Agrimony Herb (Xian He Cao)

herba-agrimoniaeAgrimony herb, also known as hairy agrimony or Herba Agrimoniae in pharmaceutical Latin, is usually found in woods and grasslands in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Because it is rich in tannins, it has the properties of an astringent. Although it is usually considered an herb to stop bleeding, it is more than just a hemostatic since it works on the treatment of a few other illnesses like cancers. As a traditional Chinese herbal medicine, it is called Xian He Cao, which can be translated as “crane grass.” Interesting enough, many Chinese herbs named with “Xian” are considered to be herbs with magical uses, for example, Epimedium (Xian Ling Pi), Curculigo (Xian Mao), Smilax (Tu Fu Ling), and the like.

What is agrimony?

Medicinally it refers to the aerial part of Agrimonia pilosa. Ledeb., which is a flowering plant in the Rosaceae family. Agrimony grass is normally harvested during summer and autumn when the stems and leaves are lush. And then it should be dried after the impurities are removed.

Agrimony plant is a perennial, up to 1 meter. The whole plant is with white long hair. Rhizome is short, often with 1 or several radical buds (overwintering buds). Erect stems are sparsely covered with pubescence and glandular hairs. Pinnately compound leaf is alternate; leaflets come in different sizes, interval orders, oval to obovate shapes, 2.5 to 7cm length, 1.5 to 3.5cm width, serrated edges, and pubescent sides; stipules is nearly ovoid. Racemes are acrogenous; calyx is obconic and five-lobed and lobe base has many persistent hooked bristles; yellow petals are 5; ovary is semi-inferior and with prominent style; when fruits are ripening, calyx tube thickens and sags. Calyx tube is with a circle of erect barbed hooks on top and deep longitudinal groove outside. Because it mimics the crane head, it is better known as “crane grass” in China. The blossom and fruit season is from May to December.

Main chemical constituents of agrimony are agrimophol, agrimonolide, luteoloside, agrimonin A, B, C, agrimol A to E, tannins, sterols, saponins, and volatile oil. Some of them have antidysenteric, antineoplastic, immunostimulating, and antifungal effect on living tissue. That’s the reason why is often used in the treatment of yeast infections, tumors, and dysentery.

Agrimony herb benefits

So, what is agrimony used for? In fact, this herb has long been used to treat different ailments in different countries. For example, in Korea it is mainly for taeniasis, eczema, and boils. But in China and Nepal, it is more used a drug for sunstroke, headache, sore throat, and stomachache.

Modern pharmacological actions of agrimony

1. 500 micrograms of agrimony extract are injected into 1ml nutrient solution of cancer cells and normal cells respectively per day. After 6 straight days, the cancer cells are completely destroyed while the normal cells continue to reproduce;

2. Its crude concrete can promote animal blood clotting. After injected intravenously with agrimonine, the rabbits are found with shorter clotting time, increased platelets, and increased blood calcium. And in the experimental femoral artery bleeding in dog, topical application of agrimony powder, in combination with compression, can provide some certain topical hemostasis;

3. Agrimonine can adjust the heart rate, excite the fatigue skeletal muscle, increase cell resistance, and lower blood sugar on mice, rats, and rabbits;

4. Agrimonolide can reduce the contraction amplitude and tension of isolated rabbit intestine. In addition, in vivo it can also inhibit the intestinal peristalsis in mice;

5. Its water and alcohol extracts have anti-inflammatory effect on rabbit conjunctivitis caused by staph infections;

6. Water extract (100 ml/kg) has analgesic effect on pain evoked by rabbit tooth pulp stimulation;

7. Water extract in vitro inhibits Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Shigella flexneri, Salmonella typhi, and M. tuberculosis.

Sample agrimonia herb recipes on herbal remedies

According to the Chinese Materia Medica, it is bitter and astringent in flavor and neutral in nature. It acts on meridians of lung, liver, and spleen. Basic functions include astringency and hemostasis, stopping dysentery, and killing insects. Main agrimony herb uses and indications are hemoptysis, hematuria, blood in the stool, erythral and leukal dysentery, uterine bleeding and abnormal vaginal discharge, internal lesion caused by overexertion, exhaustion, carbuncles, bruises, and traumatic hemorrhage. Recommended agrimony dosage in decoction is 10 to 15 grams or even 30 grams in large doses. In addition, it is also used as agrimony tea, powder, paste, and other forms.

1. Si Chuan Zhong Yao Zhi (Chinese Medicinal Herbal in Sichuan)

Remedy for spitting blood: Agrimony, Hebra pyrolae (Lu Xian Cao), Silene conoidea Linnaeus (Mai Ping Cao);

2. Ling Nan Cai Yao Iu (Record of medicinal plants in Kwangtung and Kwangsi Provinces)

Remedy for white dysentery and hemoptysis: decoction of 15 to 30 grams of agrimony;

3. Dian Nan Ben Cao (Pharmaceutical Natural History of Southern Yunnan)

Remedy for red and white vaginal discharge or accompanied with gonorrhea: agrimony 15g, Sambucus Javanica Reinw (Ma Bian Shao) 5g, and Rubus foliolosus (Hei Suo Mei).

4. Xian Dai Shi Yong Zhong Yao Yue (Modern Practical Materia Medica)

Remedy for anemia, weakness, internal lesion caused by overexertion, and exhaustion: agrimony 50g and Jujube fruit (Hong Zhao) 10.

5. Fu Jian Min Jian Cao Yao (Fujian Folk Medicine)

Remedy for snake bites: pick fresh agrimonia leaves, wash and pound them, and then apply them on the wounds.

Agrimony herb side effects and contraindications

Agrimony herb is generally considered non-toxic. For that reason, it is often used in larger dose of more than 30 grams, or even up to 500 grams per dose. In fact, it was recorded as a toxic herb in many ancient medical books in China. For example, the “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic” listed it as a low-grade drug that shouldn’t be used for a long time.

Modern pharmacological studies have also proved that agrimophol, one of active ingredients contained in agrimony, is toxic. Its toxicity is mainly manifested in the gastrointestinal tract and nervous system reactions. When used in larger doses it may blind a dog, which has been proved by pathological observation too. Therefore, clinician should be alert to the mentioned adverse reactions in the application of this herb.

And, in TCM it shouldn’t be used in those who have no bleeding.

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