Gastrodia rhizomes

Chinese: 天麻

Pinyin: Tiān Má

Parts used: Dried tuber

TCM category: Herbs that pacify Internal Liver Wind and stop Tremors

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: Liver

Scientific name: Gastrodia elata

Use of gastrodia rhizomes (Tiān Má) 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 practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, wash, soak in water, cut in thick slices and dry.

Dosage: 3- 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Calms Liver Wind. Sedates Liver Yang and relieves convulsions. Relieves Wind and stops pain.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which gastrodia rhizomes may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Convulsions Headache Dizziness Numbness of limbs Epilepsy Tetanus

Contraindications*: This herb should not be taken in large doses or for extended periods of time.

Common TCM formulas in which gastrodia rhizomes are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind gastrodia rhizomes' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), gastrodia rhizomes are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that pacify Internal Liver Wind and stop Tremors' category. These herbs are used to treat so-called 'hyperactive Liver Yang'. Concretely this translates into high blood pressure as well as seizures, spasms, convulsions, dizziness and vertigo. These herbs often seem to have a powerful antispasmodic effect on the nervous system.

Furthermore gastrodia rhizomes are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that gastrodia rhizomes typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin excess. The Neutral nature of gastrodia rhizomes means that you don't have to worry about that!

Gastrodia rhizomes also taste Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like gastrodia rhizomes tend 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 gastrodia rhizomes are thought to target the Liver. In TCM the Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on gastrodia rhizomes

Gastrodia root has been shown to exert novel pain relief and inflammatory-mediating activities, as well as in vivo and in vitro inhibitory activity on nitric oxide (NO) production.1

Gastrodin, an active component of tall gastrodia tuber, promotes the secretion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, contributes to the recovery of neurological function, and protects neural cells against injury.2

Ethanol extract of Gastrodiae rhizoma induced proliferation and neuronal differentiation of neural stem cells, suggesting its potential benefits on neural stem cell-based therapies and neuroregeneration in various neurodegenerative diseases and brain injuries.3

Sources:

1. Jim English (2010). "Traditional Chinese Herbs for Arthritis". Nutrition Review. 5 (2)

2. Song C, Fang S, Lv G, Mei X. (2013). Gastrodin promotes the secretion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the injured spinal cord. Neural Regen Res , 8(15):1383-9. doi: 10.3969/j.issn.1673-5374.2013.15.005.

3. Baral S, Pariyar R, Yoon CS, Kim DC, Yun JM, Jang SO, Kim SY, Oh H, Kim YC, Seo J. (2015). Effects of Gastrodiae rhizoma on proliferation and differentiation of human embryonic neural stem cells. Asian Pac J Trop Med. , 8(10):792-7. doi: 10.1016/j.apjtm.2015.09.004.

Use of gastrodia rhizomes as food

Gastrodia rhizomes are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Double-boiled Chicken Soup with Ginseng and Gastrodia Root.