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Lapis Stone (Meng Shi)

Lapis ChloritiLapis stone (Meng Shi) is not a commonly used Chinese herb, but it is an amazing expectorant that is good at breaking up phlegm that builds up in lungs and throat. Besides, it is also used for the treatment of cough, epilepsy, chest tightness, etc. This mineral herb was first mentioned in the Jia You Ben Cao (Materia medica of Jia You Reign), which was compiled during A.D. 1057 to 1060. Clinically most lapis medicinal uses are associated with getting rid of mucus or phlegm. So, now it seems a good opportunity here to make clear what phlegm is from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine. In fact, phlegm refers to the abnormal accumulation of body fluid, which is the result of dysfunction spleen and the pathogenic factor that once again disrupts the balance in human body. That’s to say, phlegm and retained fluid are characterized as pathological products and virulence factors at the same time. As you can see now, phlegm-resolving does matter.

What is lapis stone?

Medicinally it means two types of stones – chlorite schist and biotite schist. Hence, other names of this herb include Lapis Chloriti seu Micae Aur., Vermiculite schist mineral, Lapis micae seu chloriti, Mica-schist, Lapis Micae Aureus, and so on. The former one is also called Qing Meng Shi and mainly produced in Hunan, Hubei, and Sichuan; the latter is also called Jin Meng Shi and mainly produced in Henan and Hebei. They can be collected throughout the year and then calcined before the use.

Lapis chloriti is the chlorite schist rocks, which are in the shapes of irregular flat oblique or oblique block and in different sizes. It is steel gray or gray-green and with slight pearl-like luster. It is heavy, soft, and friable. Cross section is lamellar and with sparkling points. And it is odorless and tasteless. It mainly contains magnesium, aluminum, iron, silicic acid and water of crystallization. This is a hydrous silicate mineral that resembles mica. It is green because it contains a significant amount of iron.

Lapis micae aureus is the mica schist rocks, which are in the shape of irregular lumps or granular. It is brownish yellow and with a bright golden yellow sheen. It is brittle, fragile, slightly odorous, and tasteless. It mainly contains mica (biotite and muscovite) and quartz. In addition, it still contains potassium, magnesium, aluminum, silicic acid, water of crystallization, and vanadium.

Lapis stone benefits

The amazing lapis stone healing properties have been found for more than a thousand of years. And let the facts speak for themselves.

(1). 180 cases of epilepsy were ever treated with the honeyed bolus made of Zao Ci (spina gleditsiae), She Chuang Zi (Cnidium Seeds), Jiang Can (Bombyx Mori), Wu Gong (Centipede), Dan Nan Xing (Arisaema Cum Bile), Zhu Sha (Cinnabar), and lapis. It turned out that total effective rate was 82.04% in 30 cases that consumed the pills only. And the total effective rate was 83.33% in the rest 150 cases that took the pills while continuing their original medication.

(2). 139 cases of epilepsy patients took the a baked pancake consisting of lapis, Jiang Ban Xia (Ginger-processed Pinellia Tuber), Tian Nan Xing (Arisaema), Fu Hai Shi (Pumice Stone), Chen Xiang (Agarwood), Qian Niu Zi (Morning Glory Seed), Shen Qu (Massa Fermentata), and flour. The result was quite positive and 93 cases were cured, 34 cases were improved, and 12 cases remained unchanged.

(3). 48 cases of obstruction in advanced esophageal and gastric cardia cancer were ever treated with lapis and Shu Fu (pillworm). Among them, 37 cases were relieved significantly, 6 cases were partly relieved, and 5 cases were ineffective.

Modern pharmacological actions of lapis stones

Its layer of octahedral-coordination cations is sandwiched between two same tetrahedra individual layers. There is static potential difference in such a structure, which can promote cation exchange and result in adsorption. As a result, that is the mechanism why it can break up phlegm and alleviate water retention.

Selected lapis herbal remedies

Chinese Pharmacopoeia says that it is sweet and salty in flavor and neutral in nature. And it goes to meridians of lung, heart, and liver. Main lapis stone effects are dropping phlegm, descending qi, calming the liver to relieving convulsion. Essential indications include sticky obstinate phlegm, choking cough, dyspnea, epilepsy, deliria, irritability, chest tightness, and convulsions. Recommended dosage is from 3 to 6 grams in pills or powder.

1. Gun Tan Wan from Yang Sheng Zhu Lun (Monograph of Life-cultivation). It is combined with Da Huang (Rheum Palmatum), Agarwood, Huang Qin (Scutellaria Baicalensis), etc. to treat all the diseases caused by phlegm.

2. Meng Shi Hua Tan Wan from Hui Zhi Tang Jing Yan Fang (Experiential Prescriptions from Hui Zhi Clinic). It is formulated with Rhubarb, Agarwood, Ban Xia (Pinellia), Chen Pi (Citrus peel), and Scutellaria to treat all phlegm-retention syndrome.

3. Meng Shi Wan from Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief). It is matched with Mu Xiang (Costus), Nao Sha (sal ammoniac), Cinnabar, Fen Shuang (Refined Calomel), and Ba Dou (Croton Seed) to treat abdominal mass in women due to indigestion and stabbing pain.

4. Duo Ming San from Ying Hai Bao Shu (Treasured Book for Baby). It a lapis-based honeyed pill to cure acute and chronic infantile convulsion and phlegm obstructed in throat.

Lapis stone side effects and contraindications

As one of healing stones mainly for breaking phlegm, lapis stone is characterized as heavy and intense in nature. Therefore, it should be used for only the excess syndrome due to the coagulation of phlegm. In addition, it shouldn’t be used during pregnancy and in cases of chronic infantile convulsion and deficiency of spleen and stomach.


(1). Zhong Guo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi (Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine), 1987; 7 (2): 107;
(2). Zhong Yi Za Zhi (Journal of Chinese Medicine), 1965; (6): 21;
(3). Zhe Jiang Zhong Yi Za Zhi (Zhejiang Journal of Chinese Medicine), 1990; 25 (6): 270.

Rosa Rugosa (Mei Gui Hua)

rosebudDeemed as a symbol of love, rosa rugosa, better known as Mei Gui Hua in China, is one of the most romantic universal gifts for any couples in love. In fact, it is more than just the carrier of romance and love and the rose medicinal uses have been there for hundreds of years. No wonder the Ben Cao Zheng Yi (Correct Meaning of the Materia Medica), compiled by Zhang Shan-Lei in 1920, values highly this herb and says that it is quite fragrant, clear instead of turbid, and mild rather than fierce in nature, which make it an ideal herb for nourishing liver, refreshing stomach, promoting the circulation of Qi and blood, and unblocking the stagnation. More importantly, using it can be free from worry of the disadvantages caused by other medicinal materials of acrid, warm, strong, and dry nature. For that reason, Zhang Shan-Lei claims that rose is the most immediately effective but mild qifen medicine among all the aromatic herbs. As you can see, its health benefits are quite tangible and solid.

What is rosa rugosa?

The medicinal part of rose is the buds. Hence, medicinally it mainly means the dried bud of Rosa rugosa Thunb., which is a member in the family Rosaceae. And other names of this herb include Young Flower of Chinese Rose, Flos Rosae Rugosae, Rosebud, Bud of the Chinese Rose, Japanese Rose Flower, Rosae rugosae Flos, rugosa rose, Ramanas rose, and so on. In China, it is mainly produced Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Shandong, Sichuan and other places. It is usually picked in batches during the end of spring and the beginning of summer when the flower is about to bloom. And then remove the stalk and stem and timely dry them in low-temperature. It is generally used raw.

Rosa rugosa plants are upright shrub, up to 2 meters in height. Stems are stout. Branches grow thickly, covered with dense hair, trichome, and thorns. It has alternate simple pinnately compound leaves with 5-9 leaflets per leaf. Flowers are solitary or a few of them cluster, 6 to 8cm in diameter, purple or white, and with single or double petals. Achenes are osseous, flat spherical, dark orange-red, and 2 to 2.5cm in diameter. The flowering time is from May to June and fruiting season is from August to September. Habitats in the wild are low mountain jungles and it is often cultivated in a yard or garden as a hedge.

