Eriocaulon (Pipewort, Gu Jing Cao)

Pipewort Scapus, InflorescenceEriocaulon, or better known as Gu Jing Cao, is one of important Chinese herbs closely associated with eyes. As one of the most fascinating and beautiful parts of human body, eyes are just about 7 grams and 2.5cm in diameter. Eyes not only take responsibility on cognition but also express emotion. So, its dysfunction, such as vision disorders, eye fatigue, too much gum in the eyes, and fungal keratitis, would create huge inconvenience to daily lives. Instead of taking vitamin A, the ancients utilized a few herbs to cure these eye problems. And pipewort is one of the most common one, along with goji berry, chrysanthemum, cassia seed, celosia seeds, and so on. Since so many eyesight-improving herbs are available to choose from, why Eriocaulon is that must-have one?

What is Eriocaulon or pipewort?

Commonly known as pipeworts, Eriocaulon actually refers to a genus that has approximately four hundreds species. All plants under Eriocaulon genus are monocotyledonous flowering plants belonging to the family Eriocaulaceae. Medicinally it mainly means the dried pipewort scapus and inflorescence of Eriocaulon buergerianum Koern. And the other two species, Eriocaulon sieboldianum Sieb. et Zucc. ex Steud. and Eriocaulon saxangulara L., are used medicinally as well. Other common names include Eriocauli Flos, Eriocaulon buergerianum flower, Eriocaulon buergerianum, Eriocaulon sexangulare flower Pipewort scapus., Inflorscence or Pipewort Scapus, Flos Eriocauli, and more. The medicinal parts, the inflorescence and buds, are usually harvested during autumn. And then it should be dried in the sun, cut into sections, and uses raw.

It is an annual herb. Fibrous roots are soft and dense. Basal leaves are in the shape of long, lanceolate strip. Capitulum is hemispherical and with closely layered bracts at the bottom. Bracts are yellowish green and the upper edge is covered with dense white short hair. The top of inflorescence is gray. Stems are slender, yellowish green, glossy, slightly twisted, in varying lengths, and with a few ridges. Capsule is 3-lobed. In china it is mainly produced in Suzhou, Yixing, Liyang, Zhejiang Wuxing, Huzhou, Xiangxiang, Hubei Huanggang, Xianning, Xiaogan and other places.

Eriocaulon health benefits

Main chemical constituent contained in E. buergerianum are plentiful naphthopyranones and flavonols, and with a small quantity of xanthones and flavones. However, it doesn’t justify its health benefits associated with eyes. And let’s see what its pharmacology said about this eye herb.

Modern Eriocaulon pharmacological actions

1. Its water extract, in the ratio of 1:6, in vitro has varying degrees of inhibition to a variety of microsporums;
2. Its decoction also has inhibition to pseudomonas aeruginosa, streptococcus pneumoniae, and escherichia coli.

Proven Eriocaulon herbal remedies

According to Chinese Pharmacopoeia, this herb is acrid and sweet in flavor and neutral in properties and goes to meridians of liver and lung. Its basic functions are dispelling wind and heat, improving eyesight, and removing nebula. And key Eriocaulon uses and indications are wind-heat induced hot eyes, swollen and painful eyes, light sensitivity, slight corneal opacity, wind-heat headaches, and so on. Recommended dosage is from 4.5 to 9 grams in decoction.

1. Gu Jing Cao Tang. This formula comes from Shen Shi Yao Han (A Valuable Manual of Ophthalmology). It is basically designed for swollen red eyes, photophobia with excessive tearing, and nebula due to wind-heat attacking upward. Other main herbal ingredients are Jing Jie (Schizonepeta Stem), Cao Jue Ming (Foetid Cassia Seeds), Long Dan Cao (Gentiana), and more.

2. Gu Jing Cao San. This prescription is from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It is exclusively formulated for brain wind headache. Other two herbs are Tong Lu (verdigris) and Xiao Shi (saltpeter).

3. Gu Jing Cao San. This is another version from Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief). It is mainly used for ulcerative gingivitis and gingival atrophy. Other three herbs include Bai Fan Hui (Alum Ash), Chan Su (Toad Venom), and She Xiang (Navel Gland Secretions of Musk Deer).

4. Gu Jing Long Dan San. Gu Jing Long Dan San is from Zheng Zhi Zhun Sheng (The Level-line of Patterns & Treatment). It is primarily used for conjunctival congestion, nebula, intermittent headache, and toothache. Other key herbs are Gentiana, Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia), Chi Shao (Red Peony Root), Hong Hua (Safflower Flower), and so on.

Eriocaulon side effects and contraindications

As of this writing, no known toxicity, adverse reactions, or drug interactions about Eriocaulon are found. However, TCM wise this herb shouldn’t be used in case of eye diseases caused by deficiency of yin and anemia.

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