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Herbs & Botanicals

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Pinellia (ban xia)

What is pinellia? What is it used for?

Pinellia is a small, stem-like plant native to southern China and Japan. The aboveground part of the plant resembles a horn, with a long, green protuberance that extends outward from the center of the horn. The medicinal part of the plant is its root, or tuber, which is smooth and has a whitish or yellowish outer surface. Pinellia tubers are dug up in the summer and autumn and peeled open before being allowed to dry.

While unprepared pinellia is used externally to treat skin sores, carbuncles and swelling, pinellia root is usually taken in combination with other herbs for different conditions. It is used in combination with alum (usually in a 5:1 pinellia to alum ratio) for damp phlegm conditions; with ginger and alum to treat nausea and vomiting; or with glycyrrhiza to treat dampness and regulate the stomach.

How much pinellia should I take?

Internally, the recommended dose of pinellia is 3-9 grams used in a decoction. For skin conditions, most practitioners recommend pinellia be administered externally by incorporating it into a juice or grinding the root into a powder and applying it topically.

What forms of pinellia are available?

Whole, dried pinellia root is available at Asian markets. Pinellia extracts, pills and powders can be found at some nutrition stores.

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

Because pinellia is warm and dry in nature, it should not be used by patients with a dry cough due to yin deficiency or blood disorders. As the herb is also slightly toxic, it should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care professional before taking pinellia or any other dietary supplement or herbal product.

References

  • Bensky D, et al. Formulas & Strategies (Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica) Eastland Press, 1993, p. 432.
  • Kurata K, et al., Quantitative analysis of anti-emetic principle in the tubers of pinellia ternata by enzyme immunoassay. Planta Medica 1998;64(7):645-648.
  • State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Advanced Textbook on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology. Beijing: New World Press, 1995-6.
  • Wu H, et al. Orthogonal experiment design in the optimization of processing technology for pinellia by ginger and alum. Journal of Chinese Traditional Drugs 1996;321(11): 660-663.
  • Yeung HC. Handbook of Chinese Herbal Formulas. Institute of Chinese Medicine 1996, p. 84.

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