It contains volatile oils, which include citronellol, linalyl formate, β-citronellol, geraniol, nerol, eugenol, phenethyl alcohol, geranyl formate, etc. And it still contains quercetin glycosides, tannins, fatty oils, organic acids, and so on.

Rosa rugosa health benefits

Rose is native to China, in which there is a long history of cultivation for ornamental flower and spice plants. Coincidentally the mild nature of rose and weak temperament in women is quite in tune. So, clinically rosebud is the preferred herb for the treatment of liver depression in female. Put it in the language of modern medicine – it is good at treating common gynecological diseases, such as morbid leucorrhea, irregular menstruation, menopausal syndrome, premenstrual cold, acute mastitis, and so on. And in recent years it is also used to treat depressive disorder.

Its flowers can be steamed for essential oil. Rosa rugosa oil is high in (-)-citronellol (60.0%), which is mainly for the purposes of producing food and cosmetics. Petals can be made into pie filling, jam, rose wine, rose syrup, flower essence, and tea. Buds are the main medicinal part and commonly used for liver qi depression, heartburn, abdominal fullness, and irregular menstruation. Rosa rugosa fruit is rich in vitamin C, glucose, fructose, sucrose, citric acid, malic acid and carotene.

Rosa rugosa tea is of mild nature and suitable for both male and female. It is so versatile that it is capable of soothing the mood, balancing the endocrine, enriching blood and qi, improving looks, caring skin, regulating the functions of liver and stomach, eliminating fatigue, and improving physical fitness. When combined with other herbal tea, it can also help digestion and burn excess fat. To be specific, rose are beneficial to women health in at least 4 different ways. To begin with, it regulates qi-blood and women’s physiological problems, which can go a long way in helping weight loss for female who gains weight due to endocrine disorder; then, long-term use of rose tea gives a good complexion by removing acne, spots and wrinkle; furthermore, it helps on breast enlargement and menstruation regulating; finally, it works as a mild laxative.

Modern pharmacological actions of rosa rugosa flower

1. Its oil promotes the bile secretion in rats;
2. It has a certain protective effect on myocardial ischemia in experimental animals.

Selected rosebud herbal remedies

The Chinese Materia Medica believes that it is sweet and slightly bitter in flavor and warm and non-toxic in properties. It goes to meridians of liver and spleen. Vital functions are regulating the Qi, dispelling the stagnation, harmonizing blood, and regulating the menstrual function. Main rosa rugosa uses and indications include liver-qi stagnation induced tightness and fullness sensation in chest, abdominal fullness and distention, breast pain and distention, irregular menstruation, dysentery, diarrhea, vaginal discharge, bruises, and carbuncles. Recommended dosage is from 1.5 to 6 grams in decoction.

1. According to Ben Cao Gang Mu Shi Yi (Supplements to Compendium of Materia Medica), it is used to make tea for the treatment of pain caused by stagnated qi in liver and stomach.

2. According to Mei Gui Gao from Si He Ting Ji Fang (Collection of Formulas of Si He-Ting), it is made into paste to treat vomiting blood due to liver depression and menoxenia.

3. According to Bai Cao Jing (Mirror of One Hundred Herbs), it is formulated with Hong Hua (Carthamus Tinctorius) and Dang Gui (Dong Quai) to treat new or chronic wandering arthritis.

4. According to Quan Zhou Ben Cao (Materia Medica of Quanzhou), it is crushed to extract juice and then stewed along with rock candy to cure cough and vomiting blood in lung disease.

Rosa rugosa side effects and contraindications

So, is rosa rugosa poisonous? In fact, the AHPA has rated it with a class 1. That is to say, it is edible and safe even though rose tea is consumed regularly. But for safety’s sake, women during pregnancy and lactation should stay away from it since it is reported that it may excite the reproductive system in women. TCM wise, use it with care in the case of fire excess from yin deficiency.

Glauber’s Salt (Mang Xiao)

anhydrous sodium sulfateGlauber’s salt is one of typical purgatives frequently used in traditional Chinese medicine. It was first recorded in Ming Yi Bie Lu (Miscellaneous Records of Famous Physicians), which was compiled by Tao Hong-Jing. It is also known as Mang Xiao in Pinyin, which, literally translated, means “wheat awn saltpetre” or “wheat awn vanish”. Accordingly, the reason for this name is twofold: it looks like the awn of wheat, plus it is soluble in water and disappears once dropped in the water. Clinically it is often used to treat bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, and others due to excess heat. And it is also good at curing sore throat, mouth sores, red eyes, ulcerative carbuncle, swelling, pain, and so on. In addition, it is also suitable for external use in the treatment of a variety of other ailments.

What is glauber’s salt?

It refers to the refined crystals from the natural mineral containing sodium sulfate. It mainly contains sodium sulfate decahydrate (Na2SO4•10H2O). As a result, other names of this mineral medicine include mirabilite, Natrii Sulfas, sodium sulfate decahydrate, Sodium Sulfate, and so on. In China it is mainly produced in Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui and other places.

According to different processing steps, it is called by different names. First, dissolve the natural mineral in hot water, filter, cool down, and then crystallize. This product is called Pi Xiao. Secondarily, clean and slice the radish, place them and Pi Xiao into the pot, add water and boil, take the liquid in the upper layer, cool down, and crystallize. The crystal obtained is glaubers salt. The preferred one is bluish-white, transparent, in the shape of block crystal, clean and free of impurities. Thirdly, glauber salts lose the crystal water by weathering and turn into the white powder, which is known as anhydrous sodium sulfate (Xuan Ming Fen).

It is prismatic, rectangular, or irregular lumps and granular. It is colorless or white translucent. And it is brittle, fragile, and with shiny glass-like section. Besides, it is odorless and salty.

It contains sodium sulfate, a small amount of sodium chloride, magnesium sulfate, calcium sulfate, and other inorganic salt.

Glauber’s salt health benefits

According to reports, glauber’s salt-based formulas can be used to treat a variety of diseases. For example, the total effective rate was 79% in the treatment of 117 cases of Kashin-Beck disease by taking it by orally, twice a day, 2 to 4 grams each time in adult (1); Jin Bo Xiao Shi San, composed of 100g mirabilite, 100g Hai Jin Sha (Lygodium japonicum), 40g Hu Po (Amber), and 20g Peng Sha (sodium borate), is a good cure for urolithic stranguria (2); it is also used to treat mumps, ascariasis, intractable pruritus, and so on.

Modern pharmacological actions of mirabilite

The sulphate ions of sodium sulfate cannot be easily absorbed by intestinal wall, which thus stay in intestines and form a hypertonic solution. This solution can prevent the intestinal absorption of water, increase the intestinal volume, cause mechanical irritation, promote peristalsis, and finally cause diarrhea.

Selected glauber salt herbal remedies

According to the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, it is salty and bitter in flavor and cold in nature. And it goes to stomach and large intestine. Basic functions are purgating heat and bowels, moistening dryness, softening hard mass and clearing heat for detumescence. Essential indications include excess-heat causing constipation, dry feces, abdominal pain due to indigestion, swelling and pain in appendicitis, and externally for mastitis and painful swollen hemorrhoids. Recommended dosage is from 6 to 12 grams. And generally it is not used as decoction. Instead it is highly recommended to dissolve it in the decoction after it is done.

1. Da Cheng Qi Tang and Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang from Shang Han Lun (On Cold Damage). It is mainly formulated with Da Huang (Rhubarb) to enhance the laxative effect. And in recent years it is also frequently used for abdominal pain and constipation in cholelithiasis patients.

2. Bing Peng San from Wai Ke Zheng Zong (Orthodox Exogenous Illnesses). It is combined with sodium borate, Bing Pian (Borneol), and Zhu Sha (Cinnabar) to cure sore throat and mouth sores.

