Overgrowth of pond cattails is often viewed by the owners as an annoyance that needed to be gotten rid of. However, you just can’t come to a conclusion that cattail plants are good for nothing because of that. Invasive species and a noxious weed as it is in some places, this wetland plant can be quite versatile if you know how to make the best use instead of killing it. For instance, cattails, used for medicine, are good for a number of ailments, especially those accompanied with the symptom of bleeding. From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, cattail pollen, also known as Pu Huang, is its main medicinal part, which is traditionally used for the treatment of spitting out blood, nose bleeding, urinary bleeding, blood in the urine and in the stool, uterine bleeding, miscarriage prevention, promotion of lactation, retained placenta, and so on.
What are cattails?
Medicinally it mainly refers to the dried pollen of a series of cattails genus species in the family Typhaceae, including Typha angustifolia L. (narrow leaf cattail, lesser bulrush, or jambu), Typha latifolia L. (common cattail), Typha orientalis Preel (broadleaf cumbungi or raupo), Typha angustata Bory et Chaub., and more. And other names of this herb include reedmace, bulrush, catninetail, raupo, punks, cumbungi, corn dog grass, and so on. In China it is mainly produced in provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Anhui, Hubei, and Shandong. The yellow male inflorescence, located at the top of cattail flower spikes, is usually collected in summer. After that, it needs to be dried in the sun, ground, and sifted for the fine powder. It is generally used raw or fried.
Typha angustifolia, also known as narrow leaf cattail, is a perennial herb, 1.5 to 3 meters in height. Creeping rhizomes are with many fibrous roots. Leaves are narrowly linear, 5 to 8mm wide, or rarely up to 10mm. Small flowers are unisexual and monoecious; brown spica is long and cylindrical; pistillate and staminate inflorescences are detached. Staminate inflorescence, 20 to 30cm long, is in the upper part and pistillate inflorescence, 9 to 28cm long, is in the lower part and with caducous leafy bracts; male cattail flower have 2 to 3 stamens, basal hair that is longer than the anthers, single or 2 to 3 pronged apex, and solitary pollen grain; spatulate female flowers are bracteolate, shorter than the stigma but as long as the bracteole, and with caducous fuzz and linear or linear-round stigmas. Cluster is 10 to 15cm in diameter. Small nuts are indehiscent and with no grooves. And the epicarp separates from the hard inner shell. Bloom time is from June to July and fruiting time is from July to August. Main cattails habitat is shallow water.
Pollen Typhae Angustifoliae mainly contains flavonoids, sterols, polysaccharides, amino acids, trace elements, volatile oil, etc. Flavonoids mainly include typhaneoside, quercetin, kaempferol, isorhamnetin, and naringenin. Sterols mainly include β-sitosterol, β-sitosterol glucoside, β-sitosterol palmitate, and pentacosane. Polysaccharides are TAA, TAB, and TAC. Amino acids are aspartic acid, threonine, serine, glutamic acid, valine, arginine, proline, cystine, and tryptophan. Trace elements include titanium, aluminum, boron, prostrate, chromium, copper, mercury, iron, iodine, molybdenum, selenium, zinc, etc. Volatile oil contains 2,6,11,14-tetramethylnonadecane, methyl palmitate, palmitic acid, 2-octadecenol, 2-pentylfuran, β-pinene, methyloctadeca-8,11-dienoate, 1,2-dimethoxybenzene, 1-methylnaphthalene, 2,7-dimethylnaphthalene, and more.
Cattails plant is also an edible crispy wild vegetable, especially the soft white part of cauloid and young part at the tip of cattail roots . For example, Nai Tang Pu Cai (milk soup of cattail) is a famous soup in Shandong Cuisine, one of the Eight Cuisines in China. This is a famous specialty of Jinan cuisine, which is based on the tender cattail plant that grows by the Daming Lake. As a matter of act, the popularity of this dish can be even dated back to as early as in Ming and Qing Dynasties. Thanks to its milky white color, crisp texture, and refreshing light flavor, it becomes a regular in high grade feasts. No wonder it enjoys the reputation as “the first soup of Jinan cuisine.”
Cat tail plant is also an important raw material for manufacturing paper and rayon. Besides, its leaves are widely used to weaving shoes, fans, mats, baskets, and other useful crafts that are of high artistic and aesthetic values. And cattail wool, the hairs on the female inflorescence, is often used for stuffing pillows.
