Prunella vulgaris, also known as Xia Ku Cao in Pinyin, is a very good herbaceous plant, typified in TCM by Sang Ju drink, a famous Chinese herbal drink handed down from Qing Dynasty. Its main traditional medicinal uses include sore eyeballs at night, dizziness, and other ailments, thanks to its amazing power in removing heat from the liver and protecting the liver. And the mass production of Xia Sang Ju, the modern version of Sang Ju drink, began in 1980 by Xingqun Pharmacy in Guangdong province.
What is prunella vulgaris?
Medicinally it refers to the dried ears of Prunella vulgaris L., a species in the family Labiatae. Other common names include heal-all, self-heal, slough-heal, and the like. In China it is mainly grown in provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, and Henan. It is collected in summer when the ears present brownish red. Before it is used raw, the impurities should be removed and the ears should be dried.
This is a perennial herb. Opposite leaves are ovate or elliptical-lanceolate, 1.5 to 5cm long, 1 to 2.5cm wide, with an entire or a serrate margin. Verticillaster clusters into ears, 2 to 6cm long; kidney-shaped bracts are with cuspidate tip; calyx is bilabiate; corolla is purple, slightly concave on the top lip, and with fine cracks at the edge of the middle lobe of lower lip. Small nut is brown. Flowering time is from May to June and the fruiting time is from July to August.
The whole prunella plant contains triterpenoid saponins that is based on the aglycone called oleanolic acid. And it also contains glycosides substances like rutin and Hyperoside and organic acids like ursolic acid, caffeic acid, and free oleanolic acid. In addition, it still contains vitamin B1, Vitamin C, vitamin K, carotene, resin, bitter substance, tannins, volatile oils, alkaloids, and potassium chloride.
Prunella vulgaris benefits
Prunella is usually harvested in the summer and the main medicinal part is the half-dry ear or the whole plant. Because it withers once June solstice comes, it is called Xia Ku Cao, which literally means “summer withered grass.” Prunella is a treasure. That’s to say, its medicinal parts include stems, leaves, flowers, seeds, and ears. Actually this herb has long been documented in Chinese medicine classics, and widely used in traditional Chinese medicine.
This is a famous heat-clearing herb. Thanks to the cold medicinal properties, it is commonly used for the treatment of internal heat itself and a range of diseases caused by internal heat, for example, high blood pressure, herpes, goiter, lymphadenectasis, breast hyperplasia, and more. Traditionally it is taken in the form of decoction. But clinically it is rare to be used alone since it is less reliable in this case. So, very often prunella needs to work with other herbs to bring out its best healing powder.
Modern pharmacological actions of prunella
1) Its decoction, water extract, ethanol and water extract, and ethanol extract can significantly reduce blood pressure in experimental animals. All stem, leaf, ear, and whole plant are antihypertensive, but ears’ efficacy apparently is better;
2) Its decoction through alcohol deposition is with a clear anti-inflammatory effect in mice by intraperitoneal injection;
3) Its decoction in vitro has a certain inhibition on Shigella, Salmonella typhi, Vibrio cholerae, Escherichia coli, Proteus mirabilis, staphylococcus bacteria and M. tuberculosis var. hominis.
Sample prunella recipes on herbal remedies
Chinese Pharmacopoeia thinks that it is acrid and bitter in flavor and cold in nature. And it covers meridians of liver and gall bladder. Its main function is clearing internal heat, improving eyesight, eliminating stagnation, and reducing swelling. Common prunella vulgaris uses and indications include painful red eye, sore eyeballs in the evening, headache, dizziness, scrofula, gall, acute mastitis, goiter, tuberculous lymphadenitis, breast hyperplasia, hypertension, and so on. Recommended prunella dosage is between 9 and 15 grams in decoction. And other available of form of this herb include pills, tea, capsules, extract, supplement,
1) Xia Ku Cao Tang from She Sheng Zhong Miao Fang (Marvelous Formulas for the Health of the Multitudes). It is decocted alone to be taken orally and externally to cure scrofula no matter it ruptures or not;
2) Bu Gan San from Jian Yao Ji Zhong Fang (Brief Prescriptions that Aid All People). It is coupled with Xiang Fu Zi (Cyperus rotundus rhizome) to treat liver deficiency caused painful eyeballs, constant tearing, sore tendons, and photophobia;
3) Xia Ku Cao San from the Zhang Shi Yi Tong (Comprehensive Medicine according to Master Zhang). It is combined with Xiang Fu (Cyperus) and Gan Cao (licorice root) to heal red eyes, headache, dizziness, and eyeball pain at night;
4) Xia Ku Cao Tang from Wai Ke Zheng Zong (True Lineage of External Medicine). It is joined with Bei Mu (Fritillaria Bulb), Cyperus, and more to treat scrofula due to pathogenic fire generated by liver depression and agglomeration of phlegm and fire;
5) Xia Ku Cao Gao from Yi Zong Jin Jian (Golden Mirror of Orthodox Medicine). It is in league with Kun Bu (Kombu), Xuan Shen (Ningpo Figwort Root), and others to cure gall;
6) Hua Du Dan from Qing Nang Mi Chuan (Esoteric Art of Healing). It is coupled with Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle Flower) to heal skin and external diseases caused by heat toxin.
Prunella vulgaris side effects and contraindications
The prunella-based herbal tea makes sense to most people. However, since it is cold in nature, it may do harm to those with poor gastrointestinal function or suffering from rheumatic diseases. Otherwise, it may worsen the condition and cause diarrhea. So, don’t drink it if you have a poor constitution.
In general small doses of prunella are safe. But long-term use of high doses will affect the health of liver, kidney, and other organs since it adds weight to the mentioned organs. In severe case it might lead to pain of liver and kidney.
Prunella vulgaris herb may cause some individuals allergic reactions, including nausea, vomiting, generalized itching, skin rash, and the like.