Ban Lan Gen (Isatis Root)

Ban Lan Gen (Isatis Root)By virtue of the notable benefits in the control of fever and virus, Ban Lan Gen, known as Isatis root in the Western world, is used so widely in recent years that it shoots up to one of the most used traditional Chinese herbs clinically.

As a matter of fact, it has been used medicinally in China for nearly two thousands of years already. Study results indicate that it possesses the remarkable capability of removing the pyrogen inducing rise in body temperature and luckily this inactive substance has been isolated and located. So, we come to realize that it reduces fever by killing pathogens of both viruses and bacteria and eliminating factors of peroxy radical and pyrogen that causing fever.

The Outline of Antivirus Combination Therapy In China, the report made by Zhong Nan Shan (the academician and the president of The Chinese medical association), pointed out that this herb was the classic antivirus representative among so many Chinese herbs, which was drawn based on its extraordinary performance during SARS. Actually then it impressed the world so greatly that it receives more and more attentions ever since.

What is Ban Lan Gen?

Normally it refers to the rhizome of one flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae, which is also known as Isatis tinctoria, woad, dyer’s woad, and Isatis indigotica (thought as an invalid name by the majority). Accordingly, the same name has been shared by a few different species.

In terms of medicinal herbs used in Chinese herbal treatments, they are classified into two major categories with similar characteristics – Isatis tinctoria L. and Isatis indigotica Fort. in the north China (Bei Ban lan) and Baphicacanthus cusia (Nees) Brem. in the south China (Nan Ban Lan). Actually the former is in the family of Brassicaceae while the latter of Acanthaceae. Else, other common names for it include Isatidis Radix (Radix isatidis), indigowoad root, banlangen, isatis indigotica root, Da Qing Ye, woad root, and indigo root, etc.

It has an elongated cylindrical body, about 10 to 30cm long, and 3 to 8mm in diameter. The surface is light greyish-yellow, rough, with lognitudinal wrinkles, horizontal blackspots, and rootlet scars, hollowness on top, dark green petiole residue surrounded, and dense verruca and greyish brown petiole scars arrayed in ring shape in thicker rhizome. The texture is solid and crisp. The transverse section is with yellowish white to light brown cortex and yellow xylem. It has little odor and slightly sweet taste. Medicinally the thicker, solider, and better mealiness is preferred.

What is it used for?

Being one of traditional Chinese herbs, it is believed as bitter and cold in nature and covers meridians of liver and Stomach.

Main functions are to clear heat-toxicity, cool blood, and relieve sore throat. Main usage and indications are macula due to pestilential toxicity invasion, high fever, headache, infection with swollen head, dark reddish purple tongue, scarlet fever, erysipelas, mumps, pharyngitis, sore boils and bunacles, chicken pox, measles, hepatitis, cold and flu, epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis, epidemic encephalitis B, pneumonia, unconsciousness, hematemesis, bleeding from five sense organs or subcutaneous tissue, swollen throat, pinkeye causing by inflammation, shingles, and osteomyelitis, etc.

Usual dosage is 15 to 30 grams.

Newly found functions

Now modern pharmacological studies show that it also has following extra functions:
(1). Antibacterial and antiviral effect;
(2). Anti-Leptospira effect;
(3). Detoxication;
(4). Improvement of immune functions;
(5). Elimination of leukemia cells.

Distinguish applications in different species

As mentioned previously, Ban Lan Gen involves a few different species. Main functional differences are as follows:
Both Isatis tinctoria L. and Isatis indigotica Fort. (Da Qing Ye) clear heat-toxicity and cool blood, but the former is better at relieving sore throat while the latter at eliminating macula;
Both Isatis tinctoria L. and Strobilanthes cusia(Nees)O. Ktze. (Qing Dai) are important herbs for relieving fire toxicity, but the latter is salty in taste and specialized in dissolving phlegm and removing edema.

Related Chinese herbal formulas

(1). Recorded in Jiangsu Yan Fang Cao Yao Xuan Bian (A Source Book In Empirical Herbal Prescriptions In Jiangsu), it combines with Qiang Huo (Notopterygium Root) in decoction to cure influenza;

(2). Pu Ji Xiao Du Yin, from Dong Yuan Shi Xiao Fang ( Dongyuan’s Effective Prescription) by Li Gao, is mainly for swollen head plague. Other herbal ingredients are Huang Qin (Scutellaria), Huang Lian (Coptis Rhizome), Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel), Gan Cao (Licorice Root), Xuan Shen (Ningpo Figwort Root), Lian Qiao (Forsythia Fruit), Ma Bo (Fruiting Body of Puffball, Lasiosphaera), Niu Bang Zi (Great Burdock Fruit, Arctium), Bo He (Field Mint, Mentha), Jiang Can (Silkworm), Sheng Ma (Black Cohosh Rhizome, Bugbane Rhizome), Chai Hu (Bupleurum), and Jie Geng (Balloon Flower Rhizome);

(3). According to Quan Zhan Xuan Bian – Ai Guo Wei Sheng, the following recipe was used to prevent mumps. Other herbs in this recipe include shan Ci Gu (Cremastra), Lian Qiao, Gan Cao, and Qing Dai (Indigo Naturalis);

(4). According to Liao Ning Chang Yong Zhong Cao Yao Shou Ce (Manual of Commonly Used Chinese Herbs in Liaoning Province), it treated liver cirrhosis along with Yin Chen Hao (Yin Chen Hao Shoots and Leaves), Yu Jin (Tumeric Tuber), and Yi Yi Ren (Seeds of Job’s Tears);

(5). In mumps characterized by red, swelling, fever, and pain, it works well together with Ye Ju Hua (Wild Chrysanthemum Flower) and Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle Flower, Lonicera);

(6). For prevention purpose of pinkeye, the combination with Pu Gong Ying (Dandelion) and Gan Cao is a good choice.

