English: Heal-all spikes

Chinese: 夏枯草

Parts used: Dried fruit-spike

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire and/or clear Summer Heat

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Gallbladder Liver

Scientific name: Prunella vulgaris

Other names: Self-heal, Woundwort, Heart-of-the-earth, Carpenter's herb, Brownwort, Blue curls

Use of Xia Ku Cao (heal-all spikes) 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: After harvest, remove impurities and dry.

Dosage: 9 - 18 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Liver Heat that affects the eyes. Clears Heat and reduces nodules. Calms Liver Fire and ascendant Yang.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Xia Ku Cao may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Uveitis Ophthalmalgia Scrofula Goiter Mastitis Hypertension

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with a weak Stomach or Spleen associated with Coldness.

Key TCM concepts behind Xia Ku Cao's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Xia Ku Cao belongs to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire and/or clear Summer Heat' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Internal Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an Excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire treat the latter and as such tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category Xia Ku Cao is Cold in nature. This means that Xia Ku Cao typically helps people who have too much 'Heat' in their body. 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 Xia Ku Cao can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Xia Ku 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 Xia Ku 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 Xia Ku Cao is thought to target the Gallbladder 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 Liver on the other hand 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.

Research on Xia Ku Cao

Heal-all has anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties.1

Prunella vulgaris contains a polysaccharide that has specific activity against HSV (Herpes simplex virus).2


1. Ryu SY, Oak MH, Yoon SK, et al. (May 2000). "Anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory triterpenes from the herb of Prunella vulgaris". Planta Med. 66 (4): 358–60. doi:10.1055/s-2000-8531

2. HX Xu, SHS Lee, SF Lee, RL White, J Blay (1999). "Isolation and characterization of an anti-HSV polysaccharide from Prunella vulgaris". Antiviral research, Volume 44, Issue 1, Pages 43-54

Use of Xia Ku Cao as food

Xia Ku Cao is also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Heal-all salad.