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Crow-dipper rhizomes

Chinese: 半夏

Pinyin: Bàn Xià

Parts used: Dried rhizome and tuber

TCM category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach Lung

Scientific name: Pinellia ternata

Use of crow-dipper rhizomes (Ban Xia) 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: Because the raw unprocessed herb is toxic, it is most often given in its processed form which is fried with Ginger juice.

Dosage: 3 - 12 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which crow-dipper rhizomes may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Asthma Coughing Phlegm Sputum Palpitations Headache Morning sickness Globus pharyngis Chest congestion

Contraindications*: This herb is toxic in its raw form so it should only be taken if processed by a professional. This herb should not be used by pregnant women or those with any blood disorders, especially bleeding. It should be used with caution by those with Heat and Dryness. This herb should not be used with Aconite (Fu Zi).

Common TCM formulas in which crow-dipper rhizomes (Ban Xia) are used*

Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm. Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen).

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsChronic bronchitis and others

Ban Xia is a king ingredient in Er Chen Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Er Chen Tang, Ban Xia dries Dampness, expels Phlegm, and causes rebellious Qi in the Stomach to descend. As a single ingredient, it provides most of the actions required in treating a Phlegm-Dampness pattern.

Read more about Er Chen Tang

Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang

Source date: 1732 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Dries and dissolves Phlegm. Strengthens the Spleen. Smoothes the Liver and calms Liver Wind (antispasmodic).

Conditions targeted*: Meniere's diseaseHypertension and others

Ban Xia is a king ingredient in Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang, Ban Xia dries Dampness, transforms Phlegm, and directs Rebellious Qi downward (to treat the nausea and vomiting).

Read more about Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Hot-Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder heat. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Conditions targeted*: HypertensionAngina and others

Ban Xia is a king ingredient in Wen Dan Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Wen Dan Tang, Ban Xia is the principal substance in the materia medica for transforming Phlegm and regulating the Stomach Qi.

Read more about Wen Dan Tang

Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm. Clears Phlegm.

Conditions targeted*: Globus hystericusNeurosis and others

Ban Xia is a king ingredient in Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, Ban Xia transforms Phlegm, dissipates clumps, directs Rebellious Qi downward, and harmonizes the Stomach. It thereby addresses all the major aspects of Phlegm-Qi.

Read more about Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Xiao Ban Xia Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Formula key actions: Alleviates and removes thin mucus. Directs rebellious Qi downward. Stops vomiting. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Conditions targeted*: Travel sickness and others

Ban Xia is a king ingredient in Xiao Ban Xia Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Xiao Ban Xia Tang, Ban Xia is acrid, drying, and downward-directing. It drains water and Dampness by drying and dispersing them. Through its ability to direct the Qi downward, it harmonizes the Stomach and stops nausea, hiccup, and a sensation of fullness in the epigastrium. 

Read more about Xiao Ban Xia Tang

Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1852 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Hot Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder Heat. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Ban Xia is a king ingredient in Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang, Ban Xia is the principal substance in the materia medica for transforming Phlegm and regulating the Stomach Qi.

Read more about Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang

Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang

Source date: Qing Dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and relieves acute conditions of the Gallbladder. Relieves acute Damp-Heat syndromes. Resolves Phlegm. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Conditions targeted*: CholecystitisIcteric hepatitis and others

Ban Xia is a deputy ingredient in Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang, Ban Xia , together with Bitter orange and Tangerine peel (Chen Pi), other deputies of this formula, drains Gallbladder and Stomach Heat, directs rebellious Qi downward, harmonizes the Stomach, and transforms Phlegm.

Read more about Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang

Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Reverses the flow of Rebellious Stomach Qi. Relieves both Heat and Cold Stagnation in the gastrointestinal tract.

Conditions targeted*: Peptic ulcersGastroesophageal reflux disease and others

Ban Xia is a deputy ingredient in Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang, Ban Xia enters the Stomach Channel and disperses clumping, stops vomiting, and eliminates focal distention.

Read more about Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang

Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1575 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Resolves Damp-Phlegm. Nourishes Blood.

