Bupleurum (Chai Hu)
Botanical Name: Western – Bupleri. Eastern – Bupleurum chinesis, B. scorzoneraefolium.
Bupleurum is a classic Chinese herb used to address disruptions of the liver and enhance what is called the “free-flow” of Qi (Energy) in the body. It is famous for aiding immunity and helping to ease Hot external disorders that are penetrating into the body with signs of chills and fevers, headaches, chest pain, and diarrhea. It calms the emotions and is also used to ease menstrual cramps.
Below is an overview of Bupleurum, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Bupleurum.
Western Name: Bupleurum
Also Known As: Hare’s Ear Root, Thorowax Root
Organs/Systems: Liver, Stomach, Upper Chest, Uterus
Key Western Actions: Antibiotic, Antipyretic, Strengthens Immunity, Antitussive, Detoxifier, Anti-inflammatory, Antiviral, Hepatic, Sedating, Analgesic
Medicinal Uses: Supports liver function, colds, flu, menstrual cramps, irritability, anxiety, restlessness, supports immune function.
Pin Yin: Chai Hu
Also Known As: Chai Hu translates as “Kindling of the Barbarians.” B. chinesis is known as “Northern Bupleurum” (Bei Chai Hu), Hard Bupleurum or Autumn Bupleurum. B. scorzoneraefolium is known as “Southern Bupleurum” (Nan Chai Hu) or “Soft Bupleurum” (Ruan Chai Hu).
Meridians: Gall Bladder, Liver, Pericardium, Triple Warmer
Key Actions: Cools, Acrid Herb that Releases to the Exterior, Releases Lesser Yang Disorders, Spreads Liver Qi, Raises Yang Qi
Medicinal Uses: Lowers fever, especially alternating chills and fever with a bitter taste in the mouth, helps express rashes, treats malaria, irritability, vomiting, flank pain, heavy weight on the chest feeling associated with externally-contracted disorders, conditions with dizziness, vertigo, chest and flank pain, emotional irritability, menstrual disorders, disharmony between the Spleen and the Liver with bloating, gas, nausea and indigestion, in cases of Spleen and Stomach deficiency with hemorrhoids, anal or uterine prolapse, and diarrhea.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Root
Flavors/Temps: Bitter, Acrid, Cool
Caution: Considered safe. It can occasionally cause nausea or vomiting.
History/Folklore: Bupleurum (Chai Hu) is often combined with Skullcap (Huang Qin) to treat Heat in the Lesser Yang stage of disease when the pathogen is at the half-exterior and half-internal level of advancement into the Body. Used with Angelica (Dang Gui), the two herbs will help harmonize the Blood. Blended with Mint (Bo He) it can help ease emotional depression, irregular menses, and a stifling sensation in the chest.
B. chinesis, known as “Northern Bupleurum” (Bei Chai Hu), is hard and harvested in the autumn. It is also called “Hard Bupleurum” (Ying Chai Hu) or “Autumn Bupleurum” (Qiu Chai Hu). It is considered to be better at resolving Lesser Yang disorders than B. scorzoneraefolium.
B. scorzoneraefolium is also called “Southern Bupleurum” (Nan Chai Hu) or “Soft Bupleurum” (Ruan Chai Hu). It is considered to be better than B. chinesis at spreading Liver Qi (Energy) and relieving Qi (Energy) stagnation.
Bupleurum has been shown to inhibit the increase in capillary permeability caused by histamine, while having no effect on histamine-induced or anaphylactoid shock.
In China, Bupleurum is generally considered to be better at relieving fevers than either Cimicifugae (Sheng Ma) or Puerariae (Ge Gan) which have similar functions.
The Chinese tend to use Bupluerum most often in formulas and not alone. It is included in the famous Chinese formula called “Free and Easy Wander,” referring to the plant’s properties to enhance the free-flow of Qi (Energy) in the Body. This formula is famous for helping a person to “go-with-the-flow” instead of clashing with life-obstacles and events. The formula also eases menstrual cramps and other forms of Qi (Energy) stagnation in the Body.
Bupleurum can be grown as a beautiful ornamental flower. It’s sickle shaped leaves have lead to the plant being called “Hounds Ear” or “Hare’s Ear.”
Both Bupleurum chinesis and B. scorzoneraefolium contain Bupleurumol, Adonitol, Spinasterol, Adonitol, Oleic acid, Linolenic acid, Palmitic acid, Stearic acid, Lignoceric acid, Quercetin, Saponins, Polysaccharide, Calcium, Copper, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc. B. chinesis also contains Rutin. B. scorzoneraefolium also contains Narcissin.
Good quality Bupleurum has a long, course bright yellow root with a thin cortex and very few rootlets.
Frying the roots helps strengthen the herb’s property to Move Liver Qi and Raise Yang Qi.
In China, the use of bupleurum roots as a medicine predates the written records.
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