English: Stemona roots

Chinese: 百部

Parts used: The root

TCM category: Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterPungentSweet

Organ affinity: Lung

Scientific name: Stemona sessilifolia, Stemona japonica or Stemona tuberosa

Other names: Japanese stemona root

Use of Bai Bu (stemona 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: Collect the root, remove impurities, clean, boil in hot water until the white center color disappears and dry.

Dosage: 3-9g

Main actions according to TCM*: Moistens the Lungs and stops cough. Kills parasites externally.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Bai Bu may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Acute cough Chronic cough Bronchitis Tuberculosis Lice Fleas Pinworms Chronic asthma Spider bites Bacterial vaginosis

Contraindications*: Contraindicated for patients with diarrhea due to Spleen and Stomach Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which Bai Bu is used*

Zhi Sou San

Source date: 1732 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Transforms Phlegm and stops coughing. Disperses the Exterior. Spreads the Lung Qi.

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsAcute bronchitis and others

Bai Bu is a king ingredient in Zhi Sou San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Zhi Sou San, Bai Bu is able to warm without causing Heat as well as moisten without causing Coldness. It is better and is effective in stopping coughs and transforming Phlegm in both acute and chronic disorders. 

Read more about Zhi Sou San

Key TCM concepts behind Bai Bu's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Bai Bu belongs to the 'Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing' category. In TCM Phlegm is a condition of Stagnation of Fluids which tends to start in the Spleen and then goes to the Lungs. If this overly accumulates it thickens and becomes pathological Phlegm. Phlegm, being a form of Stagnation, often starts as being Cool and transforms to Hot as the condition progresses. Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing treat branch symptoms of this Stagnation and tend to have antitussive, expectorant, diuretic or laxative properties.

Furthermore Bai Bu is Warm in nature. This means that Bai Bu tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. 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 Bai Bu can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Bai Bu also tastes Bitter, 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. Bitter ingredients like Bai Bu tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients tend 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. Lastly 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 Bai Bu is thought to target the Lung. 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.