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 plant, remove impurities and dry
Main actions according to TCM*: Invigorates Blood and removes Blood Stagnation. Clear Toxic-Heat, cools the Blood and relieves pain. Drains Damp-Heat. Dispels Wind-Damp and relaxes the muscle and sinews.
Primary conditions or symptoms for which Tou Gu Cao may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Trauma Bruising Swellings Inflammation Sores Burns Carbuncles Acute jaundice Hepatitis Arthritis Arthralgia Muscle contracture Bone contracture Beriberi Tinea
Contraindications*: Should not be used during pregnancy.
Source date: 1742 AD
Number of ingredients: 12 herbs
Formula key actions: Invigorates the Blood. Disperses swelling. Dispels Wind, Dampness and Cold. Removes Stagnation and relieves pain.
Tou Gu Cao is a deputy ingredient in Hai Tong Pi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.
In Hai Tong Pi Tang, Tou Gu Cao unblocks the Channels, invigorates the collaterals, dispel Dampness, and relieves pain.
Erythrinae bark, Garden Balsam, Clematis root, Angelica root, Saposhnikovia root and Sichuan pepper shares similar functions.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Tou Gu Cao belongs to the 'Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness' category. These herbs typically help treat what's called 'bi pain' (i.e. painful obstruction) in TCM. This roughly corresponds to arthritic and rheumatic conditions with pain, stiffness and numbness of the bones, joints and muscles.
Furthermore Tou Gu Cao is Cool in nature. This means that Tou Gu Cao 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 Tou Gu Cao can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.
Tou Gu Cao 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 Tou Gu Cao 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 Tou Gu Cao is thought to target the Spleen, the Kidney and the Liver. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. 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. 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.