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Inula flowers

Chinese: 旋覆花

Pinyin: Xuán Fù Huā

Parts used: Dried capitulum

TCM category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach Large intestine Liver Lung

Scientific name: Inula japonica or Inula britannica

Other names: Elecampane flower

Use of inula flowers (Xuan Fu Hua) 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: Harvest the flowers when they are open, remove impurities and dry them in the shade or under the sun.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Moves Stagnant Phlegm in the Lungs. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi of the Lungs and Stomach.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which inula flowers may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Wheezing Bronchitis Cough in common cold Belching Vomiting

Contraindications*: This herb should be avoided by those with tuberculosis or cough due to Wind-Heat or Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which inula flowers (Xuan Fu Hua) are used*

Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Regulates the downward flow of Stomach Qi. Expectorant, treats hiccups.

Conditions targeted*: HiccupsChronic gastritis and others

Xuan Fu Hua is a king ingredient in Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang, Xuan Fu Hua is able to drive Rebellious Qi downward as well as dissolve Phlegm.

Read more about Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang

Key TCM concepts behind inula flowers (Xuan Fu Hua)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), inula flowers are plants that belong to the 'Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough' category. In TCM Phlegm is a condition of Stagnation of Fluids which tends to start in the Spleen and then goes to the Lungs. If this overly accumulates it thickens and becomes pathological Phlegm. Phlegm, being a form of Stagnation, often starts as being Cool and transforms to Hot as the condition progresses. The herbs in this category are Warm in nature so they treat the early stages of the Stagnation: Cold-Phlegm and Wet-Phlegm with symptoms of wheezing, vomiting and nausea.

As suggested by its category inula flowers are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that inula flowers tend to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess(because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition inula flowers can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Inula flowers 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 inula flowers 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 inula flowers are thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach, the Large intestine, the Liver and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in 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. The Large Intestine receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. 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. 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.