Herbs & Botanicals
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
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.
- 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.