Qust (Costus), the white kind which is called Qust al-Bahri (Sea Incense Costus). The 'Oud al-Hindi or Qust al-Hindi (Indian Wood Costus) is the hottest of them and the Qust al-Bahri (Sea Incense Costus) is the mildest. Both types have many benefits... they dry out the phlegm and cold. When they are taken as a drink, they help a weak liver, stomach and colds associated with such cases.

Qust (Costus) also against victular and quartan fever (fever that comes every 4 days), the pain on the side of the body and poisons. When the face is anointed with Qust (Costus) that has been ground and mixed with water and honey, it heals spots that appear on the face. Galinus said that Qust (Costus) 'heals tetanus, the pain on the sides and kills spots (which he called pumpkin seeds).

Latin name : Saussurea lappa

English Name : Costus Root, Kut Root

Arabic Name : Qusht Shirin

Chinese Name : Mu xiang

French Name : Costus Elegant

German Name : Practige Kostwurz

Hindi Name : Kusht, Metha Kut, Kur, Pokharmur

Persian Name : Qusht Shirin, Koshtah

Sanskrit Name : Kust

Description: The root is alterative, analgesic, anthelmintic, antiinflammatory, strong antiseptic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, aromatic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, nervine tonic, rejuvenative, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. Useful in dyspepsia, flatulence, bronchial asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism, cough, phlegm, fever, jaundice and liver problems. It is also reputed for its ability to prevent hair turning grey. It is also very useful for liver cirrhosis and viral hepatitis.

Externally it is applied in rheumatism and wounds.