Ban Xia is a deputy ingredient in Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang, Ban Xia dries Dampness, expels phlegm, and causes rebellious Stomach Qi to descend. This latest action makes it also useful in controlling nausea and vomiting.

Its main purpose is to open the Qi dynamic. As noted by Zhang Shan-Lei the best aspects of Ban Xia can be summed up in four characters: opening (开 kai), disseminating(宣 xuan), slippery (滑 hua), and downward-directing (降 jiang). The reason that it can eliminate turbidity and Phlegm is simply its actions in opening, draining, and slipping downward.

The transformation of Phlegm by Ban Xia facilitates the smooth flow of Qi. Once this occurs, the transporting and transforming functions of the Spleen and Stomach will be restored. Then the Middle Burner will no longer produce Phlegm. 

Read more about Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Lian Po Yin

Source date: 1862 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Dampness. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Middle Burner.

Conditions targeted*: GastroenteritisTyphoid and others

Ban Xia is a deputy ingredient in Lian Po Yin. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Lian Po Yin, Ban Xia dries Dampness and is very effective in directing the Rebellious Stomach Qi downward, thereby stopping vomiting and/or nausea

Read more about Lian Po Yin

Di Tan Tang

Source date: 1470 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

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

Ban Xia is a deputy ingredient in Di Tan Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Di Tan Tang, Ban Xia acrid and warming. It is good at drying Dampness and transforming Phlegm. It also directs the rebellious Qi downward and warms the Stomach

Read more about Di Tan Tang

Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Directs rebellious Qi downward. Arrests wheezing. Stops coughing. Warms and transforms Phlegm-Cold.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisEmphysema and others

Ban Xia is a deputy ingredient in Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang, Ban Xia helps the key herb in directing Qi downward and transforming Phlegm

Read more about Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.

Conditions targeted*: AnorexiaPeptic ulcers and others

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in Liu Jun Zi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Liu Jun Zi Tang, Ban Xia , like Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi), has a drying effect and helps direct the Qi downward.

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang

Ding Chuan Tang

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Lung Heat. Expectorant for asthma.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisAsthma and others

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in Ding Chuan Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Ding Chuan Tang

Xiao Xian Xiong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Phlegm. Expands the chest. Dissipates clumps.

Conditions targeted*: HepatitisCholecystitis and others

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Xian Xiong Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Xiao Xian Xiong Tang, Ban Xia is very effective in directing the Rebellious Qi downward, harmonizing the Stomach, transforming Phlegm, eliminating focal distention, and dissipating clumps.

Together Snake gourd - the key herb in this formula - it is excellent for treating focal distention of the chest and diaphragm due to clumping of Phlegm and Heat, or for painful obstruction of the chest due to clumping of sticky and thick Phlegm.

Together with Goldthread rhizome - the deputy herb in this formula - it treats the obstruction caused by Phlegm-Heat by utilizing their combination of bitter, downward-directing, and acrid opening natures.

Read more about Xiao Xian Xiong Tang

Xuan Bi Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears and resolves Damp-Heat. Unblocks the meridians. Disbands painful obstruction.

Conditions targeted*: Rheumatic feverRheumatoid arthritis and others

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in Xuan Bi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Xuan Bi Tang, Ban Xia dries Dampness and transforms turbidity.

Read more about Xuan Bi Tang

Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan

Source date: 1584 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Phlegm. Directs Rebellious Qi downwards. Stops coughing.

Conditions targeted*: PneumoniaChronic bronchitis and others

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan, Ban Xia strongly assists the key ingredient (Arisaema with bile) in expelling the Phlegm that has already formed.

Read more about Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan

Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer). Regulates the Liver and Spleen functions. Addresses combined Yin-Yang symptoms of External and Internal, Excess and Deficiency, and Hot and Cold.

Conditions targeted*: HepatitisChronic cholecystitis and others

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Chai Hu Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Xiao Chai Hu Tang, Ban Xia warms and transforms Phlegm and turbidity in the Middle Burner.

When combined with another assistant herb in this formula, Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang), it harmonizes the Middle Burner, directs Rebellious Qi downward, and stops nausea and vomiting.

