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Herbs & Botanicals

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Ligustrum (nü zhen zi)

What is ligustrum? What is it used for?

Also known as privet, ligustrum is a small, evergreen-like tree native to China and eastern Asia. It is used mostly as a form of decoration and source of shade in the United States. The shrub contains large clusters of white flowers with bluish-purple berries that are used medicinally. The berries contain a variety of nutrients, including calcium, fructose, glucose, iron, magnesium and potassium.

Since ancient times, ligustrum has been used as a yin tonic in traditional Chinese medicine. It was often used in combination with astragalus to treat various conditions, including tinnitus and premature aging. Recent studies conducted in China suggest that ligustrum stimulates the immune system, fights inflammation, and helps protect the liver. Some studies suggest it improves vision and can relieve the symptoms of rheumatism and pneumonia.

How much ligustrum should I take?

Patients eating powdered berries should take between 5-15 grams per day. Alternatively, some herbalists recommend 3-5 millileters of ligustrum tincture three times per day.

What forms of ligustrum are available?

Ligustrum berries are widely available in dried, crushed and powdered forms. Ligustrum tinctures are also available; powdered berries can be added to boiling water to make a ligustrum-based tea.

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

At this time, no adverse effects have been reported in patients taking ligustrum. There are no well-known drug interactions with ligustrum.

References

  • Benksy D, Gamble A, Kaptchuk T. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993, p. 366.
  • Foster S, Yue CX. Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1992, pp. 227-32.
  • Green PS. Taxonomic notes relating to ligustrum (oleaceae). Kew Bull 1995;50(2):379-386.
  • Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, pp. 350-52.
  • Rohwer JG. 1996. The fruits of ligustrum regelianum and osmanthus heterophyllus (oleaceae). Bot Jahrb Syst 1996;118(2):177-186.

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