Herbs & Botanicals
Glehnia (sha shen)
What is glehnia? What is it used for?
Glehnia is a type of plant native to east Asia. A perennial, herbaceous plant, glehnia usually grows in moist sandy soils near rivers and ponds. It can reach a height of about a foot, and grow in light shade or no shade. The roots are used in herbal remedies, and are prepared by digging them out in the spring and autumn, scalding them with boiling water, clearing away any loose fibrous materials and dirt, and drying them in the sun.
Glehnia root is thin and cylindrical in shape, and can reach a length of approximately 19 inches tapering somewhat at the end. Externally, it has a rough texture and is yellowish or yellow-brown in color. When peeled, it has a yellow-white color, and may have some brown spots.
In traditional Chinese medicine, glehnia is considered to have sweet, bitter and cool properties, and is associated with the Lung and Stomach meridians. It functions to moisten the lungs and nourish the stomach by clearing heat. Typically, glehnia root is used to treat coughs, congestion and bronchitis and to quench thirst, especially in patients with fevers or high temperatures. It is known for helping to clear and tonify the body, and to replenish body fluids. Externally, it can treat dry skin and skin rashes.
How much glehnia should I take?
The typical daily dose of glehnia is between 9 and 15 grams. If using fresh glehnia, the dose should be raised to 15 to 30 grams per day.
What forms of glehnia are available?
Glehnia root (fresh and dried) can be found at some Asian markets and specialty stores. Some stores may also sell glehnia pills and powders.
What can happen if I take too much glehnia? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?
Glehnia root should not be taken by patients with deficient cold syndromes. In addition, it counteracts the effects of the black hellebore root, and should not be taken by patients also taking that herb. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with glehnia. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking glehnia or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.
- Huang KC. The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, 2nd ed. New York: CRC Press, 1999.
- Ishikawa T, Sega Y, Kitajima J. Water-soluble constituents of glehnia littoralis fruit. Chem Pharm Bull 2001;49:584-8.
- Miyazawa M, et al. Components of the essential oil from glehnia littoralis. Flavour Fragrance J 2001;16:215-218.
- Okuyama E, et al. Analgesic components of glehnia root (glehnia littoralis). Natural Med 1998;52:491-501.
- Teeguarden R. Radiant Health: The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs. New York: Warner Books, 1998, p. 212.