English: Kuding tea

Chinese: 苦丁茶

Parts used: Dried leaves

TCM category: Herbs that anchor and calm the Spirit

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Organ affinity: Stomach Liver Lung

Scientific name: Ligustrum robustum or Llex kaushue

Use of Ku Ding Cha (kuding tea) 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: Collect leaves and remove impurities. Dry them under the shade.

Dosage: 3-9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears wind-heat and Calms the spirit. Eases restlessness and brightens the eyes.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Ku Ding Cha may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Headache Toothache Impaired vision Tinnitus Dysentery Excessive thirst Common cold Bronchitis Restlessness Conjunctivitis

Contraindications*: Not suitable for patients with Yin or Qi deficiency.

Key TCM concepts behind Ku Ding Cha's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ku Ding Cha belongs to the 'Herbs that anchor and calm the Spirit' category. These herbs are substances that tranquilize the Mind and treat symptoms such as restlessness, palpitations, anxiety or insomnia. They tend to have sedative properties by weighing the Qi downwards and should generally be used for a limited time only.

Furthermore Ku Ding Cha is Cold in nature. This means that Ku Ding Cha 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 Ku Ding Cha can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Ku Ding Cha 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 Ku Ding Cha 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 Ku Ding Cha is thought to target the Stomach, the Liver 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. 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. 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.

Research on Ku Ding Cha

Some research suggests that Kuding tea, derived from either Ilex or Ligustrum, promotes blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, and lowers blood lipids, including cholesterol. It has also been found that Kuding tea made from L. robustum has similar anti-oxidative effects to tea in addition to additional anti-inflammatory properties.1


1. LAU Kit Man; HE Zhendan; DONG Hui; FUNG Kwok Pui and BUT Pui Hay Paul, 2002. "Anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and hepato-protective effects of Ligustrum robustum", Journal of Ethnopharmacology. vol.83 pp.63-71.