Phellodendron bark

Chinese: 黃柏

Pinyin: Huáng Bò

Parts used: Dried bark

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: BladderKidneyLarge intestine

Scientific name: Phellodendron chinense

Other names: Huang Bai

Use of phellodendron bark (Huang Bo) 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 the bark from the tree, cut into sections and let it dry under the sun

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Expels Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner. Clears Kidney Yin Deficient Heat. Applied externally or toxic Fire, especially associated with Dampness.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which phellodendron bark may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Dysentery Jaundice Leukorrhea Urinary tract infection Weakness and edema of legs Fever Night sweats Seminal emission Sores Skin eruptions Eczema Swellings

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Spleen or Stomach Deficiency with or without diarrhea.

Key TCM concepts behind phellodendron bark (Huang Bo)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), phellodendron bark are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness' 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 '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 dry Dampness treat the latter while, at the same time, relieving the body of excess Dampness. As such they tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

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

Phellodendron bark also taste Bitter. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like phellodendron bark 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 phellodendron bark are thought to target the Bladder, the Kidney and the Large intestine. In TCM the impure water collected by the Kidneys that cannot be used by the body is sent to the Bladder for storage and excretion as urine. The Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. 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.