Ailanthus altissima is native to Taiwan and northeastern and central China. It throws off a disagreeable odor. For that reason, it is unpopular, even viewed as one of invasive species around the world. But in TCM’s opinion, each part of Ailanthus tree, especially the Ailanthus altissima bark (Chun Pi), is an important medicinal herb and cures a variety of diseases.
What is Ailanthus altissima bark?
It refers to the trunk or root bark of Ailanthus altissima (p. mill.) swingle. Mainly produced in Shandong, Liaoning, Henan, Anhui and other places, this herb can be harvested all the year round. The steps are peeling the root or chunk bark, scraping off the outer bark, drying them in the sun, and then cutting or shredding them. And it is usually fried with bran or used in unprocessed form.
Ailanthus altissima, is a member of the quassia family, has a common name as Tree of heaven. This deciduous tree features the unpleasant smell from the glands in leaf stalk base. In its natural habitat, this tree grows rapidly and can reach 15 meters in height in 25 years. But this is a short-lived species and rarely survives more than 50 years. Its crown is oblate or in the shape of umbrella. Bark is gray or gray-black, smooth, with few shallow cracks. Twig is stout. Obovate leaves have large scars, with 9 inner vascular marks. It blossoms from May to June. The inflorescence is apical panicles, with white, slightly smelly flowers. Capsule is oval, with numerous seeds inside. And seeds have flattened membranous wings.
Chemical constituents of Ailanthus bark
Ailanthus root bark contains ailanthin, tannin, saponin, and phlobaphen. Root and trunk contain guassin. And trunk bark contains ailanthone, amarolide, 11-acetyl amarolide, quassin, neoquassine, and so on.
Ailanthus altissima health benefits
As mentioned previously, its root bark is one of awesome herbs in TCM. Want to know more detailed information about this herb and how it treats a variety of ailments? Here are the introduction and its main medicinal uses.
1. Its root barks are antibacterial, antiprotozoal and anti-tumor;
2. Its bark decoction can in vitro inhibit Shigella flexneri, Shigella sonnei, and escherichia coli;
3. Ailanthone has a strong inhibitory effect on amoeba and shows some activity on P388 lymphocytic leukemia;
4. Guassin has cytotoxic activity on human nasopharyngeal carcinoma KB cells, and at the same time improves the life span of mouse suffering from leukemia P388.
Typical Ailanthus related Chinese herbal formulas
From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this herb is viewed as bitter, astringent, and cold in properties. It covers three meridians such as large intestine, stomach, and liver. Its primary functions are to clear away heat and dry dampness, restrain and check vaginal discharge, arrest diarrhea, and stop bleeding. Its main indications and uses are leucorrhea with reddish discharge, damp-heat diarrhea and dysentery, chronic diarrhea and dysentery, blood in the stool, and uterine bleeding. Usual dosage is from 6 to 9 grams, in decoction normally. For external use, apply appropriate amount of root powder accordingly.
Chu Shu Gen Wan
Chu Shu Gen Wan comes from She Sheng Zhong Miao Fang (Marvelous Formulas for the Health of the Multitudes). This is a formula mainly used for leucorrhea with reddish discharge due to damp-heat invasion of lower energizer and dysfunction of Belt Vessel. This herb often combines Huang Bai (Phellodendron) to strengthen the heat-clearing and damp-drying function.
He Li Le Wan
He Li Le Wan comes from the Pi Wei Lun (A Treatise on the Spleen & Stomach). This is an ancient prescription that is mainly used for chronic diarrhea and chronic dysentery. Other major herbs include He Zi (Terminalia) and Mu Ding Xiang ((Fructus Caryophylli);
Chun Gen San
Chun Gen San comes from Lu Fu Jin Fang (Safeguarded Formulas from the Lu Mansion). This formula is typical one for treatment of diarrhea and dysentery caused by damp-heat. This herb usually couples with Di Yu (Bloodwort Root),
Gu Jing Wan
Gu Jiang Wan is from Yi Xue Ru Men (Gateway to Medicine). This is a formula that can cure metrorrhagia and metrostaxis. Other key herbal ingredients include Huang Bai, Huang Qin (Scutellaria), Bai Shao (White Peony Root), and Gui Jia (tortoise shell).
Chun Pi Wan
Chun Pi Wan is from Dan Xi Xin Fa (Dan Xi’s Heart Methods of Treatment). It is mainly formulated for hemorrhoids and blood in the stool. Other main herbs are Ce Bai Ye (Biota Leaves), Sheng Ma (Black Cohosh Rhizome), and Bai Shao.
Potential Ailanthus bark side effects and contraindications
Very few side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, were reported about Ailanthus altissima Bark (Chun Pi). But after all this is a bitter, astringent herb, which TCM believes that long term usage can cause the lingering of pathogens and impairment of spleen and stomach. As a result, use it with care in the case of deficiency-cold in spleen and stomach.