Spitting up blood is one of the major indications of Bai Ji (Bletilla Rhizome), which is one of traditional Chinese herbs used to stop bleeding clinically. This herb, actually, is capable for more in terms of the symptom of bleeding no matter it is vomiting or coughing blood, from lung, stomach, nose, or even skin. To figure out how it works, first let’s get to know some background about it.
What does it mean when you spit up blood?
This is a common clinical symptom, which refers to blood spit below glottis via air passage. Positions of bleeding mainly cover respiratory tract and lung. There are two sources in total. One is pulmonary circulation, namely pulmonary artery and its branches, which is low-pressure system and accounts for 95% of the incidence. Another source is bronchus circulation starting from aorta, which is high-pressure system and accounts for 5% of the incidence. Or another possible source is the granulation tissue that has the two mentioned circulations. As far as bleeding risk is concerned, the former is much lower than the latter. Bleeding equal or less 50ml/day is not serious; between 51－100ml/day is moderately serious; above 100ml/day is serious. Long-term repeated hemorrhage is dangerous, which may lead to death. In this case, the bleeding spot needs to be identified and received immediate therapy.
In terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are two main causes – abundance of phlegm due to lung heat and flaming up due to Yin deficiency. This symptom is under the scope of mass formed by stasis in TCM, which is the direct result of derailing from the meridians. The former sees symptoms and signs like plenty of blood, chest pain, dry mouth, irritation, fever, cough, flushing, red tongue with yellow coating, and strong rapid and slippery pulse, which is treated with clearing heat and cooling blood. The latter sees small amount of blood, dry cough, dry throat, hot flash, night sweat, vexation, red tongue, and rapid string pulse, which is treated with nourishing yin to clearing fire and tranquillizing blood.
What is Bai Ji and what is it used for?
Bletilla Rhizome, Bletilla striata (Thunb. ex A. Murray) Rchb. f. in Latin, refers to the tuber of one certain type of Orchidaceae plants, which is perennial, 20 to 50cm high, 4 to 5 leaves, stems formed by indigitation of roots, and scape in middle. Dried tuber is flat like palm, 2 or 3 branches, 1.5 to 4.5cm long, and about 0.5cm thick. Tuber surface is yellowish-white, with fine wrinkle, raised stem scars above, beneath connecting scars to another tuber, fine remnant root scars above dark brown concentric circles around stem scars. Texture is solid and hard to break. Transection is semitransparent, horny, scattered vascular bundle spots. It is odorless, tasteless, slight bitter, and with mucus. The quality one is fleshy, brighter, bigger, and without fibrous roots.
It is bitter, sweet, and cool in nature and covers meridians of lung and kidney. Main functions are tonifying lung, stopping bleeding, reducing swelling, promoting tissue regeneration, and healing boils. Main uses and indications are spitting up blood from the respiratory tract and lungs, nose bleeding, wound bleeding, abscess, sores, pyogenic infections, ulcers pain, burn by hot water or fire, and chapped skin. Regular dosage is 6 to 15 grams in decoction and 3 to 6 grams in powder.
Chinese herbal formulas for spitting up blood
Bai Ji San, from Yi Xue Qi Meng (Enlighten of Medicine), is for pulmonary asthenia. Other individual herbs are E Jiao (Donkey-Hide Glue, Gelatin), Kuan Dong Hua (Coltsfoot Flower), and Zi Yuan (Aster Alpinus), in decoction;
Bi Ji Fei, from Hou Ke Xin Fa (Laryngology Attainment), is for pulmonary asthenia and ulcers. The steps are to clean pork lung, remove its tendons and velum, stew Bletilla, pork lung and wine, and then drink the soup when it is ready;
Bai Ji Pi Pa Wan, from Zheng Zhi Zhun Sheng (Standards for Diagnosis and Treatment) is for coughing up blood. Other ingredients are Pi Pa Ye (Loquat Leaf), Ou Jie (Lotus Rhizome Node), E Jiao (Donkey-Hide Glue, Gelatin), Ge Fen (Clam Shell), and Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia);
According to Ben Cao Fa Ming (Invention Materia Medica), Bletilla powder treats severe hematemesis due to lung heat, 2 Qian each dosage, taken with clear soup.
As mentioned above, this herb promotes tissue regeneration, which is now widely used for skin whitening. What’s more, it is also good for a variety of skin diseases like acne, ringworm, boil, coarseness, wrinkles, and scars. Now this single herb or formulas are being made into mask, lotion, plaster, porridge, and cream for facilitation. As is well-known, skin is the outer layer of the body, and the moisture content inside impacts skin directly. TCM believes that lung is closely associated with skin and lung Yin plays an important role on the conditions of skin.
Possible side effects and contraindications
This herb is incompatible with Wu Tou (Radix Aconiti Carmichaeli) in remedies for spitting up blood and others. Furthermore, it shouldn’t be used together with other bitter-cold herbs if carbuncle festers already.