Sweetflag rhizomes

Chinese: 石菖蒲

Pinyin: Shí Chāng Pú

Parts used: Dried rhizome

TCM category: Herbs that open the Orifices

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: StomachHeartLiver

Scientific name: Acorus gramineus or Acorus tatarinowii

Other names: Sweet flag

Use of sweetflag rhizomes (Shi Chang Pu) 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: Extract the rhizome, clean it thoroughly and dry it under the sun

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Opens the Orifices, awakens the Mind (Shen) and expels Wind-Damp Phlegm. Harmonizes the Earth element and dispels Damp. Applied internally or externally for Wind-Cold-Damp painful obstruction.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which sweetflag rhizomes may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Seizures Restlessness Loss of appetite Dysentery Anorexia Epilepsy Impaired hearing Forgetfulness

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Yin Deficiency with Heat signs and should be used with caution by those with excessive sweating or spermatorrhea

Key TCM concepts behind sweetflag rhizomes (Shi Chang Pu)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), sweetflag rhizomes are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that open the Orifices' category. The functions of these herbs are much more platonic than the name implies. They're used to help treat conditions associated with central nervous system collapse, including strokes and coma.

Furthermore sweetflag rhizomes are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that sweetflag rhizomes tend 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 sweetflag rhizomes can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Sweetflag rhizomes also taste Bitter. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like sweetflag rhizomes tend 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 sweetflag rhizomes are thought to target the Stomach, the Heart 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. In addition to regulating blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the "spirit" which basically refers to someone's vitality. The Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on sweetflag rhizomes(Shi Chang Pu)

β-Asarone of Chinese herb Rhizoma Acori Tatarinowii effectively inhibits the proliferation of human gastric cancer cells, induces their apoptosis and decreased the invasive, migratory and adhesive abilities.1

Sources:

1. Wu J, Zhang XX, Sun QM, Chen M, Liu SL, Zhang X, Zhou JY, Zou X. (2015). β-Asarone inhibits gastric cancer cell proliferation. Oncol Rep , 34(6):3043-50.