English: Arisaema

Chinese: 天南星

Parts used: Dried rhizome

TCM category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity:

Scientific name: Arisaema erubescens, Arisaema heterophyllum or Arisaema amurense

Other names: Cobra lilies, Jack-in-the-pulpit

Use of Tian Nan Xing (arisaema) 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 the fibrous roots and outer skin of the rhizome and dry it

Dosage: 4 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Dries and expels Phlegm in the Lung. Clears Wind and Phlegm in the channels and stops convulsions and spasms. Used topically it reduces inflammation and pain.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Tian Nan Xing may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Coughing Chest congestion Chronic cough with sticky phlegm Vertigo Hemiplegia Epilepsy Convulsions Tetanus Boils Sores Snake bites Insect bites Abcesses Paralysis Stroke

Contraindications*: This is a toxic ingredient, to be used with caution! This ingredient should not be used during pregnancy or by those with Yin Deficient cough with Dry Phlegm.

Common TCM formulas in which Tian Nan Xing is used*

Di Tan Tang

Source date: 1470 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Removes Phlegm. Opens the sensory orifices. Tonifies Qi.

Conditions targeted*: Cerebrovascular accidentSeizure disorder and others

Tian Nan Xing is a king ingredient in Di Tan Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Di Tan Tang, Tian Nan Xing expels Phlegm due to Dampness and thereby removes the root of any related patterns. It can also disperse Wind so as to treat Phlegm blocking the vessels and channels. 

Read more about Di Tan Tang

Xiao Huo Luo Dan

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Dispels Wind. Eliminates Dampness and transforms Phlegm . Invigorates the Blood. Removes Stagnation and relieves pain.

Conditions targeted*: Hemiplegia after cerebrovascular accidentRheumatoid arthritis and others

Tian Nan Xing is a deputy ingredient in Xiao Huo Luo Dan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Xiao Huo Luo Dan, Tian Nan Xing is a strongly warming and intensely acrid herb. It enters the Liver Channel and move inside the Channel, so as to eliminate Wind-Phlegm.

Read more about Xiao Huo Luo Dan

Key TCM concepts behind Tian Nan Xing's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Tian Nan Xing belongs to the 'Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough' category. In TCM Phlegm is a condition of Stagnation of Fluids which tends to start in the Spleen and then goes to the Lungs. If this overly accumulates it thickens and becomes pathological Phlegm. Phlegm, being a form of Stagnation, often starts as being Cool and transforms to Hot as the condition progresses. The herbs in this category are Warm in nature so they treat the early stages of the Stagnation: Cold-Phlegm and Wet-Phlegm with symptoms of wheezing, vomiting and nausea.

As suggested by its category Tian Nan Xing is Warm in nature. This means that Tian Nan Xing tends 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 Tian Nan Xing can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Tian Nan Xing also tastes 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 Tian Nan Xing tends 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 Tian Nan Xing is thought to target the