Possible side effects and contraindications

Now this herb has been made into more convenient forms to consume – Banlangen Keli (granule), tea, Chongji (instant herbal medicines), and instant beverage or drinks. However, TCM believes that children should avoid large dosage and long-term use of this herb. Otherwise, little side effects as it has, unexpected consequence would still be made. Clinically allergic reactions and damage to digestive system and hematopoietic system in Children were reported frequently.

It is so wrong to jump into the conclusion that, even though most cold and flu are caused by virus infection, Ban Lan Gen cures all types simply because of its significant anti-virus function. To obtain the best effects while minimizing the possible side effects, it needs to be used as directed by TCM theory. Blindly using it can get you nowhere but the damage only.

33 thoughts on “Ban Lan Gen (Isatis Root)

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  3. sharon thompson

    Thank you for so much information on Ban Lan Gen. I have bag of packets – granules. Bag shows production date 2011/11/20. How long is this product good? Please advise if it is still good to use as hot beverage. Thank you very much.

    1. admin Post author

      Period of validity of isatis granules is generally from 2 to 3 years. It may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Please look at the manual to make sure its expiry date. Don’t take it if it has passed.

    1. admin Post author

      Yes, it is good for inflammation. But clinically isatis is an herb with heat-clearing and detoxifying nature, which in a sense bears the resemblance to anti-inflammatory property. That’s why it is commonly used for colds, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, and other diseases. To be clear: it is not an anti-inflammatory but an antiviral herb because it contains no anti-inflammatory ingredients.

    1. admin Post author

      Although isatis can be used for both medicine and food, its side effects may cause some damage to the body’s organs. In other words, it shouldn’t be used as a weight-loss drug. In addition, long-term use of isatis is not recommended and the patients should stop it if no improvement is found after it is taken for 3 straight days.

    1. admin Post author

      Typically it is 10 g per small bag, equivalent to 14 g of prepared herbal medicine in small pieces ready for decoction. Recommended dose is half or 1 small bag (5 to 10 g), 3 to 4 times a day.

  4. Roxanne

    I last took Isatis on 9.29 and I am scheduled for surgery on 10.6. I have heard there is a anticoagulent effects. I am wondering if I should reschedule the surgery. I am having a ear surgery that is expected to cause some bleeding thanks.

  5. gabriella andrisani

    I took Isatis for three days for breakfast (5g), along with other tablets based on herbal medicine, and I had allergy problems under the eyes.
    It may have beens Isatis?

  6. Rashid Bangura

    Is Isatis (banlangen keli) good for high blood pressure, or is it contraindicated with high blood pressure medications?

    1. admin Post author

      The instructions tell that it does not cause changes in blood pressure. But be careful if you are using other drugs at the same time. If you have discomfort during the use, please consult a doctor immediately.

  7. Mary

    My vet has recommended this for my dog that has chronic urinary tract infections. In my limited reading about isatis, it appears to be used more for respiratory conditions. Would you give me your thoughts?

  8. E

    I have been using the isatis root beverage for cold symptoms for a week and no improvement yet. Maybe what I have is bacterial. Anyway, you mentioned ban lan gen does not have any anti-inflammatory properties. Can you recommend one that does? Also, is there a particular brand you like? Thanks

  9. Tess

    I am wondering if this would be helpful for Feline Infectious Peritonitis?

    This is a condition in which a coronavirus creates havoc within the body systems; renders the blood vessel walls permeable and so the fluids (mainly proteins) leach into the abdominal and pleural cavities.
    Affects kittens mainly.
    Always fatal.
    Recently a laboratory -created protease inhibitor was found to reduce symptoms and offers the first hope. Wont be available for years; due to the usual guff.

    As a herbalist, I am wondering whether Isatis root may serve a similar purpose?

    Thank you very much

  10. Akwasi Ignace

    I have decided to eat and drink natural things ,so my uncle brought me the Banlangen keli and I did try it .yes it is good but where can I get some,if I want to use it as my business ?

  11. Gail Y

    What is the remedy for overdose? My TCM licensed practitioner had me taking 3 as often as every 3 hours at one point for several days resulting in extremely frequent and loose bowelsband pain. Also develiped odd skin ‘rash’ -little bumps of unsmooth skin, only on skin around digestive system. While I stopped taking 2 months ago, my bowels have completely normalized, however the rash remains.

  12. Izzy

    Whats is the tcm thowry i have to follow for this herb what does it mean to blindly take this herb
    Is it just anout the dose i suppose?

  13. Dennis Roberts

    My doctor had recommended Isatis for Lyme Disease and I am wondering how long it would be safe to use this herb for this disease?


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