English: Stephania roots

Chinese: 防己

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Organ affinity: Bladder Lung

Scientific name: Stephania tetrandra

Other names: Fourstamen Stephania, Han Fang Ji

Use of Fang Ji (stephania 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, soak in water for a little while, wash, cut in thick pieces and dry

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Encourages urination. Allays pain and dispels Wind-Damp painful obstruction (Bi Pain).

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Fang Ji may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Edema Oliguria Eczema Rheumatoid arthritis Hypertension

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with chronic Dampness nor by those with Yin Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which Fang Ji is used*

Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Diuretic, clears Excess fluid and removes edema. Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Calms External Wind.

Conditions targeted*: AscitesEdema and others

Fang Ji is a king ingredient in Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang, Fang Ji releases the Exterior, unblocks the Meridians, promotes urination, expels Dampness and relieves pain. By combining it with Milkvetch root (Huang Qi), the other key herb, they mutually reinforce their Qi tonifying and urination-promoting actions: this alleviates any Edema without injuring the normal Qi.

Read more about Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang

Xuan Bi Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears and resolves Damp-Heat. Unblocks the meridians. Disbands painful obstruction.

Conditions targeted*: Rheumatic feverRheumatoid arthritis and others

Fang Ji is a king ingredient in Xuan Bi Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Xuan Bi Tang, Fang Ji dispels Damp-Heat in the Upper Burner by venting the Heat externally.

At the same time, it disperses superficial swelling and drains Damp-Heat through the urine. It also has some ability to dry Dampness and strengthen the Spleen, which helps resolve the underlying cause of this condition.

Read more about Xuan Bi Tang

Ji Jiao Li Huang Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Drives out water. Reduces distention. Scours out thin mucus. Moves the Qi.

Conditions targeted*: Cirrhosis with ascitesNephritis with edema and others

Fang Ji is a king ingredient in Ji Jiao Li Huang Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Ji Jiao Li Huang Wan, Fang Ji is bitter, cooling, and acrid, and it expels pathogenic Dampness through urine.

Read more about Ji Jiao Li Huang Wan

Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang

Source date: 1587 AD

Number of ingredients: 16 herbs

Formula key actions: Expels Wind Damp from the Channels. Invigorates Blood. Unblocks the channels.

Conditions targeted*: ArthralgiaBell's palsy and others

Fang Ji is an assistant ingredient in Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang, Fang Ji removes pain that is caused by Dampness invading the channels and joints

Read more about Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Fang Ji's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Fang Ji 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 Fang Ji is Cold in nature. This means that Fang Ji 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 Fang Ji can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Fang Ji 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 Fang Ji 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 Fang Ji is thought to target the Bladder 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. 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.

Research on Fang Ji

The root extract of Stephania Tetrandra S. Moore may delay the progression of retinopathy in diabetic patients.1


1. X Liang, N Hagino, S Guo, T Tsutsumi, S Kobayashi (2002). Therapeutic Efficacy of Stephania tetrandra S. Moore for treatment of neovascularization of retinal capillary (retinopathy) in diabetes – in vitro study. Phytomedicine, 9(5), p. 377-384. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1078/09447110260571599