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Herbs & Botanicals

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Oldenlandia (bai hua she she cao)

What is oldenlandia? What is it used for?

Oldenlandia is one of the oldest herbs in traditional Chinese medicine, and has one of the longest Chinese herb names. It grows mainly in the southeastern provinces of China, and is found it low altitudes in fields with moist soil.

It gets its name due in part to its leaves, which are thin and are shaped like a snake's tongue. The part of the plant used in herbal formulas is the rhizome. It is collected in summer and autumn, with the fibrous roots removed, before being used fresh or dried.

In traditional Chinese medicine, oldenlandia has slightly bitter, sweet and cold properties. Its functions are to clear heat, resolve toxins, and relieve swellings on the skin. Oldenlandia can be used internally or externally. Its most famous use is to treat snake bites, particularly the bite of the agkistrodon, a type of pit viper. Oldenlandia has also been employed to treat sores and carbuncles on the skin, appendicitis, sore throats, and urinary tract infections. Experiments conducted in China suggest that an oldenlandia extract can also treat some types of cancer in animals; however, these studies have yet to be duplicated in humans.

How much oldenlandia should I take?

The amount of oldenlandia to be taken depends on the condition being treated. To treat skin problems and acne, 20 to 30 grams of oldenlandia can be combined with other herbs and boiled in water, then applied to the skin as a type of wash. Larger doses (extracts of 30-60 grams) have been used in clinical studies to help treat some forms of cancer. Oldenlandia is often used with other herbs, such as scutellaria, as a decoction. Typically, it is recommended that patients take small amounts of oldenlandia first, gradually raising the dosage to an acceptable level.

What forms of oldenlandia are available?

Fresh oldenlandia can be found at many Asian markets and specialty stores. Oldenlandia is also available in pill, powder, extract and infusion form. Fresh oldenlandia can also be harvested and crushed to create oldenlandia juice.

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

Oldenlandia should not be taken by pregnant women. In addition, it may cause allergic skin reactions in some individuals; if this occurs, patients should discontinue use. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking oldenlandia or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Gupta S, et al. Anticancer activities of oldenlandia diffusa. Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy 2004;4(1):21-33.
  • Mitchell C, et al. (translators). Ten Lectures on the Use of Medicinals from the Personal Experience of Jiao Shude. Brookline, MA: Paradigm Publications, 2003.
  • Shan BE, Zhang JY, Du XN. Immunomodulatory activity and antitumor activity of oldenlandia diffusa in vitro. Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine 2001;21(5):370-374.
  • Wong BY, et al. Oldenlandia diffusa and scutellaria barbata augment macrophage oxidative burst and inhibit tumor growth. Cancer Biotherapy and Radiopharmacology 1996;11(1):51-56.
  • Yoshida Y, et al. Immunomodulating activity of Chinese medicinal herbs and oldenlandia diffusa in particular. International Journal of Immunopharmacology 1997;19(7):359-370.

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