Basic Profiles of the Various Chinese Medicinal Herbs

【Disclaimer: any reader should consult a qualified practitioner for Chinese medicine before taking any of these herbs.】

Name

Source Material

Nature

Functions

Chinese Medical Uses

Methods of Use

Wu Jia Pi(五加皮) Root bark of Acanthopanax gracilistylus Warm, acrid and bitter Dispelling wind damp cold, nourishing the kidney and liver, and strengthening the tendons and bones Pain as a result of trauma, arthritic and muscle pain, weakness in lower back and knees Both alone and together with other herbs
Huai Niu Xi (怀牛膝) Root of Oxknee Sour and bitter Activating blood circulation, and tonifying the kidney and liver Chronic and acute joint pain and pain because of external injury, menstrual problems Together with other herbs
Tu Huo Xiang        (土藿香) Aerial part of Korean Mint Warm, aromatic and acrid Relieving summer dampness and transforming dampness Nausea and vomiting, stomach flu, digestive weakness Together with other herbs
He Huan Pi/Hua (合欢皮/花) Bark/flower of Mimosa Neutral, sweet Invigorating  the blood and harmonizing the liver and stomach Insomnia, irritability, anxiety, pain and swellings due to trauma Both alone and together with other herbs
Ze Xie (泽泻) Rhizome of Water Plantain Sweet, bland and cold Regulating fluid circulation, and resolving dampness Edema (water swelling), urinary disorders, vertigo, and ear ringing In combination  with other herbs
Xie Bai (薤白) Bulb of Allium macrostemon Acrid, bitter, and warm Dispersing stagnation, and relieving painful obstruction of the chest Angina, pressure in the chest, shortness of breath, and loud wheezing Suitable for culinary use; medicinally together with other herbs
Jiu Cai Zi (韭菜子) Seed of Garlic Chives Warm, acrid and sweet Tonifying the liver and kidney, warming and regulating the stomach Impotence, weakness, coldness, frequent urination, soreness of the back and knees Both individually and in combination with other herbs
Chuan Xin Lian (穿心莲) Herb or aerial part of Kalmegh Bitter and cold Clearing heat, eliminating toxins, and drying dampness Upper respiratory tract infections, skin disorder, venomous bites Single herb or in combination with other herbs
Zhi Mu (知母) Rhizome of Anemarrhena asphodeloides Cold, bitter and sweet Clearing heat and fire from the lung or stomach, supporting the fluids Menopause, hot flashes, gastric reflu,  stomatitis, inflammatory joint conditions Together with other herbs
Bai Zhi (白芷) Root of  Angelica dahurica Warm and acrid Warming and relieving pain, eliminating toxins and reducing pus and swellings Sinus conditions ranging from sinusitis and allergic rhinitis to the common cold Together with other herbs
Du Huo (独活) Root of Angelica pubescens Warm, bitter and acrid Dispelling wind and dampness, and unblocking the channels to relieve pain Arthritic pain, acute or chronic muscle and joint pain, and weakness of the knees and lower back Together with other herbs
Dang Gui (当归) Root of Angelica sinensis Sweet, acrid and warm Tonifying the blood, invigorating the blood circulation, relieving pain, moistening the intestines Scant menstruation, irregular menstrual cycle, anemia, palpatations, and traumatic injuries Traditionally used in dietary therapy; medicinally used alone, but also used in formulas
Niu Bang Zi (牛蒡子) Fruit of Burdock Acrid, bitter and cold Dispelling wind, clearing heat, eliminating toxins,  and venting rashes Sore throat, swollen tonsils, headache, fever, cough and phlegm Together with other herbs
Qing Hao (青蒿) Herb or aerial portion of Sweet Annie Bitter, acrid and cold Clearing heat, and treating malaria, and cooling the blood Malaria, Lyme disease, tidal fever, absence of perspiration, and eye disorder Used both as a single herb and in combination with other herbs
Tian Men Dong (天门冬) Root of Asparagus cochinchinensis Sweet, bitter and very cold Moistening dryness, and clearing lung heat Chronic and acute lung conditions, constipation with dry stool, and chronic and acute sore throat Together with other herbs
Zi Wan (紫菀) Root of Tartar Aster Bitter, sweet,  and slightly warm Addressing coughs and dissolving phlegm An important ingredient in many formulas that treat coughing Both individually and in combination with other herbs
