English: Kudzu roots

Chinese: 葛根

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): PungentSweet

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach

Scientific name: Pueraria thomsonii

Other names: Japanese arrowroot, East Asian arrowroot, Arrowroot

Use of Ge Gen (kudzu 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 impurities, wash, soak in water, cut in thick slices and dry.

Dosage: 9-15g

Main actions according to TCM*: Relieves muscle tension especially in the neck and shoulders. Relieves the Exterior and scatters Wind. Supports the Fluids and eases thirst. Assists in the expression of measles. Relieves diarrhea. Relieves hypertension.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Ge Gen may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Fever Headache Diabetes Alcoholism Dysentery Diarrhea Measles Back pain High blood pressure Hypertension

Contraindications*: Should not be used by those with Cold in the Stomach and excessive sweating.

Common TCM formulas in which Ge Gen is used*

Ge Gen Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior and muscle layer. Forms Body Fluids.

Conditions targeted*: Common coldCervical spine disease and others

Ge Gen is a king ingredient in Ge Gen Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Ge Gen Tang, Ge Gen releases the the Exterior and muscle layer, especially of the upper back and neck. It also directs Body Fluids to the affected areas. 

Read more about Ge Gen Tang

Ge Geng Huang Qin Huang Lian Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior. Drains Heat.

Conditions targeted*: Stomach fluAcute enteritis and others

Ge Gen is a king ingredient in Ge Geng Huang Qin Huang Lian Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Ge Geng Huang Qin Huang Lian Tang, Ge Gen clears Heat, releases the Exterior,  and treats dysenteric diarrhea by raising the Spleen and Stomach's Clear Yang. It is a particular herb for patterns where Heat is developed from a Cold Pernicious Influence

Read more about Ge Geng Huang Qin Huang Lian Tang

Chai Ge Jie Ji Tang

Source date: 1445 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases pathogenic evils from the muscle layer . Clears Interior Heat .

Conditions targeted*: Common coldInfluenza and others

Ge Gen is a king ingredient in Chai Ge Jie Ji Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Chai Ge Jie Ji Tang, Ge Gen is cool, acrid. It releases the Pernicious Influencer from the muscle layer while concurrently clearing Heat.

Read more about Chai Ge Jie Ji Tang

Huo Ren Cong Shi Tang

Source date: 1108 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Unblocks the Yang Qi (Defensive Qi) in the Exterior . Induces sweating .

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsCommon cold and others

Ge Gen is a deputy ingredient in Huo Ren Cong Shi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Huo Ren Cong Shi Tang, Ge Gen induces sweating and relax muscles. It is added to the original formula of Cong Shi Tang for the patients that have no chills or sweating, but have headache, neck pain, upper and lower back pain, and a tight pulse. 

Read more about Huo Ren Cong Shi Tang

Shi Shen Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases pathogens from the Exterior . Regulates Qi . Descends the Lung Qi . Relieves coughing .

Conditions targeted*: Common coldInfluenza and others

Ge Gen is a deputy ingredient in Shi Shen Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Shi Shen Tang, Ge Gen work with Perilla leaves to release Evils from the Exterior.

Read more about Shi Shen Tang

Sheng Ma Ge Gen Tang

Source date: Craft of Medicines and Patterns for Children

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the muscle layer . Vents rashes.

Conditions targeted*: MeaslesHerpes zoster and others

Ge Gen is a deputy ingredient in Sheng Ma Ge Gen Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Sheng Ma Ge Gen Tang, Ge Gen stimulates and disperses functioning in the superficial body levels and hence unblocks the pores and interstices to assist in ventig the rash. It also raises the Body Fluids for expelling the Heat.

Read more about Sheng Ma Ge Gen Tang

Cong Bai Qi Wei Yin

Source date: 752 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes the Blood . Release the Exterior .

Conditions targeted*: Common coldPostpartum common cold and others

Ge Gen is an assistant ingredient in Cong Bai Qi Wei Yin. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Cong Bai Qi Wei Yin, Ge Gen induces sweating and releases the Exterior

Read more about Cong Bai Qi Wei Yin

Key TCM concepts behind Ge Gen's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ge Gen belongs to the 'Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior' category. Herbs that release the Exterior aim to to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the throat or the skin. TCM believes that External diseases such as colds or allergies can only invade the body if the External environment overwhelms our Wei Qi (the TCM version of the immune system). In order to counteract this invasion Cool/Acrid herbs aim to induce sweating by dilating our capillary pores so that they release more sweat. The belief is that this will expel the disease from the body and stop it from invading further.

As suggested by its category Ge Gen is Cool in nature. This means that Ge Gen 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 Ge Gen can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Ge Gen also tastes Pungent 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. Pungent ingredients like Ge Gen tends 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. 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 Ge Gen is thought to target the Spleen and the Stomach. 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.

Research on Ge Gen

Kudzu may help may help drinkers reduce alcohol consumption1.

Sources:

1. "Chinese Herb Kudzu May Help Drinkers Cut Down". WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20120517/chinese-herb-kudzu-may-help-drinkers-cut-down on 2018-05-25.

Use of Ge Gen as food

Ge Gen is also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Deep Fried Kudzu Tofu or Stuffed Kudzu Leaves.