Read more about Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Regulates the downward flow of Stomach Qi. Expectorant, treats hiccups.

Conditions targeted*: HiccupsChronic gastritis and others

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang, Ban Xia works together with Fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang), another assistant herb here, to warm and harmonize the Stomach and direct Qi downward, thereby dispelling the Phlegm and dispersing the focal distention. 

Read more about Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang

Xiao Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior. Transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Warms the Lungs. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsBronchitis and others

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Qing Long Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Xiao Qing Long Tang, Ban Xia transforms Phlegm-Fluids and harmonizes the Stomach.

Read more about Xiao Qing Long Tang

Mai Men Dong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes the Stomach. Generates Body Fluids. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Conditions targeted*: Lung atrophyLaryngitis and others

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in Mai Men Dong Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Mai Men Dong Tang, Ban Xia facilitates the Stomach Qi flow and guides the Qi downward. The warm, acrid, drying nature of this herb is moderated by the moistening herbs in the formula and by its relatively low dosage. In fact, adding a small amount of this acrid, dispersing herb to the formula will assist in the distribution of nourishment from the Middle Burner to the Upper Burner, and redirect the Qi, thereby facilitating the replenishment of Body Fluids in the Lungs.

Read more about Mai Men Dong Tang

Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior. Transforms Dampness. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Middle Burner.

Conditions targeted*: GastroenteritisStomach flu and others

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, Ban Xia harmonizes the Stomach and stops the vomiting.

Read more about Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San

Bao He Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Reduces food stagnation. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Conditions targeted*: GastroenteritisChronic gastritis and others

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in Bao He Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Bao He Wan, Ban Xia promotes the movement of Qi and transform stagnation, thereby harmonizing the Stomach to stop the nausea and vomiting

Read more about Bao He Wan

San Ren Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Damp-Heat. Disseminates the Qi. Facilitates the Qi mechanisms.

Conditions targeted*: TyphoidPyelonephritis and others

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in San Ren Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In San Ren Tang, Ban Xia treats epigastric and abdominal distention due to Dampness or Phlegm

Read more about San Ren Tang

Xing Su San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Dry-Cold. Disseminates the Lung Qi and relieves cough. Transforms thin mucus.

Conditions targeted*: Common coldBronchitis and others

Read more about Xing Su San

Wen Jing Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Uterus and vessels. Nourishes Blood. Dispels Cold. Dispels Blood Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Dysfunctional uterine bleedingUterine hypoplasia and others

In Wen Jing Tang, Ban Xia tonifies Qi and harmonizes the Spleen and Stomach to strengthen the source of production and transformation so that Yang can produce Yin and the Blood may not be Deficient. It also harmonizes the Uterus via the Stomach channel to which it is connected through the Penetrating Meridian. 

Read more about Wen Jing Tang

Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1675 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Spleen and Stomach Qi. Removes Dampness. Moves Qi. Alleviates pain.

In Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang, Ban Xia , like Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi), has a drying effect and helps direct the Qi downward. It also stops nausea.

Read more about Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang

Key TCM concepts behind crow-dipper rhizomes (Ban Xia)'s properties

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

Crow-dipper rhizomes also taste 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. Pungent ingredients like crow-dipper rhizomes 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 crow-dipper rhizomes are thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids 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. 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 crow-dipper rhizomes (Ban Xia)

The herbal medicine TJ-109 (consisting of Pinellia tuber) effectively reduced the incidence of acute tonsillitis. 1

Tracheitis Plaster (consisting of Pinellia tuber) is a highly effective transcutaneous absorbent with promising long-term effect and could regulate the immune function.2

Sources:

1. Goto F, Asama Y, Ogawa K. (2010). Sho-saiko-to-ka-kikyo-sekko as an alternative treatment for chronic tonsillitis to avoid surgery. Complement Ther Clin Pract. , 16(4):216-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.02.006. Epub 2010 Mar 19.

2. Huo GR, Ma LQ, Huang CH. (2001). Clinical study on treatment of chronic bronchitis by tracheitis plaster. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi, 21(11):816-8.