Huang Qi (黄芪) Root of Milk Vetch Sweet and slightly warm Tonifying the spleen and lung qi, consolidating the exterior, and regulating the fluid circulation Relieving pain and numbness, generating flesh, frequent colds and flu, fatigue, and enhancing energy and the immune system Often used in dietary therapy; medicinally used both alone and in formulas
Bai Zhu (白术) Rhizome of Chinese Thistle Daisy Sweet, bitter and warm Strengthening the spleen and stomach, transforming dampness, and stabilizing the exterior Fatigue and weakness, poor digestive assimilation, lack of appetite, edema, and chronic phlegm Usually used together with other herbs
She Gan (射干) Rhizome of Blackberry Lily Bitter and cold Clearing heat and eliminating toxins, dispelling phlegm, and stop wheezing Cough, wheezing with profuse mucus, and acute sore throats Usually used together with other herbs
Chai Hu (柴胡) Root of Hare’s Ear Bitter, acrid and cool Harmonizing the interior and exterior, and spreading the liver qi to address liver qi stagnation Premenstrual  syndrome and other gynecological disorders, digestive disorders and malaria-type conditions Occasionally used culinarily and primarily in combination with other herbs
Hong Hua (红花) Flower of Safflower Acrid and warm Activating the blood circulation, dispelling blood stagnation, and opening the channels Menstrual cramping, amenorrhea, abdominal accumulation and pain, joint pain, and chest pain In combination with other herbs
Qing Xiang Zi (青葙子) Seed of Celosia argentea Bitter and cool Clearing liver fire–primarily when affecting the eyes or head or elevating the blood pressure Eye redness, swelling, and pain, headaches and hypertension, Usually together with other herbs
Ji Guan Hua (鸡冠花) Flower of Cockscomb Sweet and cool Clearing heat, cooling the blood, stopping bleeding, and stopping diarrhea Intestinal and hemorrhoidal bleeding, abnormal uterine bleeding, and nosebleeds Used alone and together with other herbs
Ji Xue Cao (积雪草) Whole plant or herb of Gotu Kola Bitter and astringent, sweet post-digestive, and cold Enhancing mental functioning, and promoting longevity Poor memory, senile dementia, skin problems, asthma, and hoarse voice Usually in combination with other herbs
Ju Hua (菊花) Flower of Chrysanthemum morifolium Acrid, sweet, bitter and cool Dispelling wind heat, clearing liver heat, benefitting the eyes, and clearing heat and toxins Headaches, fever, sore throat, red and painful eyes, blurred vision, near-sightedness, and dizziness Often used in beverage; medicinally used both alone and together with other herbs
Chou Wu Tong (臭梧桐) Leaf of Glorybower Acrid, bitter, and cool Dispelling wind damp, and lowering blood pressure Eczema, skin disorders, musculoskeletal pain, numbness of the limbs, lowering high blood pressure, and paralysis Used by itself and together with other herbs
Dang Shen (党参) Root of Poor Man’s Ginseng Sweet and neutral Strengthening the spleen and the lung, nourishing the blood, and promoting the generation of fluids Fatigue, weakness, indigestion, diarrhea, coughing, shortness of breath, and chronic illness Usually in combination with other herbs
Yi Yi Ren (薏苡仁)  Seed of Job’s Tears Sweet, bland and cool Strengthening the spleen, and resolving dampness Digestive disorders, loose stools, low appetite, water swelling, urinary difficulty, muscle joint pain, and spasms Used both alone and in combination with other herbs
Shan Zhu Yu (山茱萸) Fruit of Dogwood Sour and slightly warm Tonifying the liver and the kidney, and stabilizing the body fluids Weakness, dizziness, aching low back and knees, impotence, premature ejaculation, and tinnitus Usually in combination with other herbs
Shan Zha (山楂) Fruit of Chinese Hawthorn Sweet, sour and slightly warm Promoting digestion, dispersing food stagnation, and activating the blood Abdominal fullness, pain and distention, diarrhea, general indigestion, cardiovascular disorders, and coronary artery disorders Most commonly used together with other herbs
Chuan Niu Xi (川牛膝) Root of Hookweed Bitter, sour and neutral Activating the blood, dispelling blood stagnation,  promoting urination, and tonifying the kidney and liver Many gynecological issues, pain due to injury, painful urination, and certain types of toothache and mouth ulcers Usually used in combination with other herbs
