English: Picrorhiza rhizomes

Chinese: 胡黄连

Parts used: Rhizome

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Organ affinity: Stomach Large intestine Liver

Scientific name: Picrorhiza scrophulariiflora

Other names: Figwort flower rhizome

Use of Hu Huang Lian (picrorhiza rhizomes) 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 the rhizome, remove impurities, clean and dry

Dosage: 3-9g

Main actions according to TCM*: Expels Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner, Dispels Empty Heat due to Yin Deficiency, Cools Heat associated with childhood malnutrition.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Hu Huang Lian may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Diarrhea Low grade fever Excessive thirst Childhood malnutrition

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Deficiency in the Stomach or Spleen.

Common TCM formulas in which Hu Huang Lian is used*

Qing Gu San

Source date: 1602 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat from Deficiency. Alleviates steaming bone disorder.

Conditions targeted*: TuberculosisPostwound fevers and others

Hu Huang Lian is a deputy ingredient in Qing Gu San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Qing Gu San, Hu Huang Lian clears Heat from the Blood level.

This is a principal substance for clearing Heat from Yin Deficiency and are especially useful in alleviating steaming bone disorder with sweating.

Read more about Qing Gu San

Key TCM concepts behind Hu Huang Lian's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Hu Huang Lian belongs 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 '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 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 Hu Huang Lian is Cool in nature. This means that Hu Huang Lian 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 Hu Huang Lian can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Hu Huang Lian also tastes 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 Hu Huang Lian tends 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 Hu Huang Lian is thought to target the Stomach, the Large intestine and the Liver. 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 Large Intestine on the other hand 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.