Glauber’s salt side effects and contraindications

Given the cold nature of glauber’s salt, it should not be used for pregnant women and people who are with deficiency-cold in spleen and stomach. And Ben Cao Jing Ji Zhu (Explanation of Canon of Materia Medica) says that Shi Wei (pyrrosia lingua) can bring out its best but Mai Ju Jiang (carpesium abrotanoides) can restrain its efficacy.


(1). Gan Su Wei Sheng Tong Xun (Gansu health communications), 1972;4:23;
(2). The secret effective recipe selection of first batch of national famous old TCM doctors • International Culture Publishing House, 1996,456).

Vitex Trifolia (Man Jing Zi)

simpleleaf chastetreeVitex trifolia, also known as simpleleaf chastetree or Man Jing Zi in Pinyin, is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine and described by “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic” as one of the supreme Chinese herbs. Traditionally it is considered an herb that is good at alleviating fever, helping mucus for easier expulsion, lowering blood pressure, inhibiting the reproduction of viruses, and so on. That’s to say, it treats a wide range of diseases, including common cold, prosopalgia, chronic tracheitis, sinusitis, periodontitis, rheumatism, and more.

Vitex trifolia description

Traditionally the medicinal part of vitex is the fruit. Therefore, medicinally it often refers to the dried ripe fruits of Vitex trifolia L. var. simplicifolia Cham. or Vitex trifolia L. Both of them are members in the family Verbenaceae. And other names of this herb include Vitex Fruit Seed, Fructus Viticis, Vitex Fruit, etc. In China the former species is mainly produced in Shandong, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, and Fujian while the latter mainly comes from Guangdong and Guangxi. It is normally collected in fall when the fruits become mature enough. Before used raw or fried, it still needs to go through the process of removing impurities and drying in the sun.

Vitex trifolia plants are deciduous shrub or small tree, which is about 3 meters in height and with aroma. Young shoots are square and densely pubescent. Old branches turn round and all the hairs gradually fall off. Single leaf is with petiole that is 5 to 18cm in length; leaf blade is ovate or obovate, 2.5 to 5cm long, and 1.5 to 3cm wide. Panicle is acrogenous and 2 to 12cm long; calyx looks like a bell; corolla is lilac and 5-lobed; stamens are 4; ovary is spherical and with dense glandular dots. Berry is spherical and 5 to 7mm in diameter. Most of the berry is wrapped by the enlarged persistent calyx. Its flowering time is in July and fruit time is in September. Habitats include seaside, beach, lakeside, etc.

The fruits and leaves of Vitex trifolia L. var. simplicifolia Cham. contain volatile oils, a trace of alkaloids, and vitamin A. In addition, its fruits contain vitexicarpin or casticin.

Fruits of Vitex trifolia L. contain a small amount of vitricin (0.01%), 2.60% fatty oil, p-hydroxy benzoic acid, p-anisic acid, and vanillin. And main ingredients of fatty oil are myristic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, palmitoleic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, paraffin, γ-tocopherol, and β-sitosterol. The vitex leaf contains volatile oil, which are mainly α-pinene, β-pinene, phenol, 1,8-cineole and α-terpineol.

Vitex trifolia health benefits

As mentioned previously, its medicinal uses were discovered thousands of years ago in China, where traditionally uses it to cure a range of ailments. Today more health benefits about it are being found. For instance, it has significant antihypertensive effect, which is believed to relate to the parasympathetic nervous system. Experimental results show that its water extract can lower the blood pressure in rabbits. And this effect could be resisted by atropine and chlorisondamine, enhanced by physostigmine, and slightly strengthened by betanidine. However, it is not affected by propranolol or cyproheptadine. Though hypertension is not a concept in TCM, it is never a problem for ancient people to come up with many amazing inventions to treat this condition. And pillow filled with vitex fruit seeds is one of them. More than that, pillow like that can help feel refreshed and full of energy, cure stiff neck, and relieved muscular soreness.

Modern pharmacological actions of simpleleaf chastetree

1. Fructus viticis has certain degree of sedative, analgesic, and antipyretic effects;
2. Vitexicarpin contained has antibacterial and antiviral activity;
3. Distillation from its leaves can enhance peripheral and splanchnic microcirculation.

Selected fructus viticis herbal remedies

The Chinese Materia Medica believes that it is acrid and bitter in flavor and slightly cold in nature. And it goes to meridians of liver, stomach, and bladder. Vital functions are dispelling wind and heat and clearing head and eyes. Main vitex trifolia uses and indications include wind-heat type cold, dizziness, headache, migraine, swollen and aching gums, swollen red eyes, excessive tearing, pain in eyes, dim vision, arthritis with fixed pain caused by dampness, and spasm. Recommended dosage is from 6 to 10 grams in decoction, soaked wine, pills, or powder.

1. Yi Qi Cong Ming Tang from Zheng Zhi Zhun Sheng (The Level-line of Patterns and Treatment). It works with Huang Qi (Astragalus Root), Ren Shen (Ginseng), Sheng Ma (Cohosh), Ge Gen (Kudzu Root), etc. to treat insufficiency of middle-warmer energy, lucid yang failing to rise, tinnitus, and deafness.

2. Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Tang from Nei Wai Shang Bian Huo Lun (Clarifying Doubts about Damage from Internal and External Causes). It joins Qiang Huo (Notopterygium), Du Huo (Radix Angelicae Pubescentis), Chuan Xiong (Ligusticum), Fang Feng (Radix Saposhnikoviae), etc. to cure rheumatism;

3. Man Jing Zi from Lan Shi Mi Cang (Secret Library of the Orchid Room). It combines with Astragalus, Ginseng, Zhi Gan Cao (Honey Fried Licorice Root), Huang Bai (Amur Cork Tree Bark), and Bai Shao (White Peony Root) to treat overstrain, improper diet, and cataracta.

Vitex trifolia side effects and contraindications

Vitex trifolia has no known severe side effects. Only a minority of patients will suffer from some adverse reactions like stomach discomfort, dry mouth, diarrhea, mild facial swelling and others. And rash would occur on some individuals too. But the above-mentioned symptoms are generally so mild that it won’t affect the treatment at all. TCM wise, use it with care in the cases of stomach deficiency and headache and dizziness due to blood deficiency accompanied with stomach fire.

Barley Malt (Mai Ya)

Hordeum vulgare sproutBarley malt, also called Mai Ya in mandarin, is known for its high nutritional value all over the world. So are its medicinal properties, which are equally remarkable and have been mentioned in details in a large number of ancient texts. As a vital ingredient in brewing and cooking, malted barley is equally essential to our health. If a grain of sprouted wheat is laid on hand, its small malt hidden in the bottom will just be easily overlooked. However, it is the tiny malt that contains all the nutrients a grain needed to grow into a wheat plant. Unfortunately, its nutritional value will be greatly reduced due to the malt has to be ground in mill for the easy storing of barley flour.

What is barley malt?

It refers to the dried mature sprouted fruit of Hordeum vulgare L., which is member in the family Gramineae. And other names include malted barley, malting barley, malt barley, Barley Sprout, Fructus Hordei Germinatus, Fructus Hordei Vulgaris Germinatus, Germinated Barley, Hordeum vulgare sprout, and so on. Medicinally the processing steps are to wash barley, soak them for 4 to 6 hours, fish out, keep them in appropriate temperature and humidity until sprouts grow to about 0.5cm, and dry in the sun or in low temperature. It is usually used raw, fried yellow, or stir-baked to brown.

Barley is an annual plant. Stalk it stout, glabrous, erect, and 50 to 100cm in height. Sheaths are loose and amplexicaul, and with large auricles on both side, 1 to 2mm long membranous ligule, and 9 to 20cm long and 6 to 20cm wide flat blades. Spica is 3 to 8cm (except awn) in length, 1.5cm in diameter, and with dense spikelets; each node has 3 developed spikelets, which are usually sessile and 1 to 1.5cm long (except awn). Caryopsis is with ventral longitudinal groove or invagination; apex is covered with pubescence, which is adhesive to lemma when ripe and hard to peel off. Flowering time is from March to April and the fruit time is from April to May.

