English: Poke Roots

Chinese: 商陸

Parts used: Root

TCM category: Cathartic herbs that drain downward

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Organ affinity: Bladder Spleen Kidney Lung

Scientific name: Phytolacca acinosa or Phytolacca americana

Other names: Pokeberry Root, Phytolacca

Use of Shang Lu (poke 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 slices and dry.

Dosage: 3-9g

Main actions according to TCM*: Drains water retention associated with Excess. Abates swellings, tumors and sores associated with Damp-Heat and Stagnation.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Shang Lu may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Scanty urination Edema Constipation Sores Tumors

Contraindications*: This herbs should only be used for Excess Patterns. It is also contraindicated during pregnancy. The fresh product should be used for topical purpose such as sores and tumor,

Common TCM formulas in which Shang Lu is used*

Shu Zao Yin Zi

Source date: 1253 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Purges and drives out Water. Clears Wind. Releases from the Exterior .

Conditions targeted*: Nephritis with EdemaIncreased intracranial pressure and others

Shang Lu is a king ingredient in Shu Zao Yin Zi. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Shu Zao Yin Zi, Shang Lu strongly moves the Qi downward, opening both the urinary passages and then bowels for driving out water.

This herb is bitter, cold, and toxic.

Read more about Shu Zao Yin Zi

Key TCM concepts behind Shang Lu's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shang Lu belongs to the 'Cathartic herbs that drain downward' category. The herbs in this category are those whose main purpose is to treat constipation. They're called 'cathartic' because they have an especially strong effect and should only be used for severe intestinal blockage or gastrointestinal swelling.

Furthermore Shang Lu is Cold in nature. This means that Shang Lu 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 Shang Lu can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Shang Lu 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 Shang Lu 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 Shang Lu is thought to target the Bladder, the Spleen, the Kidney and the Lung. 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 Spleen on the other hand assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. 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. 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.