English: Prepared Kusnezoffii aconite

Chinese: 制草乌

Parts used: The root

TCM category: Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold

TCM nature: Hot

TCM taste(s): PungentSour

Organ affinity: Spleen Kidney Liver

Scientific name: Aconitum kusnezoffii Reichb

Other names: Bei Wu Tou, Cao Wu, Shen Cao Wu, Kusnezoff MonksHood

Use of Zhi Cao Wu (prepared kusnezoffii aconite) 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 root, remove impurities, clean and dry.

Dosage: 1.5-8g

Main actions according to TCM*: Disperses Coldness, Wind and Dampness. Relieves obstruction pain in muscles and joints due to Wind, Dampness and Coldness.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Zhi Cao Wu may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Abdominal cold Abdominal pain Chest cold Chest pain

Contraindications*: This herb is toxic and has to be used under professional instruction. Better to use with harmonizing herbs such as Liquorice of Ginger to minimize the toxicity. Contraindicated during pregnancy and for patients with Yin Deficiency. Should always used the prepared herb instead of the fresh one.

Common TCM formulas in which Zhi Cao Wu is used*

Xiao Huo Luo Dan

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Dispels Wind. Eliminates Dampness and transforms Phlegm . Invigorates the Blood. Removes Stagnation and relieves pain.

Conditions targeted*: Hemiplegia after cerebrovascular accidentRheumatoid arthritis and others

Zhi Cao Wu is a king ingredient in Xiao Huo Luo Dan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Xiao Huo Luo Dan, Zhi Cao Wu is among the strongest herbs in the TCM for warming the Channels and dispersing Wind, Cold, and Dampness.

It is acrid, hot, and toxic, expelling Wind, Dampness, and Cold, so as to stop painful obstruction of the muscles and joints, and unbind areas constrained by Phlegm

Read more about Xiao Huo Luo Dan

Key TCM concepts behind Zhi Cao Wu's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Zhi Cao Wu belongs to the 'Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold' category. Herbs in this category are used for Internal Cold with Qi Deficiency and/or Yang Deficiency. In the Yin and Yang system of thought Yang is Hot in nature. A deficiency of Yang will therefore lead to Internal Coldness since there will as a result be more Yin (Cold in nature) than Yang. In extreme cases this can lead to so-called 'Yang collapse' with convulsions or coma and these herbs are particularly indicated to treat such scenarios.

As suggested by its category Zhi Cao Wu is Hot in nature. This means that Zhi Cao Wu typically helps people who have too much "Cold" in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much 'Cold' in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition Zhi Cao Wu can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Zhi Cao Wu also tastes Pungent and Sour. 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 Zhi Cao Wu 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 Sour ingredients help with digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of Fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Zhi Cao Wu is thought to target the Spleen, the Kidney and the Liver. In TCM the Spleen 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. 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.