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Szechuan lovage roots

Chinese: 川芎

Pinyin: Chuān Xiōng

Parts used: Dried rhizome

TCM category: Herbs that invigorate the Blood

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Gallbladder Liver Pericardium

Scientific name: Ligusticum chuanxiong

Use of szechuan lovage roots (Chuan Xiong) 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 and smaller roots, wash and dry.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which szechuan lovage roots may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Irregular menstruation Amenorrhea Dysmenorrhea Chest pain Headache Arthralgia

Contraindications*: Not to be used for headaches that occur because of Deficiency of Yin or from raising Liver Yang; it should not be used when there is abnormal bleeding or during pregnancy.

Common TCM formulas in which szechuan lovage roots (Chuan Xiong) are used*

Yue Ju Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Releases all types of Stagnation (Qi, Blood, Phlegm, Fire, Food and Dampness).

Conditions targeted*: Peptic ulcersIrritable bowel syndrome and others

Chuan Xiong is a king ingredient in Yue Ju Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Yue Ju Wan, Chuan Xiong helps remove Blood Stagnation and the pain typically associated with it. 

Read more about Yue Ju Wan

Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates Blood. Eliminates Blood Stagnation below the diaphragm. Stops pain. Promotes Qi movement.

Conditions targeted*: AmenorrheaPainful menstruations and others

Chuan Xiong is a king ingredient in Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang, Chuan Xiong invigorates the Blood and dispels Blood Stagnation

Read more about Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang

Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Expels Cold and warm the menstruation Blood. Stops pain. Invigorates Blood. Dispels Blood stagnation.

Chuan Xiong is a king ingredient in Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang, Chuan Xiong invigorates the Blood and dispels Blood Stagnation

Read more about Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1575 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Resolves Damp-Phlegm. Nourishes Blood.

Chuan Xiong is a king ingredient in Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang, Chuan Xiong nourishes and invigorates the Blood 

Read more about Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates the Blood. Dispels blood Stagnation. Spreads the Liver Qi. Unblocks the channels.

Conditions targeted*: Coronary artery diseaseRheumatic valvular heart disease and others

Chuan Xiong is a king ingredient in Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, Chuan Xiong invigorates the Blood and eliminates Blood Stagnation, especially in the upper part of the body. 

Read more about Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Source date: 1602

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. Alleviates pain. Harmonizes Blood.

Conditions targeted*: HepatitisChronic gastritis and others

Chuan Xiong is a deputy ingredient in Chai Hu Shu Gan San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Chai Hu Shu Gan San, Chuan Xiong is a powerful herb that can enter the Qi and Blood aspects of the Liver to remove stagnation and stop pain. 

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Si Wu Tang

Source date: 846 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Restores and nourishes Blood. Stimulates Blood circulation.

Conditions targeted*: Menstrual crampsIrregular menstruation and others

Chuan Xiong is a deputy ingredient in Si Wu Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Si Wu Tang, Chuan Xiong facilitates the flow of Blood through the vessels, alleviates symptoms such as headache, dizziness, blurred vision and pain.

Read more about Si Wu Tang

Tao Hong Si Wu Tang

Source date: 1291 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Blood and regulates the Liver. Moves Qi and Blood in the lower abdomen. Stops pain.

Conditions targeted*: Scanty menstruationPainful menstruations and others

Chuan Xiong is a deputy ingredient in Tao Hong Si Wu Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Tao Hong Si Wu Tang, Chuan Xiong invigorates the blood and promotes the movement of Qi. Above, it directs the Blood to the head, relieving symptoms like headache, dizziness, and blurred vision, while below, it moves the 'Sea of Blood' (the complex Blood system that is the Liver, the Penetrating vessel and the Womb). Overall, by facilitating the flow of Blood through the Vessels and Collaterals it releases constraint, opens knotting, and alleviates pain.

Read more about Tao Hong Si Wu Tang

Wen Jing Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Uterus and vessels. Nourishes Blood. Dispels Cold. Dispels Blood Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Dysfunctional uterine bleedingUterine hypoplasia and others

Chuan Xiong is a deputy ingredient in Wen Jing Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Wen Jing Tang, Chuan Xiong invigorates and nourishes the Blood, unblocks Blood Stagnation and regulates the menses

Read more about Wen Jing Tang

Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 15 herbs

Formula key actions: Anti-rheumatic, clears Wind, Cold and Damp Stagnation. Strengthens the function of the Liver and Kidney. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic lower back painSciatica and others

Chuan Xiong is an assistant ingredient in Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Ba Zhen Tang

Source date: 1326 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies and augments Qi. Tonifies and augments Blood.