Qu Mai (瞿麦) Herb or aerial portion of Fringed Pink Bitter and cold Regulating the fluids, promoting urination, invigorating the blood, and regulating menstruation Many types of painful urination, lack of menstruation (amenorrhea) and menstrual cramping with clots Usually used together with other herbs
Shan Yao (山药) Root of Chinese Yam Sweet and neutral Tonifying the stomach, lung and kidney yin, and nourishing the spleen, Lack of energy, weakness, poor appetite, low body weight, vaginal discharge, coughing, and elevated blood glucose levels Edible and commonly used in dietary therapy; Medicinally, used both alone and together with other herbs
Bai Bian Dou (白扁豆) Seed of Hyacinth Bean Sweet and slightly warm Strengthening the spleen, dissolving dampness, and eliminating toxins Fatigue, decreased appetite, loose stools, diarrhea, and certain types of nausea and vomiting, and food poisoning Used as a food by itself; medicinally, together with other herbs
Mo Han Lian (墨旱莲) Herb or aerial portion of Eclipta Sweet, sour and cold Tonifying the kidneys, cooling the blood, and stopping bleeding Dizziness, blurred vision, prematurely grey hair, and menopausal symptoms Used as a single herb and in combination with other herbs
Pi Pa Ye (枇杷) Leaf of Loquat Bitter and cool Dissolving phlegm, stopping cough, and harmonizing the stomach  Cough, nausea, vomiting and acid regurgitation Usually used in combination with other herbs
Du Zhong (杜仲) Bark of Hardy Rubber Tree Sweet and warm Tonifying the liver and kidney, strengthening the bones and sinews and calming the fetus Low back pain, dizziness, weakness, impotence, urinary incontinence. and broken bones Usually used in combination with other herbs
Ye Jiao Teng(夜交藤) Root of Fallopia Multiflora Sweet, bitter, astringent, and slightly warm Replenishing the essences, nourishing the blood, and moistening the intestines Signs of early aging, ringing in the ear, fatigue, infertility and dizziness Used both as an individual herb and together with other herbs
Lian Qiao (连翘) Fruit of Forsythia Suspensa Bitter and cool Clearing heat and eliminating toxins Heat disorders, upper respiratory tract infections, skin sores and lesions Usually used in combination with other herbs
Long Dan Cao(龙胆草) Root of Gentiana Scabra Bitter and cold Clearing hear, drying dampness, and sedating liver fire Redness and irritation of the eyes, tinnitus, headaches, constipation and skin rashes Usually used in combination with other herbs
Qin Jiao(秦艽) Root of Gentiana Straminea Bitter, acrid and cool Dispelling wind damp, opening the channels, relaxing the sinews, and clearing deficiency heat Chronic and acute joint and musculoskeletal pain, stiffness and tightness of the joints, paralysis and poststroke complications Usually used in combination with other herbs
Bai Guo(白果) Seed of Ginkgo Sweet, bitter, astringent and neutral Stopping wheezing, dispelling phlegm,  and restraining leakage of fluids Asthma, wheezing, shortness of breath, cough, loss of voice, cloudy urine Usually used in combination with other herbs
Gan Cao (甘草) Root of Chinese Licorice Sweet and neutral Tonifying the spleen, moistening the lung, relieving spasm and pain, and treating poisoning Fatigue, loose stools, decreased appetite, palpitations, sore throat, muscle spasms, burns, and sores Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs
Jiao Gu Lan(绞股蓝) Aerial portion of Sweet Tea Vine Cool, slightly bitter, and sweet Generating fluids, clearing heat, addressing heat toxins Asthma, migraines, chronic headaches, chronic bronchitis, and gastric ulcers Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs
Yu Xing Cao(鱼腥草) Herb of aerial portion of Houttuynia Cordata Acrid and cool Clearing heat, eliminating toxins, draining pus and normalizing urination Lung infections, lung abscesses, cough, pneumonia and acute and chronic bronchitis Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs
Gao Ben (藁本) Root of Chinese Lovage Acrid and warm Releasing the exterior, dispelling cold, and relieving pain Vertex headaches, migraines, colds, fever, muscle aches and lower back pain Usually used in combination with other herbs
Nv Zhen Zi (女贞子) Fruit of Chinese Privet Sweet, bitter and cool Tonifying the liver and kidney yin and essences, clearing empty heat, and brightening the eyes Hot flashes, night sweats, high thirst, mood swings, irritability and dizziness Usually used in combination with other herbs
