Atractylodes rhizomes

Chinese: 白术

Pinyin: Bái Shù

Parts used: Dried rhizome

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomach

Scientific name: Atractylodes macrocephala

Use of atractylodes rhizomes (Bai Shu) 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 practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, soak in water, wash, slice and dry.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which atractylodes rhizomes may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Loss of appetite Abdominal colic Abdominal bloating Diarrhea Palpitations Edema Night sweats Miscarriage

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Yin Deficiency with Heat signs or with extreme thirst.

Common TCM formulas in which atractylodes rhizomes are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind atractylodes rhizomes (Bai Shu)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), atractylodes rhizomes are plants that belong to the 'Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Qi tonics are typically sweet and they tend to enter the Spleen and Lungs because these organs are most involved with the production of Qi.

Furthermore atractylodes rhizomes are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that atractylodes rhizomes 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 atractylodes rhizomes can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Atractylodes rhizomes also taste Bitter and Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like atractylodes rhizomes 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 Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such atractylodes rhizomes are thought to target the Spleen and the Stomach. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid metabolism in the body. The Stomach on the other hand is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine.

Research on atractylodes rhizomes (Bai Shu)

Xiaozhang Recipe (consisting of large head atractylodes rhizome) in combination of lamivudine could improve the liver function of chronic viral hepatitis B patients with compensated liver cirrhosis and hepatitis B virus deoxyribonucleic acid.1


1. Zhou ZH, Li M, Huang LY. (2011). Study of xiaozhang recipe combined with lamivudine in treatment of 84 chronic viral hepatitis B patients with compensated liver cirrhosis. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi, 31(9):1220-3.