English: Glehnia roots

Chinese: 北沙参

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Yin Deficiency

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Organ affinity: Lung Stomach

Scientific name: Glehnia littoralis

Other names: Beach silvertop, American silvertop

Use of Bei Sha Shen (glehnia roots) 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 stems and fibrous roots, wash, peel off the skin and dry it.

Dosage: 6 - 12 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Nourishes Lung Yin and stops cough. Nourishes Stomach Yin and generates Fluids.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Bei Sha Shen may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Dry cough Bloody sputum Dry mouth Sore throat

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with conditions of Wind-Cold nor should it be used by those with a weak Cold Spleen.

Common TCM formulas in which Bei Sha Shen is used*

Yi Wei Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Strengthen the Stomach. Creates Body Fluids.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic gastritisDiabetes and others

Bei Sha Shen is a deputy ingredient in Yi Wei Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Yi Wei Tang, Bei Sha Shen enters the Stomach Channel. It directs the action of the king herbs more specifically to the Stomach. 

Read more about Yi Wei Tang

Sang Xing Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears and disperses Dryness.

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsAcute bronchitis and others

Bei Sha Shen is an assistant ingredient in Sang Xing Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Sang Xing Tang, Bei Sha Shen nourishes the Yin and clear Heat. Together with the other assistant herb Pear skin, they are cooling and moistening in nature. 

Read more about Sang Xing Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Bei Sha Shen's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Bei Sha Shen 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 Bei Sha Shen is Cool in nature. This means that Bei Sha Shen 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 Bei Sha Shen can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Bei Sha Shen also tastes Bitter and 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. Bitter ingredients like Bei Sha Shen 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 Sweet ingredients 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 Bei Sha Shen is thought to target the Lung and the Stomach. 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. 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.

Research on Bei Sha Shen

Glehnia littoralis has antibacterial and antifungal properties.1

Sources:

1. H Matsuura, G Saxena, SW Farmer et al. (1996). Antibacterial and Antifungal Polyine Compounds from Glehnia littoralis ssp. Ieiocarpa. Planta Medica 62: 256—259