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Herbs & Botanicals

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Scrophularia (xuan shen)

What is scrophularia? What is it used for?

Also known as the Chinese figwort, scrophularia grows in the Zhejiang and Sichuan provinces of China. (Other species of scrophularia grow in Europe and parts of North America.) The plant consists of one long branch, with large, tear-shaped leaves and flowers that range from reddish-brown to greenish-yellow.

The root is used medicinally, and is harvested in the winter, when the above-ground parts of the plant have withered. The roots are dried in sunlight until they turn black on the inside, then are sliced for use.

Scrophularia has a bitter taste and cold properties, according to the concepts of traditional Chinese medicine. It works on the Lung, Stomach and Kidney meridians, and has three main functions:

  1. It clears heat toxins, eliminates nodules and benefits the throat.
  2. It clears heat and cools the blood.
  3. It tonifies the yin and clears deficiency fire.

Scrophularia root is used for various types of sore throats and swollen lymph glands. It is often used with other herbs as part of larger formulas.

How much scrophularia should I take?

The recommended dosage of scrophularia is 10-15 grams, decocted in water for an oral dose.

What forms of scrophularia are available?

Dried scrophularia root is available at most Chinese markets. Scrophularia extracts and powders are also available.

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

Scrophularia should not be used in cases with weakness of the spleen and stomach, especially when the patient has a poor appetite or diarrhea is present. It also should not be combined with the herb black hellebore (li lu). As always, make sure to consult with a qualified health care provider before taking scrophularia or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Bensky D. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas and Strategies. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1990.
  • Blumenthal M, et al. (eds.) The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998.
  • McGuffin M, et al. (eds.) American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 105.
  • PDR for Herbal Medicines, second edition. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Press, 2000, pp. 311-312.
  • Xie ZF. Selected formulae and patent (ready-to-use) medicines. In: Xie ZF, Liao JZ (eds.) Traditional Chinese Internal Medicine. Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1993; 157—82.

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