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Herbs & Botanicals

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Agrimony (xian he cao)

What is agrimony? What is it used for?

Agrimony is a perennial plant of the rosaceae family. Several species of agrimony exist; in Asia, A. pilosa is dominant, and is the subject of this article. A. pilosa reaches a height of approximately two feet, with yellow flowers that bloom between June and August.

It is harvested when the stems and leaves are in their greatest number. The plant is then weeded, dried in the sun and cut into lengths for use. Among its main ingredients are the chemical substances agrimonine, agrimophol and agrimonolide, along with vitamins C and K, and a volatile oil.

In traditional Chinese medicine, agrimony has bitter, pungent and neutral properties, and is affiliated with the Lung, Liver and Spleen meridians. It can be applied orally or topically. Orally, it is used to treat sore throats, stomach problems, and diarrhea of an unknown nature. Topically, agrimony can be applied to the skin to treat mild inflammation. Other conditions that can be treated with agrimony include bleeding, corns and warts, and disorders of the gallbladder. The plant requires dry or moist soil, and can grow in semi-shade or no shade.

How much agrimony should I take?

The amount of agrimony to be taken depends on the condition being treated. Generally, practitioners will recommend between 9 and 15 grams of fresh agrimony root. Larger amounts may be required for topical applications.

What forms of agrimony are available?

Sliced or powdered agrimony is widely available. Slices or powders can be added to water for a decoction. Slices can also be applied to the skin as part of a poultice.

What can happen if I take too much agrimony? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Although agrimony can lower blood sugar and acts as a tonic, large amounts can produce heart palpitations and cause blood to congest in the face. Some studies have shown that agrimony can lower blood pressure. As such, it should not be used by patients who are undergoing anticoagulant therapy, or who are taking drugs to treat blood pressure. Evidence suggests that agrimony can also affect a woman's menstrual cycle, so it should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking agrimony or any other dietary supplement or herbal remedy.

References

  • Agrimony. In: DerMarderosian A, Beutler JA (eds.) Facts and Comparisons: The Review of Natural Products. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons, August 1995.
  • Gray AM, Flatt PR. Actions of the traditional anti-diabetic plant, agrimony eupatoria (agrimony): effects on hyperglycaemia, cellular glucose metabolism and insulin secretion. British Journal of Nutrition 1998;80(1):109-114.
  • Hoffmann DL. Agrimony. Herbal Materia Medica. No date given. Available here. Accessed October 14, 2004.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1997.
  • Pierce A. The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York: Stonesong Press; 1999.

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