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Herbs & Botanicals

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Capillaris (yin chen hao)

What is capillaris? What is it used for?

Capillaris is a species of plant that belongs to the asteraceae family, and is related to the artemisia. It resembles a shrub, which can reach a height and diameter of approximately two feet. In China, capillaris is grown mainly in the Shanxi and Anhui provinces.

The entire plant (leaves, stems, flowers, etc.) is used in herbal preparations. Capillaris is usually harvested in the late spring, with the old stems removed before it is dried in the sun for later use.

According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, capillaris has bitter, spicy and cool properties, and is associated with the Liver, Spleen Gallbladder and Stomach meridians. It treats infections of the liver and gallbladder, and is considered an excellent remedy for jaundice. Capillaris also lowers blood pressure levels, and is believed to help reduce blood cholesterol levels. The leaves are sometimes burned to repel mosquitoes and other insects.

How much capillaris should I take?

Capillaris can be taken either internally or externally. An infusion is used internally in the treatment of jaundice, hepatitis, gall bladder complaints and fevers. Externally, it has been applied in the form of a plaster for treating headaches. The typical dosage of capillaris is between nine and 15 grams. Capillaris is often used with other herbs; one well-known herbal remedy combines capillaris with gardenia fruit and rhubarb.

What forms of capillaris are available?

Dried capillaris can be found at most Asian markets, herbal shops and specialty stores. Some suppliers also sell capillaris infusions, pills and powders. Capillaris can also be found as part of a larger herbal formula.

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

Although no reports of toxicity have been reported with capillaris, skin contact can cause dermatitis or other allergic reactions in some people. In addition, the American Herbal Products Association has given capillaris a class 2B rating, meaning that it should not be taken by women who are pregnant. It also should not be taken by patients diagnosed with jaundice caused by qi deficiency. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking capillaris or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Bown D. Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1995. ISBN # 0-7513-020-31.
  • Chevallier A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1996. ISBN # 9-780751-303148.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 15-16.
  • Tillotson A, Tillotson NH. TCM treatment of jaundice. Available online.
  • Yano K. Insect antifeeding phenylacetylenes from growing buds of artemisia capillaris. J Agric Food Chem 1983;31:667-668.

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