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Genkwa (yuan hua)

What is genkwa? What is it used for?

Genkwa is a type of shrub native to east Asia. Also known as lilac daphne, it can reach a height of four feet, with hermaphrodite flowers that are usually white or yellow.

In China, it grows predominantly in the Anhui and Fiangsu provinces. The parts of the plant used in herbal remedies are the flower buds. The buds are gathered in the spring and dried in the sun, then baked or fried with vinegar.

According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, genkwa has pungent, bitter, warm and slightly toxic properties, and is affiliated with the Lung, Kidney and Large Intestine meridians. Its main functions are to transform water, to resolve phlegm, and to stop coughs. Among the conditions genkwa treats are edema (typically with kansui root and spurge root), coughs and bronchitis. Genkwa can also be applied to the skin as part of a poultice to treat ringworms and other parasites.

How much genkwa should I take?

The typical dose of genkwa is between 1.5 and 3 grams, ground into a powder and taken either as a pill or with hot water as a decoction. It should be prepared with vinegar to help reduce its toxicity. Powdered genkwa can also be mixed with other herbs and applied directly to the skin to treat ringworms and other parasites and related skin conditions.

What forms of genkwa are available?

Dried genkwa flower buds can be found at some Asian markets and specialty stores. Some shops also sell genkwa powders, pills and capsules.

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

Genkwa counteracts the effects of licorice root; as a result, it must not be used in conjunction with licorice root. In addition, it should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It may also cause contact dermatitis in some sensitive individuals.

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

References

  • Dharmananda S. Countering the side-effects of modern medical therapies with Chinese herbs. Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon. Published September 1998. Available online.
  • Kai H, Koine T, Baba M, et al. Pharmacological effects of daphne genkwa and Chinese medical prescription, jyu-so-to. Yakugaku Zasshi June 2004;124(6):349-54.
  • Ou M (ed.) Chinese-English Manual of Commonly Used Prescriptions in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Hong Kong: Joint Publishing Company, 1989.
  • Maclean W, Lyttleton J. Clinical Handbook of Internal Medicine, Volume 1, second edition. Sydney: University of Western Sydney, 2000.
  • Zhao Y, Yuan S, Li A, et al. Effects of processing on toxicity and pharmacological action of flos genkwa. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi June 1998;23(6):344-7, 382-3.

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