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Chinese: 天南星

Pinyin: Tiān Nán Xīng

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 arisaema (Tian Nan Xing) 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 arisaema 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 arisaema (Tian Nan Xing) are used*

Di Tan Tang

Source date: 1470 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

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

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

Key TCM concepts behind arisaema (Tian Nan Xing)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), arisaema are plants that belong 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 arisaema are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that arisaema 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 arisaema can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Arisaema 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 arisaema 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 arisaema are thought to target the