English: Dendrobium

Chinese: 石斛

Parts used: Fresh or dried stems

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Yin Deficiency

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Stomach Kidney Lung

Scientific name: Dendrobium nobile, Dendrobium candidum or Dendrobium fimbriatum

Use of Shi Hu (dendrobium) 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, wash, soak in water and dry.

Dosage: 6-18 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies the Yin of the Lung and Stomach and assists in the generation of Fluids. Clears Heat and nourishes the Yin. Improves vision and strengthens the lower back.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Shi Hu may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Loss of appetite Fever Impaired vision Hematemesis Excessive thirst

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those without signs of Heat and Dryness. It should not be used in the beginnings of febrile diseases.

Common TCM formulas in which Shi Hu is used*

Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang

Source date: 1852 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears summerheat. Augments the Qi. Nourishes the Yin. Generates Body Fluids.

Conditions targeted*: HyperthermiaHeat stroke and others

Shi Hu is a deputy ingredient in Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang, Shi Hu nourishes the Yin of the Lungs and Stomach.

Read more about Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Shi Hu's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shi Hu belongs to the 'Tonic herbs for Yin Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Yin tonics have a heavy, moist nature. They either nourish the Kidneys and Liver or moisten the Lungs and Stomach. Extreme Yin Deficiency often translates into a 'burn-out', unfortunately more and more common among people today. It is worth mentioning that another great remedy against Yin Deficiency is a lot of rest and sleep; no herb will ever be able to replace this!

Furthermore Shi Hu is Cool in nature. This means that Shi Hu 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 Shi Hu can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Shi Hu also tastes Sweet. 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. Sweet ingredients like Shi Hu tends 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 Shi Hu is thought to target the Stomach, the Kidney and the Lung. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. 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 Shi Hu

Plants of the Dendrobium genus manifest a diversity of medicinal effects encompassing antiangiogenic, immunomodulating, antidiabetic, cataractogenesis-inhibiting, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, antiplatelet aggregation, antifungal, antibacterial, antiherpetic, antimalarial, aquaporin-5 stimulating, and hemagglutininating activities and also exert beneficial actions on colonic health and alleviate symptoms of hyperthyroidism.1

Dendrobium candidum would regulate the expression of aquaporin-5 in labial glands of Sjögren's syndrome patients and thereby promoted secretion of saliva to improve dry mouth symptoms.2


1. Teixeira da Silva JA, Ng TB. (2017). The medicinal and pharmaceutical importance of Dendrobium species. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. , 101(6):2227-2239. doi: 10.1007/s00253-017-8169-9. Epub 2017 Feb 14.

2. Xiao L, Ng TB, Feng YB, Yao T, Wong JH, Yao RM, Li L, Mo FZ, Xiao Y, Shaw PC, Li ZM, Sze SC, Zhang KY. (2011). Dendrobium candidum extract increases the expression of aquaporin-5 in labial glands from patients with Sjögren's syndrome. Phytomedicine. , 18(2-3):194-8. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2010.05.002. Epub 2010 Jul 23.