English: Bistort rhizomes

Chinese: 拳参

Parts used: Rhizome

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Large intestine Liver Lung

Scientific name: Polygonum bistorta

Other names: Snakeweed rhizome, Alpine knotweed, Cao He Che, Zi Shen,

Use of Quan Shen (bistort rhizomes) 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: Collect the rhizomes in spring and autumn, remove the fibrous roots, wash clean, and dry in the sun.

Dosage: 4.5-18g

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Toxic-Heat so as to reduce abscesses. Resolves Phlegm and disperses clumps. Cools the Blood and stops bleeding.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Quan Shen may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Swellings Abscesses Scrofula Hemorrhoids Febrile seizures Snake bites Hematemesis Bleeding hemorrhoids Red dysenteric disorder

Contraindications*: Not recommended for patients without Excess Fire or these with Excess Yin Sores.

Key TCM concepts behind Quan Shen's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Quan Shen belongs to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Internal Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an Excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity treat the latter while, at the same time, removing infectious toxins from the body. As such they tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category Quan Shen is Cool in nature. This means that Quan Shen tends to help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition Quan Shen can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Quan Shen 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 Quan Shen 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 Quan Shen is thought to target the Large intestine, the Liver and the Lung. In TCM the Large Intestine receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. 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. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.