Main chemical compositions are α-amylase, β-amylase, catalytic enzyme, peroxide isomerase, hordenine, hordatine a, b, adenine, choline, proteins, amino acids, vitamin B, D, E, and cytochrome C. And it still contains toxic called candicine.

Barley malt benefits

Is barley malt good for you? Apparently its health benefits are enormous. To begin with, it is high in fiber and protein, which is one of the reasons why it is considered a healthy food. It is easy to be added into cereals and other fortified foods. More importantly most people can easily digest malt. But adding it slowly is preferable since it is rich in fiber. Then, malt contains vitamins and minerals that are important to health. According to lab reports, every 28.5 grams of it are with nearly 10% of recommended day intake of iron. It is also the ideal source of vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. And every 28.5 grams of it still contain 4 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein, but luckily they do not increase too much extra calories. Furthermore, many dieters are interested in and concerned about the calories of malt. As a matter of fact, the unsaturated fatty acid content in every 28.5 grams of malt is 3 grams, which provide only about 100 grams of calories. That’s to say, the malt is an integral part of a healthy diet that is low in fat and you don’t need to worry about the calorie thing. And since it contains no cholesterol but high fiber content, which is thus easy to make people feel full and suitable as a snack to resist hunger. Finally, there are many ways to use malt. It can be added to sauces but without affecting the original flavor. It is the ideal substitute for a lot of bakery flour and replacing part of the flour can add more nutrition in making bread, cookies, and more. Actually it is available in more forms nowadays, such as barley malt syrup, extract, powder, drink, tea, etc.

Modern pharmacological actions of malted barley

1. The amylase contained can break down starch into maltose and dextrin;
2. Its decoction can mildly promote the secretion of gastric acid and pepsin. In addition, a pancreatic amylase activator that aids digestion can be extracted from it;
3. The vitality of amylase in malt that is stir-baked to brown or decocted is reduced since the amylase does not survive high temperatures;
4. Its infusion taken orally can lower the blood glucose in rabbits and healthy people;
5. Its injection can lower blood sugar by 40% or more;
6. Raw malt can expand the female rat’s mammary gland and increase milk production. But the processed one has weaker effect;
7. The key of its bidirectional delactation and promotion of lactation lies not in the raw or fried matter but the difference between the doses. That being said, in small dose it promotes lactation while in large dose (over 30 grams) it helps delactation;
8. It has bromocriptine-like substance that can inhibit the prolactin secretion;
9. Hordenine resembles ephedrine on pharmacological effects. And hordenine A and B have anti-fungal effect too.

Selected malt barley herbal remedies

According to the Chinese Materia Medica, it is sweet in flavor and neutral in nature. And it goes to meridians of spleen and stomach. Main functions are helping digestion, increasing appetite, and delactation. Basic barley malt uses and indications include dyspepsia, diarrhea, abdominal fullness and distention, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, milk stasis, and breast distending pain. Recommended dosage is from 10 to 15 grams or even 30 to 120 grams in large doses in decoction, pills, and powder.

1. Hua Ji San from Bei Jing Shi Zhong Yi Cheng Fang Xuan Ji (The Anthology of Traditional Chinese Medicine Prescriptions in Beijing). It is combined with Shan Zha (Hawthorn Fruit), Shen Qu (Medicated Leaven), Ji Nei Jin (Chicken Gizzard’s Lining), Bing Lang (Betel Nut), and Qian Niu Zi (semen pharbitidis) to treat pediatric indigestion, a lump in the abdomen due to dyspepsia, sallow yellow facial complexion, loss of appetite, and abdominal bloating.

2. Hua Zhi Tiao Zhong Tang from Zheng Zhi Zhun Sheng (The Level-line of Patterns and Treatment). It is formulated with Bai Zhu (Atractylodes), Ren Shen (Ginseng), Fu Ling (Poria), Chen Pi (Citrus Peel), etc. to cure indigestion fullness.

3. Xiao Gu Wan from Za Bing Yuan Liu Xi Zhu (Incisive light on the source of miscellaneous diseases). It is matched with Medicated Leaven, Wu Mei (Mume Fruit), and Pao Jiang (Prepared Dried Ginger) to treat failure of digesting food, feeling of stuffiness in chest, abdominal bloating and rib-side distention, inappetence, and sleepiness.

4. Jian Pi Wan from Ben Cao Gang Mu (Compendium of Materia Medica). It is coupled with White Atractylodes and Citrus Peel to treat spleen deficiency causing poor appetite and abdominal fullness after eating.

Malted barley side effects and contraindications

The toxicity of barley malt is low. But it may cause poisoning when used as animal feed and fed in large amount because it contains a trace of malt toxin (candicine), which is a fast-depolarizing muscle relaxant. In addition, it may also cause the poisoning because of the bleeding of parasitic fungus during malt deterioration. So, safekeeping is necessary in order to keep it from exposing to the air.

Monkey Grass (Mondo Grass, Mai Men Dong)

Ophiopogon japonicusMonkey grass is also known as mondo grass and ophiopogon japonicus in Latin name. It is called Mai Men Dong in mandarin, literally translated, means “wheat winter” because of its wheat-like root hair and evergreen leaves in winter. Medicinally it has long been used as a yin tonic. But the medicinal part of this Chinese herb is not the leaf but the root, which looks like a plump and cute spindle. One of its magnum opuses is the ophiopogon combination (Mai Men Dong Tang). This herbal recipe is widely used for the treatment of chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis, chronic pharyngolaryngitis, silicosis, tuberculosis, gastric and duodenal ulcers, chronic atrophic gastritis, morning sickness, etc. Besides, it is traditionally grown as a border, as lawn, and as ground cover, thanks to its evergreen leaf, elegant flower, and pleasant fragrance.

What is monkey grass?

There are a few different types of monkey grass but medicinally it mainly refers to the dried tuberous root of Ophiopogon japonicus (Thunb.) Ker-Gawl., which is a member of the Liliaceae (Lily) Family. Therefore, other names include Dwarf Lilyturf Tuber, Ophiopogon Tuber, Mai Dong, Radix Ophiopogonis, Ophiopogon japonicus tuber, etc. In China it is mainly produced in Sichuan, Zhejiang, Jiangsu and other places. It is usually dug in summer. And then it needs to be exposed under the blazing sun for quite a long time until it’s at least 70 or 80 percent dry, stacked, had the fibrous roots removed, dried, and used raw and smashed.

Mondo grass is a perennial evergreen herb, which has luxuriant green linear foliage that grows thickly. It blooms in the middle of October. Flowers are lilac and racemose. Pedicels grow out from the leaf, with 10 to 20 light purple and beautiful florets each bunch. The pea-shaped fruits are bore after the flowers die. Fruits become purple or blue-black when ripe and inside there are strings of spherical monkey grass seeds.

monkey grass bulbs contains a variety of steroidal saponins, β-sitosterol, stigmasterol, flavonoids, amino acids, homoisoflavonoids, various types of polysaccharides, vitamin A-like substance, copper, zinc, iron, potassium and other ingredients.

Monkey grass health benefits

This herb was first recorded in the “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic”, the oldest and well-kept ancient pharmacology book found in China by far. Also known as “the elixir”, it has long been regarded as one of top-grade tonics. Monkey grass roots contain a variety of steroidal saponins, carotenoids, mucilage, sugars, stigmasterol, and other ingredients. Pharmacological experiments show that it can increase white blood cell counts, extend the lifespan of antibodies, improve immune function and DNA synthesis rate, and promote the production of antibody, complement, interferon, lysozyme, and other immune substances. In addition, it is also found with ability to improve myocardial contractility and protect myocardial cells. As a result, it becomes one of main ingredient in Shengmai powders, which, to a certain extent, can help to activate and restore the pulse. From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it can enhance the vital Qi, strengthen the body resistance to pathogenic factors, and then reduce the incidence rate of diseases. Put it in the words from Ben Cao Gang Mu (Compendium of Materia Medica) – long term use of ophiopogon tuber can help people become healthier, lighter in weight, forever young, and full all the time.

