Herbs & Botanicals
Anemarrhena (zhi mu)
What is anemarrhena? What is it used for?
Anemarrhena is a small, ornamental plant native to northern
China. A member of the lily family, anemarrhena is a decorative plant,
with grasslike leaves and branches and fragrant-smelling flowers that
open at night. The root, or rhizome, is used medicinally, and is often
dried for use in decoctions.
Anemarrhena has been used as a staple of traditional Chinese
medicine for centuries; its first recorded use dates back to 200 BC. Internally,
it is used for a variety of disorders, including congestive fever, high
fever, chronic bronchitis, excessive sweating, dry throat, cough, dizziness,
lumbago and pneumonia. Externally, it is used as part of a mouth wash
to treat oral ulcers. Extracts of the plant contain compounds called saponins
one of which, asphonin, can be used to effectively treat lower
In traditional Chinese medicine, anemarrhena purges heat,
nurtures yin and relaxes tension. It is sometimes mixed with other herbs,
such as phellodendron, scrophularia and Chinese foxglove.
How much anemarrhena should I take?
A typical dose of anemarrhena is between 6-12 grams of dried
rhizome used in water as a decoction. Make sure to check with a qualified
Chinese medicine practitioner for information on the appropriate dosages
and any possible drug interactions.
What forms of anemarrhena are available?
Dried anemarrhena rhizomes can be found at some Asian markets
and specialty stores. Some herbal vendors also sell powdered rhizome or
anemarrhena extracts. Extracts are usually combined with other substances
as part of an herbal formula.
What can happen if I don't get enough anemarrhena?
What can happen if I take too much? Are there any side-effects I should
be aware of?
Anemarrhena should not be used by patients that have diarrhea
or, in traditional Chinese medicine, spleen deficiency. Large doses are
reported to be toxic and may inhibit heart action. Excess amounts may
cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. Make sure to check with a qualified
Chinese medicine practitioner before taking anemarrhena or any other herbal
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