Thanks to its upright leaves and stout inflorescence, cattails also serve as one of ornamental flowers. Besides, its green leaf and unique spike is also a good background material for flower sight and waterscapes. For that reason, it is commonly used in embellishing ponds in garden and lakeside and building water features. What’s more, it can be planted as bonsai for courtyard layout and the spike of cattail is commonly considered cut flower material.
As mentioned above, cattails pollen is the main medicinal part, which is with cardiotonic and lipid-lowering effects. The cat-tail-pollen based compound preparations can dilate coronary artery, reduce lipid, and prevent and treat atherosclerosis. Hence, clinically it has a certain effect in the treatment of coronary heart disease, angina, and hyperlipidemia. As a traditional Chinese herb, it has long been considered a good herb for activating blood and dissolving stasis, removing stasis to relieve pain, and inducing diuresis for treating stranguria. In fact, it also works on lowering lipid to unclog arteries and treating hyperlipidemia. This is because this herb can inhibit lipid deposition in the arterial wall, thus effectively delay the process of atherosclerosis, which in turn reduce total cholesterol, lower blood pressure, dilate blood vessels, and improve microcirculation.
Modern pharmacology of cattail pollen
1. Its aqueous extract, decoction, or 50% ethanol extract could promote blood clotting and the role is quite significant and lasting; 2. Its various formulations can lower blood pressure, reduce cardiac load, increase coronary blood flow, improve microcirculation, enhance body’s tolerance to anoxia, reduce the frequency of myocardial ischemic lesions;
3. It has excitatory effect on isolated uterine. In addition, in vitro it can enhance the motility of isolated intestine;
4. It can lower the levels of lipids like blood cholesterol and triglyceride. And it can also change the lipid compositions;
5. It has anti-inflammatory, choleretic, diuretic, analgesic, and anti-asthmatic effects. And it resists ischemia reperfusion injury.
Sample cattails recipes on herbal remedies
The Chinese Materia Medica believes that cattails are sweet and slightly acrid in flavor and neutral in nature. It covers meridians of liver, heart, and spleen. Basic functions are stopping bleeding, removing stasis, and promoting diuresis. Principal cattail uses and indications include hemoptysis, nosebleed, dysentery, blood in the stool, bloody flux, uterine bleeding, traumatic bleeding, cardiodynia and abdominal pain, amenorrhea-induced abdominal pain, postpartum stasis-induced pain, dysmenorrhea, pain or swelling after a fall and twisting injury, difficult painful urination in bloody stranguria, vaginal discharge, redness or swelling in bottom and root of the tongue, mouth sores, acute or chronic suppurative ear diseases, and wet itchy groin or crotch. Recommended dosage is from 5 to 10 grams in decoction, pills or powder. And it is necessary to pack it with gauze before the decocting. By the way, it is usually used raw in dissipating stasis to relieve pain, fried in stopping bleeding, and both in bleeding due to blood stasis.
1. Pu Huang Wan from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It is formulated with Long Gu (Dragon Bones) and Ai Ye (Mugwort Herb) to treat abnormally heavy or prolonged menstruation.
2. Shi Xiao San from Tai Ping Hui Min He Ji Ju Fang (Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary). It is coupled with Wu Ling Zhi (Faeces Trogopterori) to make cream for the treatment of tremendous postpartum pain in heart and abdomen.
3. Pu Huang San from Complete Record of Holy Benevolence. It is matched with Yu Jin (Tumeric Tuber) to cure heat in bladder and blood in the urine.
4. Pu Huang San from Seng Shen Ji Fang (Prescription book of Monk Shen). It is put together with Gan Cao (Licorice Root) and Gan Jiang (Dried Ginger Root) to heal sudden vaginal bleeding and blood in stool and urine.
5. Pu Huang San from Ling Li Fang (Lingli Prescriptions). It is used along with Hai Tong Pi (Erythrina Variegata Bark) and Licorice Root to cure erosion of vulva.
Cattails side effects and contraindications
Cattails pollen is with low toxicity. In mice the median lethal dose is around 35.57g/kg weight. It can cause allergic reactions in guinea pigs and test-tube experiments showed that it could cause hemolysis. Besides, it can still reduce the red blood cells and leukocytes counts in mice. Although there are no obvious side effects about this herb, pregnant women should stay away from it since it can cause the contraction of the uterus. In individuals it may lead to stomach upset and loss of appetite too. Finally, clinically attention should be paid to its procoagulant and allergic reactions. TCM wise, according to the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing Shu (Commentary on ‘Shen Nong’s Classic of the Materia Medica), cattail pollen shouldn’t be used in the cases of all fever caused by over exertion, internal heat due to yin deficiency, but with no stasis.