Modern pharmacology of mondo grass

1. After intramuscular injections in rabbits, its decoction could increase blood sugar;
2. After oral administration in normal rabbit, both its water and alcohol extracts showed hypoglycemic effect;
3. It can enhance the phagocytosis of reticuloendothelial system, increase peripheral white blood cell count, and improve immune function;
4. It can enhance the role of the pituitary adrenal system and improve the body’s adaptability;
5. It can significantly improve the hypoxia tolerant capability in experimental animals, increase coronary blood flow, dramatically protect myocardial ischemia, treat an abnormal heart rhythm, and improve myocardial contractility;
6. It improves left ventricular function and prevents shock;
7. It has a certain sedative and antibacterial effect.

Selected ophiopogon japonicus herbal remedies

Chinese Pharmacopoeia informs that it is sweet and slightly bitter in flavor and slightly cold in nature. It goes to meridians of heart, lung, and stomach. Major functions include enriching Yin to promote the secretion of saliva or body fluid, moistening lung, and clearing away the heart-fire. Main monkey grass uses and indications are dry cough due to lung dryness, consumptive cough, thirst caused by body fluid deficiency, irritability, insomnia, diabetes, intestinal dryness with constipation, and pharyngeal diphtheria. Recommended dosage is from 6 to 12 grams.

1. Mai Men Dong Tang from Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Cabinet). This formula is used to treat reversed flow of qi and vomiting due to stomach yin deficiency. And other ingredients are Ban Xia (Pinellia), Ren Shen (Ginseng), etc.

2. Zeng Ye Tang from Wen Bing Tiao Bian (Detailed Analysis of Warm Diseases). It is combined with Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia) and Xuan Shen (Scrophularia) for the treatment of constipation caused by deficiency of body fluid, which is consumed by pathogenic fire-heat.

3. Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang from Yi Men Fa Lu (Precepts for Physicians). It is formulated with E Jiao (Colla Corii Asini), Shi Gao (Gypsum), Sang Ye (White Mulberry Leaf), Pi Pa Ye (Loquat Leaf), etc. to treat dry nose and throat, dry cough with less phlegm, coughing up blood, sore throat and hoarseness.

4. Qing Ying Tang from Wen Bing Tiao Bian. It is mixed with Huang Lian (Coptis Root), Rehmannia, scrophularia, etc. to cure exuberant heat in heart-nutrient phase, annoyance, and insomnia.

5. Tian Huang Bu Xin Dan from Sheng Mi Pou (Exposition on Health Conservation). It is coupled with Rehmannia, Suan Zao Ren (Semen Ziziphi Spinosae), Bai Zi Ren (Arborvitae Seeds), etc. to treat insomnia and dreaminess, vexation, forgetfulness, palpitation, and so on.

6. Sha Shen Mai Men Dong Wan from Wen Bing Tiao Bian. It is matched with Sha Shen (Glehnia Root), Yu Zhu (Solomon’s Seal), Bai Bian Dou (Hyacinth Bean), Mulberry Leaf, and Tian Hua Fen (Trichosanthes Root) to treat dry cough, mouth sores in children, persistent pneumonia in children, chronic atrophic gastritis, chronic pharyngitis, pediatric cough, and leg and back pain, etc.

Monkey grass side effects and contraindications

Is monkey grass poisonous to dogs and kids? Actually it is edible and relatively safe clinically if used properly. As with the subacute toxicity testing showed, the toxicity of mondo grass was very low. In spite of this, it has been reported that it may cause an allergy on some individuals, with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, palpitation, irritability, erythema all over the body, itching, and so on. TCM wise, it shouldn’t be used for the syndromes due to the spleen’s dereliction of duty on transportation and transformation. These syndromes include water-dampness, cold-dampness, turbid phlegm, and obvious qi deficiency. Hence, it is necessary to identify the patterns of syndrome first to make sure to use it the right way. Otherwise, improper use will lead to dampness and phlegm, which thus cause adverse reactions like abundant expectoration, tastelessness in the mouth, loss of appetite, and more. In terms of drug interactions, rehmannia and Che Qian (plantain) are its guiding drugs. However, it hates Kuai Dong Hua (Tussilago Farfara) and Ku Hu (bitter calabash) and mutually restrains Ku Shen (Sophora Flavescens).

Nux Vomica (Ma Qian Zi)

Semen StrychniThanks to its amazing healing power on activating collaterals and relieving pain, clinically nux vomica, or Ma Qian Zi in pinyin, is often used in TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) for the treatment of trauma, ulcer, rheumatoid arthritis, paralysis, post-polio syndrome, etc. The written record of this herb was first found in the Ben Cao Gang Mu (Compendium of Materia Medica), the most comprehensive herbalism writings in the history of ancient Chinese medicine. It is considered dangerous since the working nux vomica dose is quite close to its minimum toxic dose. So to speak, it is just like a fiery horse with the speed of light, but apparently harnessing it does need a lot of skills and patient even though it is usually castrated (processed) before the use. For the same reason, many herbalists are afraid to use it since using it is just like treading on eggs or walking a tightrope. Toxic reaction will just occur instantly once used it improperly. So, a good understanding about it could go a long way in preventing medical errors.

What is nux vomica?

Medicinally it mainly refers to the mature seeds of Strychnos nux-vomica, which is a plant in the family Loganiaceae. So, other names include poison nut, Nux-Vomica Seeds, Semen Strychni, strychni semen, Quaker buttons, Strychnos Seed, Semen Strychni Nux-vomicae, and so on. The former one is mainly cultivated or uncultivated in India, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and other places. It is usually harvested in winter when the fruits are ripe. After then it needs to remove the flesh, take the seeds, dry in the sun, and process in order to reduce toxic.

Nux vomica plant is a tree, 10 to 13 meters in height. Gray bark is with lenticels. Branches are smooth. Leaves are opposite; petiole length is from 5 to 12mm; leaf blade is leathery, smooth, hairless, broad ovate or oblong, 6 to 15cm long, 3 to 9cm wide, and with acute or slightly concave apex, broad cuneate or rounded base, and entire margin; leaf axils are with short tendrils. Conical cymes are axillary, pubescent, 3 to 5cm, and 2.5 to 5cm in diameter; both bracts and bracteoles are small, triangular, pubescent, and with acute apex; flowers are white and almost sessile; calyx is green, 5-lobed at the tip, and densely pubescent; corolla is tubular and with 5 lobed apex. The lobes are ovate and densely pubescent inside; stamens are 5; pistil is 9.5 to 12mm in length. Berry is spherical, 2 to 4cm in diameter, green when young and orange when ripe, and with smooth surface. Seeds are 1 to 4, disc-shaped, 1 to 3cm in diameter, and with greyish yellow surface that is densely covered with silvery hair. Flowering time is in spring and summer and fruit season is from August to following January.

Seeds contain 2 to 5% total alkaloids, which mainly include 1 to 1.4% strychnine, 1 to 1.4% brucine, a small amount of vomicine, pseudo-strychnine, pseudo-brucine, novacine (N-methyl-sec-pseudobrucine), α, β-colubrine, struxine, loganin or loganoside, about 3% fatty oil, 11% protein, chlorogenic acid, and so on.

Nux vomica benefits

As previously mentioned, this poisonous herb can be also a good medicine for some life-threatening illnesses. (1) The plaster, composed of semen strychni 1g, camphor powder 0.3g, and white wax 4g, can be used for the facial paralysis treatment. The common usage is to paste it on the nerve trunk area in front of the ear lobe in affected side, once every 4 days. Among the 100 cases, 98 cases were cured, and 2 cases were improved after 4 to 32 days of treatment. (2). After treated with Feng Tong San, made of equivalent semen strychni and Ma Huang (Ephedra), the relief was provided in 35 out of 58 cases of chronic rheumatic arthritis, 9 out of 16 cases of chronic rheumatoid arthritis, 3 out of 5 cases of chronic hypertrophic arthritis, and 13 out of 24 cases of general joint pain. (3). 100 cases of neurodermatitis were cured by the preparation of soaking semen strychni 3g and Mi Tuo Seng (lithargite) 3g in 200ml saponated cresol solution. (4). This herb can be also used for the treatment of tinea pedis and manuum (dermatophyte infections of the hands and feet), trigeminal neuralgia, myasthenia gravis, respiratory muscle paralysis, chronic bronchitis, schizophrenia, epilepsy, shoulder periarthritis, and so on.