Conditions targeted*: AnemiaHepatitis and others

Chuan Xiong is an assistant ingredient in Ba Zhen Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ba Zhen Tang, Chuan Xiong promotes Qi movement and invigorates Blood

Read more about Ba Zhen Tang

Xia Ru Yong Quan San

Source date: 1840 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Blood. Increases breast milk supply.

In Xia Ru Yong Quan San, Chuan Xiong nourishes and invigorates Blood

Read more about Xia Ru Yong Quan San

Tuo Li Xiao Du San

Source date: 1548 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Draws out toxicity. Expels pus from the interior. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

In Tuo Li Xiao Du San, Chuan Xiong nourishes and invigorates Blood

Read more about Tuo Li Xiao Du San

Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang

Source date: 1576 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Expel Dampness. Relieve pain. Move Qi and Blood.

In Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang, Chuan Xiong invigorates Blood

Read more about Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang

Ba Zhen Yi Mu Tang

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood. Invigorates the Blood.

Conditions targeted*: Infertility and others

In Ba Zhen Yi Mu Tang, Chuan Xiong invigorates the Blood and promotes the movement of Qi

Read more about Ba Zhen Yi Mu Tang

Sheng Yu Tang

Source date: 1336 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood. Preserves the Blood.

In Sheng Yu Tang, Chuan Xiong invigorates the Blood and promote Qi movement. The combination of Dong quai and Chuan Xiong facilitates the production of Blood.

Read more about Sheng Yu Tang

Di Gu Pi Yin

Source date: 1742 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Stops bleeding.

In Di Gu Pi Yin, Chuan Xiong facilitates the flow of Blood through the vessels and alleviates symptoms such as headache, dizziness, blurred vision and pain

Read more about Di Gu Pi Yin

Wu Yao Tang

Source date: 1336 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Pacifies the Liver. Moves Qi. Stops pain. Nourishes Liver Blood. Eliminates Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease and others

In Wu Yao Tang, Chuan Xiong nourishes and invigorates Blood

Read more about Wu Yao Tang

Ren Shen Zi Xie Tang

Source date: 1602 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Blood.

In Ren Shen Zi Xie Tang, Chuan Xiong invigorates Blood

Read more about Ren Shen Zi Xie Tang

Shi Quan Da Bu Tang

Source date: 1180 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and tonifies Qi. Warms and tonifies Blood.

Conditions targeted*: AnemiaNervous exhaustion and others

In Shi Quan Da Bu Tang, Chuan Xiong facilitates the flow of Blood through the vessels, alleviating symptoms such as headache, dizziness, blurred vision and pain.

Read more about Shi Quan Da Bu Tang

Key TCM concepts behind szechuan lovage roots (Chuan Xiong)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), szechuan lovage roots are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that invigorate the Blood' category. Like the name indicates these herbs tend to stimulate the Blood flow. In TCM they're used to help the circulation of Blood in cardiovascular conditions or menstrual irregularities as well as to treat acute pains caused by Blood Stagnation. They can also be used to treat Blood Stagnation when it causes certain tumors, cysts and hardened clots.

Furthermore szechuan lovage roots are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that szechuan lovage roots 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 szechuan lovage roots can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Szechuan lovage roots also taste Pungent. 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 szechuan lovage roots 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.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such szechuan lovage roots are thought to target the Gallbladder, the Liver and the Pericardium. Similar to modern medicine, in TCM the Gallbladder stores and releases bile produced by the Liver. It also controls the emotion of decisiveness. The Liver on the other hand 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. The Pericardium is also called the "heart protector". It is the first line of defence for the Heart against external pathogenic influences

Research on szechuan lovage roots (Chuan Xiong)

Ligusticum chuanxiong could help treat cardiovascular diseases because it contains ligustilide and senkyunolide A which both have vasorelaxation activities.1.

Sources:

1. SSK Chan, TY Cheng, G Lin (2007). Relaxation effects of ligustilide and senkyunolide A, two main constituents of Ligusticum chuanxiong, in rat isolated aorta. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 111(3), p. 677-680. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2006.12.018