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Gentian roots

Chinese: 秦艽

Pinyin: Qín Jiāo

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Gallbladder Stomach Liver

Scientific name: Gentiana macrophylla, Gentiana straminea, Gentiana crassicaulis or Gentiana dahurica

Other names: Large Leaf Gentian

Use of gentian roots (Qin Jiao) 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: Clean the root and dry it, ideally under the sun

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears either acute or chronic, Cold or Hot Wind-Damp conditions. Clears Heat from Yin Deficiency. Lubricates the Intestines and promotes bowel movements.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which gentian roots may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Rheumatoid arthritis Joint pain Fever Hepatitis Jaundice

Contraindications*: Not for conditions of frequent urination and pain in weak and Deficient individuals, especially when there is Spleen-Deficient diarrhea.

Common TCM formulas in which gentian roots (Qin Jiao) are used*

Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 15 herbs

Formula key actions: Anti-rheumatic, clears Wind, Cold and Damp Stagnation. Strengthens the function of the Liver and Kidney. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic lower back painSciatica and others

Qin Jiao is a deputy ingredient in Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang, Qin Jiao relaxes the sinews and expels the Wind and Dampness.

Read more about Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Key TCM concepts behind gentian roots (Qin Jiao)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), gentian roots are plants that belong 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 gentian roots are plants that are Cool in nature. This means that gentian roots tend 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 gentian roots can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Gentian roots also taste 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 gentian roots tend 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 gentian roots are thought to target the Gallbladder, the Stomach and the Liver. Similar to modern medicine, in TCM the Gallbladder stores and releases bile produced by the Liver. It also controls the emotion of decisiveness. 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. 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.