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Isatis leaf

Chinese: 大青葉

Pinyin: Dà Qīng Yè

Parts used: Dried leaves

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Organ affinity: Stomach Heart Lung

Scientific name: Isatis indigotica

Other names: Dyers Woad Leaves, Indigo leaves

Use of isatis leaf (Da Qing Ye) 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: Cut and dry the leaves from the plant

Dosage: 1.5 - 3 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Heat and toxicity from the Blood. Clears Heat associated with contagious febrile diseases.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which isatis leaf may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Nosebleed Skin eruptions Convulsions Influenza Pneumonia Fever Sores Rashes Bloody sputum Mouth ulcers

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with weak and Cold Spleen or Stomach.

Key TCM concepts behind isatis leaf (Da Qing Ye)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), isatis leaf are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity' 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 relieve Toxicity treat the latter while, at the same time, removing infectious toxins from the body. As such they tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category isatis leaf are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that isatis leaf typically help 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 isatis leaf can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Isatis leaf also taste Bitter. 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 isatis leaf tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such isatis leaf are thought to target the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. In addition to regulating Blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. 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.