Herbs & Botanicals
Dianthus (qu mai)
What is dianthus? What is it used for?
Dianthus is a type of annual flowering plant that belongs to the carnation family. There are two main types of dianthus: dianthus superbus and dianthus chinensis. For the purposes of herbal medicine, dianthus chinensis will be discussed in this article.
The typical dianthus plant grows to a height of 8-12 inches, with gray-green leaves and green stems. It usually blooms with either single or double flowers, which can be a variety of colors, including red, white, yellow and pink, and has a soft, pleasant odor. It grows best in cool zones, but is also known to grow in warm areas that have good amounts of sun and well-drained soils. In the United States, dianthus is often used as an ornamental plant to decorate gardens and landscapes. However, it has a wide range of medicinal uses as well. The stems are used in herbal remedies.
Dianthus contains a variety of chemical compounds, including anthochanin and several types of saponins. Research has shown that dianthus chinensis can act as a short-term diuretic. Extracts of dianthus can stimulate uterine contractions, and the effect is dose-dependent; that is, the more dianthus a person receives, the longer and more intense the uterine contractions will be. In traditional Chinese medicine, dianthus is considered bitter and cold, and is associated with the Bladder, Heart and Small Intestine meridians. It promotes urination, drains damp heat from the bladder, and dispels blood stasis.
How much dianthus should I take?
The typical dosage of dianthus is 3-10 grams per day, taken as a decoction, pill or powder. Some practitioners recommend a slightly higher dose (6-12 grams).
What forms of dianthust are available?
Dianthus is available as a pill, powder or decoction. Some herbal shops also sell concentrated dianthus extracts. Dianthus seeds can also be purchased at some nurseries and grown in a garden, but they should only be used for ornamental purposes.
What can happen if I take too much dianthus? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?
Large doses of dianthus can cause long-term contractions of the uterus. Because dianthus can stimulate contraction of the uterus, it should not be taken by women who are pregnant or have recently given birth. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with dianthus. As always, however, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking dianthus or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.
- Chen X, et al. The anti-lipid peroxidation effect of 19 herbs. Journal of Pharmacology and Clinical Application of TCM 1995;11(4):27-28.
- Editorial Committee of Chinese Materia Medica. State Drug Administration of China. Chinese Materia Medica. Shanghai Science and Technology Press, 1998.
- Ewart LC. 1997 Flower Seed Trials. Michigan State University: Thompson and Morgan, 1997.
- Li DG, et al. The diuretic effect of qu mai of Shandong origin. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine Material 1996;19(10):520-522.
- Zhang ZR, et al. Chemical components of qu mai of Shandong origin. Journal of Shizhen Medicinal Material Research 1998;9(3):232-233.