Alisma (Ze Xie)

Botanical Name: Western: Alisma plantago-aquatica, A. subcordatum, A. triviale. Eastern: A. orientalis, A. plantago-aquatica L.

Ancient Chinese texts indicate that alisma promotes easy labor, increases fertility, and stimulates the female sexual and generative organs. It is considered a pure Kidney Tonic. The extract shows anticancer properties. It is often commonly called water-plantain.

Watch a short video, from Ann Christensen, Founder and Creator of White Rabbit Institute of Healing™ – Which Alisma (a.k.a. Water-Plantain) Is Medicinal?

Below is an overview of alisma, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of alisma.

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Western Name: Alisma

Also Known As: Water Plantain, Devil’s Spoons, Thumbwort

Organs/Systems: Bladder, Cardiovascular

Key Actions: Diuretic, Antimicrobial, Refrigerant, Rubefacient, Anti-inflammatory

Key Medicinal Uses: Urinary tract infections, high cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, treats diabetes, boosts the immune system, improves digestion.


Pin Yin: Ze Xie (Translates as “Marsh Drain.”)

Also Known As: N/A

Meridians: Kidney, Bladder

Key Actions: Drains Dampness, Promotes Urination, Leaches out Dampness, Drains Kidney Fire

Key Medicinal Uses: Urinary difficulty, urinary tract infections, edema, diarrhea, kidney deficiency with patterns of dizziness and tinnitus, kidney stones, fatty liver, nephritis, pelvic infections, bladder infection, leukorrhea, gonorrhea with turbid urine, supports easy labor, stimulates the female sexual organs, relieves excess phlegm leading to bloating, lowers cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and regulates blood sugar levels.

Basic Habitat / Botany:

Alisma is a genus of flowering plants in the family Alismataceae, commonly called water-plantains. They are aquatic plants with leaves that are either floating or submerged. The flowers are white with a pale pink or pale lilac tinge. They are hermaphrodite and arranged in panicles, racemes, or umbels. Alisma is a perennial plant, with broad leaves that can be tapered or rounded at the base. It will reach full height in 2-5 years.

Alisma is found in still water habitats worldwide, including wetlands, saturated soils, marshes, wooded swamps, and flooded farmlands.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Rhizome, Tuber, Leaf, Seed

Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Bland, Cold

Caution: Considered safe used as directed, long-term use can irritate the intestinal tract. The fresh roots and leaves of Alisma plantago-aquatica, known as European water-plantain, are said to be toxic, with toxicity being reduced with cooking or drying.

Key Constituents: Triterpene (Aliso A.), Volatile Oil.

History/Folklore: In classic Chinese texts, alisma is prescribed as an adjunctive herb for wasting and thirsting disorders. While there are several subspecies of plantain worldwide, they all have similar medicinal uses. It is commonly used in China in preparations to improve Kidney balance and general health. In Japan and China, the herb is often combined with antibiotics to treat kidney infections without negative interactions.

Ancient Taoist Chinese texts say that if “taken for a long time, the eye and ear become acute, hunger is not felt, life is prolonged, the body becomes light, the complexion radiant, and one can walk on water (a reference to spiritual powers as well as the plant’s habitat in watery areas).”

The plant’s pungent, volatile oils are said to be the source of their medicinal attributes. Alisma is known to lower blood lipids, cholesterol, and blood sugar.

While the leaves can be used externally to treat bruises and swellings they can also inflame and sometimes even blister the skin. In China, the leaves are safely used internally to treat Damp Heat conditions associated with the Kidney, Bladder, and Urinary Tract. The fresh leaves are also used in homeopathy and the starch-rich rootstock is eaten in many countries. The roots are harvested before the plant blooms and then dried for future use. The fresh root is toxic, so the drying process is key to using the roots. The seeds can be powdered and used as an astringent in cases of bleeding.

According to the Flora of Pakistan, the powdered root has been used to cure hydrophobia.

In the West, alisma is often used in supplement or extract forms to aid digestion, lower blood pressure, and treat urinary tract infections.

In the food industry, alisma is often used to extend the shelf life of food products as it enhances the flavor and texture of foods and has effective antimicrobial properties.

The word “plantago” is the Latin for “sole of the foot,” referring to the plant’s flat leaves.

The Western variety, Alisma subcordatum, known as Southern or American water-plantain, is found in marshes and ditches. The Cherokee used it to make topical aids for treating wounds, bruises, swelling, ulcers, and sores. The Cree used the stem base internally to treat stomach and bowel conditions. Alisma triviale, a.k.a Northern water-plantain, another Western variety from British Columbia, has a bulbous edible base. With a strong flavor, it is considered best when dried and then cooked. The roots and leaves of Alisma plantago-aquatica are said to be toxic, with toxicity being reduced with cooking or drying. Be careful of the variety you are using and how you prepare it.

In Ireland, water plantain is sometimes called Patrick’s leaf and is said to ward off fairies.

The nineteenth-century British art and social critic, John Ruskin believed the curve of the plant’s leaf ribs was a model of “divine proportion” helping shape his Theory of Gothic architecture, which was based on natural forms.

When introduced to an area, alisma rapidly reproduces. The flowers open late in the afternoon and close again at dusk. It is often grown as an ornamental in water gardens. It is a source of food for waterfowl, beavers, and muskrats.

Did you know?

Good Quality

Good quality alisma is big, yellowish-white, lustrous, and powdery.


Lower Serum Glucose

Preliminary studies indicate that alisma has the endocrine effect of lowering serum glucose.

Fun fact!

Toxic When Fresh

Fresh alisma roots and leaves are toxic. Heating and drying the herb deactivates the poisonous compounds making the roots and leaves safe to use. .

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