Bai He(百合) Bulb of Lily Sweet and cool Moistening the lung, stopping cough, calming the heart and shen, and nourishing the stomach yin Chronic dry  cough, night sweats, astham, tuberculosis, lung abscess and insomnia Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs
Jin Yin Hua(金银花) Flower of Honeysuckle Sweet and cold Clearing heat, including wind heat, early stage febrile disorder, and heat toxins Upper respiratory tract infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, fever, sore throat and dysentery Usually used in combination with other herbs
Gou Qi Zi (枸杞子) Fruit of Chinese Wolfberry Sweet and neutral Tonifying the liver and kidney yin, brightening the eyes, and moistening the lung yin. Fatigue, dizziness, blurry vision and other visual disturbances, weakness of the back and knees, and infertility Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs
Xin Yi Hua (辛夷花) Flower bud of Magnolia Denudata Acrid and warm Dispelling wind cold and opening the nasal orifices Nasal obstruction, sinusitis, allergic and nonallergic rhinitis, and the common cold Usually used in combination with other herbs
Bo He(薄荷) Herb or aerial portion of Field Mint Acrid and cool Releasing the exterior, dispelling wind heat, clearing the heat and venting rashes Upper respiratory tract infection with sore throat and fever, headache, red eyes, rash and eczema Usually used in combination with other herbs
Ku Gua(苦瓜) Fruit of Bitter Melon Bitter and cold Clearing heat, dispelling summer heat, and relieving thirst Environmental heat, heat stroke, elevated thirst, and various skin conditions Used culinarily
Mai Men Dong(麦门冬) Tuber of Lilyturf Sweet, slightly bitter and cool Nourishing the yin, moistening the lungs, generating fluids, and clearing the heart Acute or chronic dry cough, postviral cough, sore throat, loss of voice and nosebleed Usually used in combination with other herbs
Bai Shao (白芍) Root of Chinese Peony Bitter, sour and cool Preserving the blood, nourishing the liver, calming liver yang and softening the liver Muscle spasms, twitches, tremors, numbness and tingling of the extremities, and headache Usually used in combination with other herbs
Mu Dan Pi (牡丹皮) Root bark of Tree Peony Acrid, bitter and cool Clearing heat, cooling the blood, invigorating the blood, and dispelling blood stasis Excessive menstruation, menopausal symptoms, skin disorder, hypertension, and intestinal abscess Usually used in combination with other herbs
Ren Shen (人参) Root of Asian Ginseng Bitter, sweet and warm Tonifying the source qi, strengthening the spleen and lung, generating fluids and calming the shen Weakness, fatigue, lack of appetite, loose stools, diarrhea, organ prolapse and chronic cough Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs
Xi Yang Shen(西洋参) Root of American Ginseng Sweet, bitter and cold Tonifying the qi, nourishing the yin, clearing fire, and generating fluids Weakness, fatigue, coughing, wheezing, dry throat and mouth, and excessive thirst Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs
Ban Xia (半夏) Tuber of Pinellia Ternata Acrid and warm Drying dampness, transforming phlegm, redirecting qi downward, and dissipating nodules Cough with profuse sputum, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, headache, chest congestion and pressure, and thyroid nodules. Usually used in combination with other herbs
Che Qian Zi(车前子) Seed of Plantain Sweet and cold Clearing damp heat, draining dampness, stopping diarrhea, and clearing liver heat Painful urination, burning urination, diarrhea, eye redness and swelling, and headache Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs
Jie Geng (桔梗) Root of Balloon Flower Bitter, acrid and neutral Opening the lung, transforming phlegm, benefitting the throat, and dispelling pus Cough, phlegm, sore throat, hoarse voice, chest discomfort, lung abscess, and diarrhea Usually used in combination with other herbs
Xia Ku Cao (夏枯草) Flower spike herb of Heal All Bitter, spicy and cold Clearing heat and liver fire, clearing hot phlegm, and dispersing stagnation Redness and swelling of the eyes, headaches, high blood pressure, enlargement of the liver and hyperthyroidism Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs

