Cornus (Shan Zhu Yu)
Botanical Name: Western – Cornus florida. Eastern – Cornus officinalis.
The bark of the dogwood tree (Cornus florida) is most commonly used in Western herbalism. In Asia, the bark and especially the fruit of the dogwood species, Cornus officinalis, is used. The fruit has a long history in Oriental medicine as a revered tonic for the Liver and Kidney Systems. It is especially identified with the kidneys and the reproductive system. It is used to treat a wide variety of conditions including impotence, heavy menstrual cycle, diarrhea, leukorrhea, fevers, and to help speed recovery after an illness. Cornus fruit is a classic anti-aging tonic herb.
Below is an overview of Cornus (Shan Zhu Yu), 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 Cornus (Shan Zhu Yu).
Also Known As: Asiatic Cornelian Cherry Fruit, Japanese Dogwood Fruit
Organs/Systems: Reproductive System, Immune System
Key Actions: Anti-inflammatory, Antibacterial, Anti-aging, Antioxidant, Antifungal, Antiviral, Diuretic, Hypotensive, Hepatic, Restorative, Astringent
Medicinal Uses: Impotence, seminal emissions, menorrhagia, sperm immotility, lowers blood sugar, regulates menses, lowers blood cholesterol.
Also Known As: Japanese Dogwood, Japanese Cornelian Cherry
Meridians: Kidney, Liver
Key Actions: Liver Tonic, Kidney Tonic, Tonifies Jing, Stabilizes and Binds
Medicinal Uses: Dizziness, tinnitus, low back pain, knee pain, impotence, frequent urination, uterine bleeding, leukorrhea, or profuse sweating, diabetes, shock and trauma, blurred vision, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, excessive menstrual bleeding, arthritis, high blood pressure, palpitations, vertigo, lowers blood sugar, cystitis. The bark is most often used for treating malaria, cholera, and fevers (including typhoid fever).
Cornus is a species of 30-60 plants, commonly known as dogwoods. The Western dogwood and Chinese cornus are in the same plant family but have somewhat different healing properties. The dogwood tree is a flowering tree bearing pink or white flowers. In the fall, bright red berries appear at the point where the leaves meat the branches. Cornus is a shrub that can grow to be 30 feet tall. It has fleshy, green oval-shaped leaves and small, berry-shaped fruit. It has small inconspicuous yellow flowers that will appear in late winter and early spring. The fruits of all dogwood trees are drupes.
Cornus is native to China, Korea, and Japan. It prefers the woodland regions of East Asia from China to Korea. The Western species, Cornus florida, is native to various parts of the United States.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Bark, Root Bark, Fruit, Rarely the Leaves
Flavors/Temps: Sour, Slightly Warm
Caution: The red berries are not toxic when ingested, but some people can experience skin rashes after contact with the tree.
History/Folklore: Cornus berries (or fruit) have a long history of being used in Oriental medicine as a tonic and astringent herb. While described as an astringent herb, it is most often used in formulas that tonify. It is especially identified with tonifying kidney system functions including impotence, irregular menses, spontaneous sweating, low back and knee pain, dizziness, and even the effects of shock and trauma. Cornus fruit can also act as a urinary antiseptic.
Cornus bark is astringent and most often used to treat fevers (including typhoid fevers) and malaria. The high tannin content has led the herb to be used as a substitute for quinine. During the American civil war confederate soldiers would make a tea from the bark to treat pain and fevers, and a poultice made from the leaves was used to cover wounds.
When using the Western species, Cornus florida, it is the bark of the branches and roots that are most commonly used and the root bark is considered the strongest and most effective for making medicines. Like Cornus officinalis, this species is also a tonic and astringent herb.
Certain studies have shown that cornus fruit’s antibacterial and antifungal properties can inhibit the growth of certain strains of Staphylococcus bacteria. It may also be effective against Salmonella and Shigella, both are bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal disorders.
In Korea, cornus is a popular remedy for impotence and is used by both men and women to promote beautiful skin and a healthy glowing, complexion.
In formulas, cornus is often paired with rheumennia, another blood and liver and kidney tonic herb.
In China, cornus is popularly used to produce a wine and liquor. In the ancient Chinese Song Dynasty cornus wine was considered a rare tonic that it was listed as a tribute. The fruit is also used to make preserves, jellies, syrup, or a sauce, similar to cranberry sauce.
In Iran and Turkey cornus fruit is used to make a traditional cold drink called kizilcik serbeti.
The dense wood of the largest-stemmed species is used for making fine grained woods. The wood is rare and highly prized for making tool handles and other strong wood pieces, such as walking sticks and weapons like bows and spears in the 7th century.
The genus name Cornus, derives from the Latin word cornu meaning horn, in reference to the plants strong and dense wood.
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