English: Chinese Gentian

Chinese: 龙胆草

Parts used: Dried root and rhizome

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Organ affinity: Gallbladder Heart Large intestine Liver Lung

Scientific name: Gentiana manshurica, Gentiana scabra, Gentiana triflora or Gentiana rigescens

Use of Long Dan Cao (chinese gentian) 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, spray with clean water in order to moisten slightly, cut into sections and dry.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Expels Damp-Heat especially in the Liver and Gallbladder Meridians. Clears Liver-Fire. Clears Liver-Wind.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Long Dan Cao may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Jaundice Conjunctivitis Sore throat Vaginal itching Vaginal discharge Eczema Bloodshot eyes Impaired hearing Leukorrhalgia Headache Dizziness Fever Convulsions Sores

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with diarrhea caused by Spleen/Stomach Qi Deficiency or by persons without true Damp-Heat symptoms. Should be used with extra care in case of Yin deficiency and Fluids depletion.

Common TCM formulas in which Long Dan Cao is used*

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

Conditions targeted*: FurunclesPurulent otitis and others

Long Dan Cao is a king ingredient in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, Long Dan Cao it is extremely effective at draining Excessive Heat from the Liver and Gallbladder and eliminating Damp-Heat from the Lower-Burner.

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Dang Gui Long Hui Wan

Source date: 1172 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Drains Liver and Gallbladder Fire Excess.

Conditions targeted*: VertigoTinnitus and others

Long Dan Cao is a king ingredient in Dang Gui Long Hui Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Dang Gui Long Hui Wan, Long Dan Cao is bitter and very cold and therefore has a strong capacity to drain Fire.

Read more about Dang Gui Long Hui Wan

Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang

Source date: 1587 AD

Number of ingredients: 16 herbs

Formula key actions: Expels Wind Damp from the Channels. Invigorates Blood. Unblocks the channels.

Conditions targeted*: ArthralgiaBell's palsy and others

Long Dan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang, Long Dan Cao expels Damp Heat especially in the Liver and Gallbladder Channels. 

Read more about Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Long Dan Cao's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Long Dan Cao belongs to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness' 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 dry Dampness treat the latter while, at the same time, relieving the body of excess Dampness. As such they tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category Long Dan Cao is Cold in nature. This means that Long Dan Cao typically helps people who have too much 'Heat' in their body. 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 Long Dan Cao can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Long Dan Cao also tastes Bitter. 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 Long Dan Cao tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Long Dan Cao is thought to target the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Large intestine, the Liver and the Lung. Similar to modern medicine, in TCM the Gallbladder stores and releases bile produced by the Liver. It also controls the emotion of decisiveness. In addition to regulating Blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. 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 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.

Research on Long Dan Cao

Genus Gentiana had broad bioactivities such as antifungal activity, anti-inflammatory activity and liver protective effect.1

The plants of Sect. Aptera (Gentiana L.) mainly contain iridoids, triterpenes and steroids, and possess anti-inflammatory, analgesia, stomach invigorating and bacteria inhibiting effects.2


1. Wang C, Wang Z, Wang W, Peng X. (2009). Advances in chemical components and pharmacology of genus Gentiana. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. , 34(23):2987-94.

2. Mu Z, Yu Y, Gao H, Jiao W, Yao X. (2009). Chemical and pharmacological research for Sect. Aptera (gentiana). Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. , 34(16):2012-7.