Peucedanum, also known as Qian Hu in Pinyin, is a popular Chinese herb that is frequently used in many traditional herbal remedies. Its main medicinal part is the root. As a vital medicine to help cough up mucus, in particular yellow mucus, it is commonly used in the treatment of ailments that are associated with the symptoms of coughing and phlegm, such as cough after cold, acute and chronic bronchitis, viral influenza, pneumonia, etc. What’s more, today it can be also used in dysentery, chronic enteritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with secondary pulmonary hypertension, baby crying at night for no reason, furuncle, and so on.
What is peucedanum?
In fact, peucedanum refers to a genus in the family Apiaceae, in which there are a dozen of flowering species. Medicinally it mainly refers to the dried root of Peucedanum praeruptorum Dunn or Peucedanum decursivum Maxim. Other names of this herb include Hog’s Fennel, Radix Peucedani, Peucedanum Root, and so on. In China P. praeruptorum is primarily produced in Zhejiang, Henan, Hunan, and Sichuan and P. decursivum is mostly grown in Jiangxi, Anhui, Hunan, and Zhejiang. They are usually collected in autumn and winter or early spring when the cauline leaves perish or before the flower stalk appears. After that, remove the fibrous roots and soil, dry in the sun, and then slice. It is normally used raw or baked with honey.
Peucedanum praeruptorum is a perennial herb, 30 to 120 cm in height. Root is conical. Erect stem is single and branched in upper part. Basal and lower leaves are papery, from rounded to broadly ovate, and 5 to 9cm long. Compound umbel is acrogenous or axillary and with 7 to 18 inflorescence stems; white petals are widely oval or nearly circular; stamens are 5 and with ovoid anthers; hairy ovary has 2 very short styles. Cremocarp is oval or ovoid, smooth, and glabrous. Bloom time is from August to October and fruiting time is from October to November.
Peucedanum decursivum is also a perennial herb, 70 to 140cm long. Conical root is from brownish yellow to brown and with strong aroma. Single stem is erect, round, and with edges on surface. Papery basal and lower leaves are triangular-ovate, and 1- or 2-pinnatisect. Acrogenous compound umbel is with unequal 12 to 20 inflorescence stems; purple petals are long ovate. Elliptic mericarp is 4 to 7mm long. Flowering time is from August to September and fruiting season is from September to October.
Peucedanum root contains coumarin compounds, coumarin glucoside compounds, D-mannitol, β-sitosterol, galactitol, daucosterol, etc. And coumarin compounds include praeruptorin A, B, C, and D, peucedanocoumarin Ⅰ, Ⅱ, Ⅲ, qianhucoumarin A, Psoralen, peucedanol, etc. Coumarin glucoside compounds include coumarin glucoside compounds, nodakenin, marmesin, skimmin, rutarin, praeroside Ⅰ, Ⅱ, Ⅲ, Ⅳ and Ⅴ, decuroside Ⅳ, apiosylskimmin, etc.
Peucedanum health benefits
As mentioned previously, peucedanum is one of the best Chinese herbs for productive cough. However, this herb is far from a cure-all solution for all coughing with mucus. To figure out what peucedanum is good for, first let’s take a good look at cough and mucus from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine. Coughing with mucus, as its name implies, is characterized by coughing and phlegm. And other corresponding symptoms are usually accompanied according to the different causes and reactions of the body. The one caused by cold is usually acute and with a shorter duration, mostly accompanied by fever, headache, chills, etc. The one caused by internal injuries is usually without exogenous symptoms, chronic, and often accompanied by organ dysfunction syndromes.
Both Bai Qian (Cynanchum) and peucedanum root are known for their medicinal used on cough producing phlegm due to lung Qi upward reversal, thanks to their healing properties of descending qi and transforming phlegm. Actually they often appear in pair in herbal remedies for coughing up mucus. This is simply because they are so complementary that they can improve the efficacy – cynanchum is of warm nature and with stronger expectorant effect, which is more for cough due to internal injuries and cold phlegm; on the contrary, peucedanum is of slightly cold nature and with ability of dispersing wind-heat, which is ideal for exogenous wind-heat or phlegm-heat cough and asthma.
Modern pharmacological actions of peucedanum root
1. P. decursivum has better and long expectorant action. In this respect it resembles Jie Geng (Balloon Flower Root);
2. Methanol extract of P. decursivum can inhibit vascular permeability in early inflammation, significantly inhibit ulcers, and relieve spasm. In addition, it still has a calming effect that can extend sodium pentobarbital induced sleep time;
3. The crude extract and butanol extract of P. praeruptorum can increase coronary blood flow but don’t affect the heart rate and myocardial contractility;
4. Umbelliferone can inhibit the growth of KB cells in nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
Sample peucedanum root recipes on herbal remedies
The Chinese Pharmacopoeia says that it is bitter and acrid in flavor and slightly cold in nature. And it goes to meridian lung. Common functions are dispersing wind, clearing heat, descending qi, and transforming phlegm. Prime peucedanum use and indications include wind-heat cough with excessive mucus in throat, phlegm-heat wheezing cough, and coughing up yellowish green mucus. Recommended dosage is from 3 to 9 grams.
1. Qian Hu San from Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief). It is combined with Xing Ren (Apricot Seed), Sang Bai Pi (Mulberry Root Bark), Bei Mu (Fritillaria Bulb), etc. to treat fullness sensation in chest due to cough or asthma and coughing with yellow mucus.
2. Xing Su San from Wen Bing Tiao Bian (Detailed Analysis of Warm Diseases). It is formulated with Jing Jie (Schizonepeta), Zi Su Ye (Perilla Leaf), etc. to cure wind-cold type cough.
3. Qian Hu Yin from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It is matched with Fritillaria, Cynanchum, Mai Men Dong (Mondo Grass), Ma Huang (Ephedra), Da Huang (Rhubarb), etc. to heal cough with lung heat, excessive mucus, anxiety, and wheezing.
4. Yi Wu Qian Hu Wan from Wai Tai Mi Yao (The Secret Medical Essentials of a Provincial Governor). It is used along to make honey pills for baby crying at night for no reason.
Peucedanum side effects and contraindications
According to Ben Cao Jing Ji Zhu (Explanation of Canon of Materia Medica), peucedanum dislikes Zao Jia (Chinese honey locust) and fear Li Lu (Veratrum). And the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing Shu (Commentary on ‘Shen Nong’s Classic of the Materia Medica) claims that it shouldn’t be used in patients with qi-blood deficiency.