Modern pharmacological actions of strychni semen

1. Strychnine contained excites the spinal cord’s reflection function, stimulates medulla’s respiratory center and vasomotor center, and improves the cerebral cortex’s sensorium function;
2. Brucine has significant analgesic, antitussive, and expectorant effects. In addition, it has better antitussive and expectorant effect than codeine. But its effect of anti-asthma is relatively weaker;
3. Its decoction has different degrees of inhibition on haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Group A Streptococcus, neisseria catarrhalis bacteria, Trichophyton schoenleinii, etc.

Selected strychnos seed recipes on herbal remedies

According to Chinese Pharmacopoeia, it is bitter in flavor and warm and extremely poisonous in nature. It goes to meridians of liver and spleen. Basic functions are activating meridians to stop pain and removing stasis to reduce swelling. Fundamental nux vomica uses and indications include rheumatism and obstinate arthralgia, numbness, paralysis, traumatic injury, ulcer and swelling, post-polio syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis joint pain. Recommended dosage is from 0.3 to 0.6 grams in pills or power. Attention please, before the use it should be processed to reduce the toxicity. Generally the strychnine and brucine content can be significantly reduced by stir-baking in sand, frying in oil, boiling along with licorice, and other heating methods.

1. Jiu Fen San from Ji Jiu Ying Yan Liang Fang (Confirmed Effective Prescription for Emergency). It is combined with Ma Huang (Ephedra), Ru Xiang (Frankincense), and Mo Yao (Myrrh) for trauma, fracture, swelling and pain.

2. Ma Qian San from Jiu Sheng Ku Hai (Saving Lives from Abyss of Misery). It is equipped with Shan Zhi Ma (Narrowleaf Screwtree Root), Frankincense, and Chuan Shan Jia (Pangolin Scales) for the treatment of initial period of ulcer, external and internal injuries, and wandering arthritis.

3. Fan Mu Bie San from Yi Fang Zhai Yao (The Summary of Medical Prescriptions). It is formulated with Qing Mu Xiang (Radix Aristolochiae), Shan Dou Gen (Radix Sophorae Tonkinensis), etc., to cure carbuncle and sore throat.

4. Qing Long Wan from Wai Ke Quan Xin Ji (The Surgery Anthology for Carrying the Torch). It is used with Jiang Can (Bombyx Mori) and Zhi Jia Pian (Roasted Pangolin Scales) to treat malignant boil, suppurative osteomyelitis, scrofula, acute mastitis, and phlegm-qi lumps.

Nux vomica side effects

Strychnine can cause poisoning by the dose of 5 to 10mg and death by 30mg. Cause of death is the failure and suffocation due to repeated episodes of tonic convulsions. The main clinical manifestation of nux vomica poisoning include dry mouth, dizziness, headache, gastrointestinal irritation, palpitation, loss of control of the limb, fear, and epileptic seizures. Therefore, the dried medicinal herb, overdose and long-term use are inadvisable. Besides, it shouldn’t be used in pregnant women and weak people.


(1). Jiang Su Zhong Yi (Jiangsu Chinese Medicine), 1988; (6):31.
(2). Xin Yi Xue (New Medicine), 1985; 16 (2):35.
(3). Hu Bei Wei Sheng (Hubei Health); 1977, (7):43.

Ephedra (Ma Huang)

Herba EphedraeSpeaking of ephedra (Ma Huang), an ancient Chinese herb with over 5,000-year history, you might have heard of it if you ever spent some time on locating an effective diet pill. These days weight loss pills with ephedra are expanding the market despite of all those considerable controversy out there. As a legal drug recorded in the “Chinese Pharmacopoeia”, clinically it is mainly used for common cold due to wind-cold, chest tightness, cough, wheezing, and so on. Its main ingredient is ephedrine (EPH), which is also one item listed in the pharmacopoeia and commonly used for the prevention of bronchial asthma and relief of mild asthma.

When you catch a cold, the nasal drops containing ephedrine hydrochloride can be of a great help on reducing nasal congestion and swelling, runny nose, and other cold symptoms. Thanks to its outstanding benefits on accelerating metabolism, losing weight, and increasing endurance, ephedrin becomes one of the most popular performance enhancers for athletes. Besides, it is also one desirable fat burning pills since it will burn off the fat while maintaining muscle. But I do have to say, ephedrine has obvious adverse reactions, especially damage to the heart. Others include heart palpitations, arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, elevated blood pressure, stroke, brain damage, or even death.

What is ephedra or Ma Huang?

Medicinally it refers to the herbaceous stems of Ephedra sinica Stapf, Ephedra intermedia Schrenk ex C.A.Mey, or Ephedra equisetina Bge., which is a plant in the family Ephedraceae. It is mainly produced in Xinjiang, Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Gansu and other places. It is usually collected during autumn. After the harvesting, it needs to remove the woody stems, residual root and impurities, and then cut into sections. It is usually used raw, stir-fried with honey, or smashed.

Ephedra plant is a perennial herb, 30 to 50 cm in height. Needle leaves, usually about 1 to 2 millimeters thick, grow upward directly. The color of leaf is always changing according to the seasonal variation – green in summer, yellow in autumn, withered and yellow in winter, and tender green mixed with pale yellow in the following spring. Ephedra fruit turns red and sweet when ripe. Since it is edible and with high nutritional value, people love to pick and eat it when the fruit season comes. But eating too much of it may lead to dizziness. After the fruits are rife enough to fall into the soil or sand, it will sprout and grow in the coming year.

Ephedra sinica stem contains 1% to 2% alkaloids, which consist of 40% to 90% l-Ephedrine, d-pseudoephedrine, and traces of lN-methyl ephedrine, dN-methyl-pseudoephedrine, l-Norephedrine, d-Demethyl-pseudoephedrine, and Ephedine. Besides, it still contains 6% of catechu tannin, volatile oils, flavonoids, organic acids, etc.; Ephedra equisetina contains 1.15% to 1.75% alkaloids, mainly ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. And it still contains tannins, flavonoid glycosides, dextrin, inulin, starch, pectin, cellulose, saccharides like glucose, oxalic acid, citric acid, malic acid, fumaric acid and other organic acids; Ephedra intermedia contains large amounts of ephedrine. Besides, it still contains tannins, flavonoid glycosides, dextrin, inulin, starch, pectin, cellulose, glucose, etc. The above-mentioned 3 species have similar chemical constituents. But in terms of alkaloid content, the highest one is ephedra equisetina, followed by ephedra sinica and ephedra intermedia.

Ephedra health benefits

Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are the main active ingredient in many anti-tussive, anti-cold and intranasal compound preparations. Unlike its traditional use in China, this herb is extensively used for the purposes of weight loss, bodybuilding, and libido boost. Common brands include Stimerex with ephedra, Xenadrine with ephedra, Metabolife with ephedra, Lipodrene with ephedra, and so on. Besides of ephedra pills, you can also buy ephedra products such as ephedra tea, extract, supplements, etc. It is used as diet pills because it can induce perspiration, promote diuresis, and improve basal metabolic rate; it is used as stamina and sex enhancer because it can increase myocardial contractility, enhance cardiac output, and stimulate central nervous system. In addition, it is considered that the reason why it can help lose weight is based on its effect of suppressing appetite, which results in reduced calorie intake and thus burn off the fat for the energy needed.

