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Herbs & Botanicals

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Sophora Flower (huai hua mi)

What is sophora flower? What is it used for?

Sophora flowers come from the sophora tree (also known as the Japanese pagoda), a deciduous tree native to east Asia and cultivated in China, Japan and Korea. The flowers of the sophora tree are hermaphrodite and flower in late August and early September. The flowers are usually reaped just before the tree comes into bloom, then dried in the sun for use, either raw or after being parched.

According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, sophora flowers are bitter and slightly cold, and are affiliated with the Liver and Large Intestine meridians. It is a common component of many Chinese herbal remedies. Its main functions are to remove heat from the blood, stop bleeding, and clear fire from the liver. Among the conditions sophora flower is used to treat are bleeding caused by hemorrhoids, high blood pressure, and headaches. Some practitioners use it to improve eyesight and help resolve the symptoms of conjunctivitis.

How much sophora flower should I take?

The typical dosage of sophora flower is between 10 and 15 grams, decocted in water for oral intake. It can be decocted alone for use as a tea, or can be combined with other herbs such as prunella and chrysanthemum. To stop bleeding, parched sophora flower should be used; to clear away heat, raw sophora flower should be used.

What forms of sophora flower are available?

Whole, dried sophora flowers and flower buds can be found at many Asian markets. Some herbal shops also sell powdered sophora flower and sophora flower teas, in addition to larger formulas that included sophora flower as an ingredient.

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

Sophora flower contains a chemical called cytosine, which resembles nicotine in composition and may be toxic when taken in large doses. As a result, it should not be taken by women who are pregnant or lactating.

References

  • Editorial Committee of Chinese Materia Medica. State Drug Administration of China. Chinese Materia Medica. Shangai: Science and Technology Press, 1998.
  • Chu Q, Fu L, Wu T, et al. Simultaneous determination of phytoestrogens in different medicinal parts of sophora japonica L. by capillary electrophoresis with electrochemical detection. Biomed Chromatogr November 23, 2004. Epub ahead of print.
  • Lirussi D, Li J, Prieto JM, et al. Inhibition of trypanosoma cruzi by plant extracts used in Chinese medicine. Fitoterapia December 2004;75(7-8):718-23.
  • Liu J, Chen Y, Zhang Y. Niche characteristics of plants on four environmental gradients in middle reaches of Ttarim River. Ying Yong Sheng Tai Xue Bao April 2004;15(4):549-55. In Chinese.
  • Qin W, Ling Z, Xu H, et al. Comparative analysis on effective compositions from tissue-cultured and wild sophora tonkinensis. Zhong Yao Cai August 2004;27(8):552-3. In Chinese.

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