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Herbs & Botanicals

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Ailanthus Bark (chun pi)

What is ailanthus bark? What is it used for?

Ailanthus bark comes from the ailanthus (also known as the "tree of heaven"), a deciduous tree that grows in the world's temperate regions and can reach a height of more than 60 feet, with large, pinnately compounded leaves and greenish-yellow flowers.

It was first introduced to the United States in 1874, after previously being introduced to Britain by way of China. In many places, it is used as an ornamental plant to improve the appearance of gardens and parks. Both the bark and the roots of the tree are used in herbal preparations. The inner bark is obtained by removing the rough, outer bark of the tree. The inner bark is then dried and cut into pieces for use.

In traditional Chinese medicine, ailanthus bark has bitter, astringent and cold properties, and is associated with the Large Intestine, Stomach and Liver meridians. Its main functions are to clear heat and stop bleeding. Research has shown that ailanthus bark has antidiarrheal, antidysenteric, antimalarial, antiasthmatic and antispasmodic properties. It can also treat menorrhagia or uterine bleeding caused by heat in the blood.

How much ailanthus bark should I take?

The typical dosage of ailanthus bark is between three and five grams, powdered and taken with boiling water as an infusion. Some practitioners may also recommend a concentrated extract at a dosage of 0.5-2 grams.

What forms of ailanthus bark are available?

Whole, dried slices of ailanthus bark can be found at some Asian markets and specialty stores. Powdered ailanthus bark and ailanthus bark extracts are also available at some traditional herbal shops.

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

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions or side-effects associated with taking ailanthus bark. As always, however, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking ailanthus bark or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Ailanthus altissima English. Technology Transfer Fact Sheet. USDA Forest Service, Center for Wood Anatomy Research. Available here. Accessed May 1, 2005.
  • Joshi BC, Pandey A, Chaurasia L, et al. Antifungal activity of the stem bark of ailanthus excelsa. Fitoterapia Dec 2003;74(7-8):689-91.
  • Okunade AL, Bikoff RE, Casper SJ, et al. Antiplasmodial activity of extracts and quassinoids isolated from seedlings of ailanthus altissima (simaroubaceae). Phytother Res June 2003;17(6):675-7.
  • Tamura S, Fukamiya N, Okano M, et al. Three new quassinoids, ailantinol E, F, and G, from ailanthus altissima. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) Apr 2003;51(4):385-9.
  • Taso R, Romanchuk FE, Peterson CJ, et al. Plant growth regulatory effect and insecticidal activity of the extracts of the tree of heaven (ailanthus altissima L). BMC Ecol 2002;2(1):1. Epub Feb. 8, 2002.

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