Modern pharmacological actions of má huáng

1. Its volatile oil can induce sweating because ephedra alkaloids increases and speeds up people’s sweat gland secretion;
2. Its volatile oil has antipyretic effect;
3. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine relieve bronchial smooth muscle spasm;
4. Pseudoephedrine has significant diuretic effect;
5. Ephedrine can stimulate the heart, constrict blood vessels, and increase blood pressure;
6. Ephedrine has obvious stimulant effect on central nervous system, which cause excitement, insomnia, and anxiety;
7. Its volatile oil has inhibition on influenza virus;
8. Its methanol extract has anti-inflammatory effects;
9. Its decoction inhibits pathogenic microorganisms.

Selected herbal remedies on herba ephedrae

The Chinese Pharmacopoeia says that it is acrid and slightly bitter in flavor and warm in nature. It covers meridians of lung and bladder. Prime functions are inducing perspiration to dispel cold, freeing lung to relieve asthma, and inducing diuresis for removing edema. Essential indications include common cold due to wind-cold, chest tightness, cough, and wind-water puffy swelling. Besides, the ephedra stir-fried with honey is able to moisten lung to arrest cough, which is mainly used for asthma or cough after the exterior syndrome has been cured. Recommended dosage is from 2 to 9 grams.

1. Ma Huang Tang from Shang Han Lun (On Cold Damage). It is combined with Gui Zhi (Cinnamon Twig), Xing Ren (Apricot Seed), and Gan Cao (Licorice Root) to cure wind-cold exterior excess accompanied with wheezing and cough.

2. San Ao Tang from Tai Ping Hui Min He Ji Ju Fang (Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary). It is matched with apricot and licorice to treat excess type dyspnea due to attack of exopathogenic wind-cold and obstructive lung qi.

3. Xiao Qing Long Tang from On Cold Damage. It is formulated with Xi Xin (Herba Asari), Gan Jiang (Dried Ginger Root), Ban Xia (Pinellia), etc. to get rid of cold phlegm, fluid retention, cough, asthma, and clear, thin mucus in the nose.

4. Ma Xing Gan Shi Tang from (On Cold Damage). It is joined with Shi Gao (Gypsum), apricot, and licorice for the treatment of excessive lung heat, high fever, and tachypnea.

5. Gan Cao Ma Huang Tang from Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Cabine). It is coupled with licorice to cure edema and dysuria accompanied with exterior syndrome.

6. Yue Bi Jiao Zhu Tang from Jin Gui Yao Lue. It is used together with gypsum, licorice, Sheng Jiang (Fresh Ginger), and Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes) to treat edema and dysuria.

Ephedra side effects

In April 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the sale of food containing ephedra alkaloids and decided more relevant products would be imposed greater controls in early 2006. However, the fancy use, marketing hype, and poor management of over-the-counter drugs, instead of ephedra, should be the one to take the blame since the combination of them can lead to public neglect and misunderstanding on the safety of ephedra and ephedrine. Since 2003, the adverse events caused by abusing ephedrine have been increasing since it is allowed to be used as a food additive. And most of them are cardiovascular and nervous system problems, including myocardial infarction, heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures, loss of consciousness, or even a death. All these mentioned adverse reactions are more serious than normal side effects of ephedrine used medicinally, which doesn’t make sense at all. But there is one thing worth noting here – among the severe or death cases some are women who have taking weight loss pills with ephedra for a long term, even up to 4 years.

Currently controversy still exists on the clinical safety of ephedra and ephedrine alkaloids. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) never uses Ma Huang herb for the mere purpose of losing weight or building muscle. For sure ephedrine can be used for loss of libido and delayed ejaculation clinically, which however doesn’t justify the abuse of it by healthy person. And this is against the basic spirit and principles of TCM. So, clinically the use and dosing of ephedra or ephedrine should be done strictly according to the guidance of a doctor.

Aristolochia (Ma Dou Ling)

Birthwort FruitIn the 1990s, an herbal ingredient known as “aristolochic acid” was reported unsafe because of its association with cancer and kidney failure. Since then, the safety of aristolochia, also known as Ma Dou Ling in Pinyin, has been questioned by more and more medical workers. Unfortunately, this herb has been around for centuries, if not millenniums. From the point of view of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), most aristolochia species are able to expel wind, remove dampness, activate collaterals to stop pain, and promote qi to activate blood. However, modern research shows that aristolochia plants are toxic and they can result in a series of malignant diseases like kidney disease and urinary tract cancer. In April, 2012, Arthur Grollman, a pharmaceutical scientist from Stony Brook University, published a paper on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and claimed that the culprit for the high prevalence of bladder cancer in Taiwan may be the aristolochia, which has been widely used there.

What is aristolochia?

Medicinally it mainly refers to the dried fruits of Aristolochia contorta Bge. or Aristolochia debilis Sieb. et Zucc., which is a plant in the family Aristolochiaceae. So, other names of it include Birthwort Fruit, Fructus Aristolochiae, Aristolochia fruit, Dutchmanspipe Fruit, and so on. The former is mainly produced in Heilongjiang, Jilin, Hebei and other places and the latter is mainly produced in Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang and other provinces. It is usually harvested in autumn when the fruits turn from green to yellow. And then it is dried in the sun and used raw, fried, or processed with honey.

Aristolochia debilis is a perennial twining plant. Alternate leaves has thin and 1 to 1.5cm petiole; blade is triangular oblong-ovate, 3 to 8cm long, 1.8 to 4.5cm wide, attenuate above the middle, and with obtuse or emarginate apex, heart-shape base, and round-ear sides. Large flowers is solitary in leaf axils and with slender and 1 to 1.5cm pedicels; dark purple perianth is from 3 to 5cm; stamens 6; ovary is inferior. Capsule is nearly round or oblong, 4 to 5cm long, and 3 to 4cm in diameter. Flowering time is from July to August and fruit season is in September. Main habitat is slopes of the jungle.

Aristolochia contorta fruit contains aristolochic acid A, C, D, β-sitosterol, and magnoflorine. And aristolochia debilis fruit and seed contain aristolochic acid A and quaternary ammonium alkaloids.

Aristolochia health benefits

Aristolochia fruit is traditionally used for the treatment of cough, bronchial spasm, excessive phlegm, high blood pressure, etc. It is a well-known herb that helps lower blood pressure mildly and steadily. Based on clinical studies, it has better efficacy for the stage 1 and 2 high blood pressure. 37 cases of hypertension patients ever took 15 grams of aristolochia daily in the form of decoction. 15 to 25 days later, diastolic blood pressure significantly decreased in 10 cases, slightly decreased in 9 cases, and remained in 16 cases. The average lowered blood pressure was 28/13 mm Hg. Some patients’ blood pressure went up at one point but returned to normal in the short term. The longest observation had lasted for 278 days and no rising blood pressure was found. In addition, it helped improve most of the symptoms, among which headache and dizziness were the most obvious ones. Main side effects included poor appetite and weakness, which however didn’t affect the treatment.

Modern pharmacological actions

1. It can relieve cough effectively;
2. Its decoction has weak expectorant effect;
3. It can relax bronchial tube and relieve bronchospasm;
4. It has inhibition on a variety of pathogenic fungi.

Selected herbal remedies

The Chinese Pharmacopoeia believes that it is bitter in flavor and slightly cold in nature. And it goes to lung and large intestine. Main functions are clearing away the lung-heat to descend qi, relieving cough and asthma, colon cleanse, and curing hemorrhoid. Major aristolochia uses and indications include lung-heat causing cough and asthma, coughing up bloody sputum, hemorrhoid bleeding due to intestine heat, and hemorrhoid swelling and pain. Recommended dosage is from 3 to 9 grams.

1. Bu Fei E Jiao San from Xiao Er Yao Zheng Zhi Jue (Key to the Therapeutics of Children’s Diseases). It is combined with E Jiao (Donkey-Hide Gelatin), Xing Ren (Apricot Seed), Gan Cao (Licorice Root), Niu Bang Zi (Great Burdock Fruit), and Jing Mi (non-glutinous rice) to treat cough, wheezing, sticky less sputum, blood-stained sputum, dry throat, and so on.

