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Acanthopanax rootbarks

Chinese: 五加皮

Pinyin: Wǔ Jiā Pí

Parts used: Dried root bark

TCM category: Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Kidney Liver

Scientific name: Acanthopanax gracilistylus

Other names: Eleutherococcus gracilistylus, Thorny Ginseng, Chinese Siberian Ginseng

Use of acanthopanax rootbarks (Wu Jia Pi) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, wash, cut, and dry.

Dosage: 3 to 12 g

Main actions according to TCM*: Disperses Wind Dampness and strengthens bones and sinews. Tonifies the Liver and the Kidneys. Drains Dampness.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which acanthopanax rootbarks may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Edema Urinary difficulties Rheumatism Rheumatic athralgia Lack of strength

Contraindications*: Not be used when there is Yin Deficiency with Heat signs.

Key TCM concepts behind acanthopanax rootbarks (Wu Jia Pi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acanthopanax rootbarks are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness' category. These herbs typically help treat what's called 'bi pain' (i.e. painful obstruction) in TCM. This roughly corresponds to arthritic and rheumatic conditions with pain, stiffness and numbness of the bones, joints and muscles.

Furthermore acanthopanax rootbarks are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that acanthopanax rootbarks tend to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess(because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition acanthopanax rootbarks can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Acanthopanax rootbarks also taste Bitter and Pungent. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like acanthopanax rootbarks tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients tend to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such acanthopanax rootbarks are thought to target the Kidney and the Liver. According to TCM, the Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on acanthopanax rootbarks (Wu Jia Pi)


  1. Zhang Z, Dong J, Liu M, Li Y, Pan J, Liu H, Wang W, Bai D, Xiang L, Xiao G, Ju D. (2012) Therapeutic effects of cortex acanthopanacis aqueous extract on bone metabolism of ovariectomized rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2012:492627