Di Huang (地黄)

Root of Chinese Foxglove

Shu Di Huang: Sweet and slightly Warm Nourishing the blood, tonifying the liver and kidney yin and restoring the essence Anemia, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, palpitations Usually used in combination with other herbs
Sheng Di Huang: Sweet, bitter and cold Clearing heat, cooling the blood, nourishing the yin Excessive menstruation, gastrointestinal bleeding, and nose bleeds
Xian Di Huang: Bitter, sweet and very cold Clearing heat, and cooling the blood
Da Huang (大黄) Root of Chinese Rhubarb Bitter and cold Purging downward, clearing heat, purging fire and eliminating toxins Constipation, late-stage dysentery, headache, red eyes and sore throat Usually used in combination with other herbs
Dan Shen (丹参) Root of Red Sage Cool and bitter Activating and moving the blood and dispelling blood stagnation, cooling the blood and calming the spirits Cardiovascular and circulatory disorders, many types of pain, traumatic injury, lack of menstruation, painful menstruation and abdominal masses Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs
Fang Feng (防风) Root of Siler Acrid, sweet and slightly warm Dispelling wind, releasing the exterior, and clearing wind, cold and dampness Fever, headache, muscle aches, red eyes, sore throat, skin disorders with itching and arthritic pain Usually used in combination with other herbs
Wu Wei Zi (五味子) Fruit of Five Flavored Fruit Sour and warm Stabilizing lung qi, stopping cough, generating fluids, and stabilizing the exterior Chronic cough, asthma, spontaneous sweats, night sweats, chronic diarrhea, urinary incontinence and spermatorrhea Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs
Jing Jie  (荆芥) Flowering herb or aerial portion of Japanese Catnip Acrid and slightly warm Releasing the exterior and dispelling wind cold and wind heat. Upper respiratory tract infection with fever, headache, and sore throat, unerupted measles, eczema and rashes Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs
Bei Xuan Shen      (北玄参) Root of Figwort Bitter, sweet, salty and cold Clearing heat, nourishing the yin, cooling the blood, eliminating toxins and dispersing nodules Elevated thirst, dry mouth and throat, sore throat, dry cough, certain skin disorders and skin lesions Usually used in combination with other herbs
Huang Qin (黄芩) Root of Baikal Skullcap Bitter and cold Clearing heat, drying dampness, sedating fire, eliminating toxins, and calming the fetus Hepatitis, dysentery, jaundice, epigastric burning, constipation and oral ulcers Usually used in combination with other herbs
Bai Zhi Lian       (百子莲) Herb or aerial portion of Barbat Scullcap Acrid, slightly bitter and cool Clearing heat, eliminating toxins, and reducing swelling Tumors of the digestive tract and carcinoma of the liver, lung, cervix and breast, upper respiratory tract infections, skin disorders, and painful urination Usually used in combination with other herbs
Ku Shen (苦参) Root of Sophora Flavescens Bitter and cold Clearing heat, drying dampness, dispelling wind, killing parasites and relieving itching Diarrhea, dysentery, yellow vaginal discharge, genital itching, bleeding hemorrhoids and skin itching Usually used in combination with other herbs
Gua Lou (瓜蒌) Fruit of Chinese Cucumber Sweet and cold Clearing the lungs, transforming phlegm, regulating the qi, expanding the chest, and dissipating nodules Productive cough with phlegm, wheezing, chest congestion and pain, and intestinal abscesses Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs
Da Zao  (大枣) Fruit of Chinese Date Sweet and warm Tonifying the spleen and stomach, benefiting the qi, nourishing the blood, calming the shen and harmonizing other herbs Fatigue, low body weight, loose stools or diarrhea, scanty menstruation, dry skin and hair, irritability and insomnia Both used alone and  in combination with other herbs
Suan Zao Ren        (酸枣仁) Seed of Ziziphus Jujuba var. Spinosa Sweet and neutral Nourishing the heart, calming the shen, and stopping sweating Insomnia and difficulty falling or staying asleep, palpitations, anxiety, irritability Usually used in combination with other herbs

Adapted from Peg Schafer, The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm:  A Cultivator’s Guide to Small-Scale Organic Herb Production (White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011).

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in DC Metro Area- jo.sjcui@gmail.com