2. Jian Yao Ji Zhong Fang (Brief Prescriptions that Aid All People). It is coupled with Licorice Root to treat lung-qi cough.

3. Qian Jin Fang (Thousand golden essential prescriptions). It is decocted to cure abdominal dropsy.

4. Zhai Yuan Fang. It is charred to treat cardiodynia.

Aristolochia side effects and contraindications

Studies on Aristolochia herbs in western countries can be dated back as early as 1990s. And the medical community’s studies and discuss in 2012 has resulted in the ban on the medicinal uses of aristolochic acid plants in a number of countries. Aristolochic acid causing kidney failure was initially discovered in 1993 by the Belgian scholar Vanhererghem. Then he noticed that more than a hundred women suffered from renal lesions due to taking diet pills containing aristolochia fangchi (Guang Fang Ji). What’s worse, all of them needed a kidney transplant in the end. And later related case studies from around the world also pointed out that this kind of kidney disease was closely related to the use of aristolochic acid-containing drugs. For that reason, this disease is named as aristolochic acid nephropathy (AAN). Though aristolochia can promote diuresis and relieve cough, the long-term use of it can cause kidney poisoning, destruction of the functioning kidney tissue, renal failure, urinary tract cancer, and even death. Hence, in 1994 aristolochic acid-containing Chinese medicine were first banned in France, followed by the United Kingdom, Belgium, Australia, Austria, Spain, the United States, Egypt and other countries.

Portulaca Oleracea (Purslane, Ma Chi Xian)

Herba PortulacaePortulaca oleracea, also known as common purslane and Ma Chi Xian, is one of edible, medicinal succulent plants, which is found everywhere during the seasons of summer and autumn. Thanks to its enormous vitality, this Chinese herb is often regarded as a longevity herb. Even though after rooted up and dried in the sun, it can regrow rapidly once buried in the soil again. No wonder it is said that purslane ever saved many lives that almost starved to death in the famine. Medicinally it is considered a “natural antibiotic” since it has an impressive inhibition on Escherichia coli, Shigella, etc., according to the result of modern research. Hence, it is commonly used for the treatment of summer diarrhea. From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, it is a perfect herb that rises in response to the heat pathogen. For that reason, it is highly recommended to consume it more if you are suffering from hot flashes and night sweats. By the way, portulaca oleracea salad is a good try.

What is portulaca oleracea?

Medicinally it refers to the dried aboveground part of Portolaca oleracea L., which is a plant in the family Portulacaceae. Other names include Moss rose, Verdolaga, Herba Portulacae, Pursley, Pigweed, horse tooth amaranth, Little Hogweed, and so on. Usually it is harvested during summer and autumn.

Purslane plant is an annual herb, which can reach up to 35cm. Lower part of stem creeps and branches; upper part is slightly erect or decumbent, succulent, green or lavender, and entirely smooth and hairless. Simple leaf is alternate or nearly opposite; blade is fleshy, oblong, spatulate, or obovate, 0.6 to 2.7cm long and 0.4 to 1.1cm wide, and with rounded apex, entire margin, and broadly cuneate base that resembles horse teeth. Yellow purslane flower blooms in summer, 3 to 5 of them cluster at the top of branch. Conical capsule contains many small black flat round seeds and cracks into shape of cap from the waist. Habitats include roadside, field, gardens and other sunny places.

Main chemical constituents in the whole plant are a large number of noradrenaline and a lot of potassium salts, which include potassium nitrate, potassium chloride, potassium sulfate, and other sylvites. And it still contains dopa, dopamine, betanidin, isobetanidin, betanin, isobetanin, oxalic acid, malic acid, citric acid, glutamic acid, aspartic acid, alanine, glucose, fructose, sucrose, and so on. Besides, it is reported that it also contains alkaloids, coumarins, flavonoids, cardiac glycosides, anthraquinone glycosides, and large amounts of ω3-polyunsaturated fatty acid (omega 3 fatty acids).

Portulaca oleracea health benefits

Though considered an invasive weed in some place, it is actually a pretty tasty leaf vegetable. As mentioned above, it is also an herb with many medicinal uses. According to reports, clinically purslane is a common medication for dysentery, acute gastroenteritis, diarrhea, etc. And it also has a curative effect on a variety of ulcerative dermatosis and would infections, such as mastitis, boils, erysipelas, cellulitis, athlete’s foot, and so on. In recent year, fresh portulaca oleracea leaf and stem are also widely used in the healing of psoriasis (1), chronic atrophic gastritis associated with intestinal metaplasia and atypical hyperplasia (2), biliary ascariasis (3), hookworm, urinary tract infections, herpes zoster, acne, diabetes, etc. Thanks to its skin benefits, now it is extensively used in the industries of cosmetics, skin care, and even weight loss, available in many different choices, such as portulaca oleracea supplement, tea, tablets, extract, oil, etc.

Modern pharmacological actions of purslane

1. Its ethanol extract and decoction have significant inhibitory effect on Shigella. Besides, it still has an inhibitory effect on E. coli, Salmonella typhi, Staphylococcus aureus, and Microsporum;
2. Its fresh juice and boiling water extract can increase the tension of isolated ileum in animals, enhance intestine peristalsis, and provide dose-dependent relaxation to the colon and duodenum;
3. Oral administration or intraperitoneal injection of the aqueous extract can relax the skeletal muscle;
4. Portulaca oleracea extract has obvious antioxidant, anti-aging, moisturizing, and cosmetic effects;
5. Injection of the extract has obvious excitatory effect on uterine smooth muscle;
6. It can increase the level of potassium;
7. It shows a dose-dependent bi-directional regulation on myocardial contractility;
8. It induces diuresis and lowers cholesterol.

Selected portulaca oleracea recipes on herbal remedies

According to The Chinese Pharmacopoeia, it is sour in taste and cold in nature and goes to meridians of liver and large intestine. Basic functions are heat-clearing and detoxifying and blood cooling and arresting. Major portulaca oleracea uses and indications include heat-toxin causing bloody flux, swollen welling-abscess, deep-rooted boil, eczema, erysipelas, snake bites, mucous or bloody stools, hemorrhoids bleeding, and uterine bleeding. Recommended dosage is from 9 to 15 grams in dried herb or 30 to 60 grams in fresh herb.

1. Ma Chi Zhou from Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief). It is used to cook congee with rice for the treatment of dysenteric diarrhea.

2. Ma Chi San Fu Fang from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It is formulated with Mu Xiang (Costus), Dan Sha (cinnabar), and salt to cure paronychia externally.

3. Ma Chi Xian Gao from Yi Zong Jin Jian (Golden Mirror of Orthodox Medicine). It is used alone to treat blood heat and exuberant internal heat toxin, carbuncle, and erysipelas.

Portulaca oleracea side effects and contraindications

Portulaca oleracea herb is edible and there is no apparent health hazard and toxicity in oral administration. But nausea may occur in large volume injection. And when eating purslane make sure to start from a small amount and then gradually increase. In addition, add white sugar instead of brown sugar since the latter will decrease its efficacy because of the warm nature. What’s more, it shouldn’t be used in the following cases.

1. People with diarrhea caused by abdomen exposing to cold. This is because the cold nature of purslane will make it worse.

2. Pregnant women. Experiments show that purslane juice has obvious excitement for the uterus, which increases the frequency of uterine contractions and the intensity and thus lead to miscarriage.

3. Those who are taking herbal tea that contains Bie Jia (Soft Turtle Shell). These two herbs restrict each other on medicinal properties and thus reduce the efficacy. In addition, stay away from it when you are eating foods that contain pepper and calcium powder.


(1). Shi Yong Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi (Practical Journal of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicines), 1995;2:89.
(2). Fu Jian Zhong Yi Yao (Fujian Chinese Medicine & Medicinals), 1996;3:8.
(3). Zhong Guo Min Zhu Min Jian Yi Yao Za Zhi 2000 (Chinese Journal of Ethnomedicine and Ethnopharmacy 2000), total 42 issues:61.