Chinese herbal nomenclature

Many Chinese herbs have curious and interesting names.  However, they do not provide much information about the herbs themselves.  A study in Chinese herbal nomenclature has proven to be entertaining but less informative.  Here are some rather amusing ones.

The earthworm 地龙 (di long) is an “earth dragon.”

Lonicera japonica 金银花 (jin yin hua) is the “gold and silver flower”, 银花 (yin hua) “silver flower”,雙花 (shuang hua) “double flower”, or 忍冬(ren dong) “tolerate winter.”

Centella asiatica破铜币 (puo tong bi) is the “broken copper coin”,破铜钱 (puo tong qian) “broken copper money”, or朋大碗 (beng da wan) “erupted big bowl.”

Rumex crispus 羊蹄 (yang ti) is the “goat’s hoof”,羊蹄跟 (yang ti gen) “goat’s hoof root”, or 土大黄 (tu da huang) “earth’s big yellow.”

Buchanania microphylla 山马车 (shan ma che) is the “mountain horse cart.”

Tripterospermum affine双蝴蝶 (shuang hu die) is the “double butterfly.”

Jussiaea repens水龙 (shui long) is the ‘water dragon.”

Rabdosia ternifolia or Plectranthus ternifolius 牛尾草 (niu wei cao) is the “cow’s tail grass.”

Serissa serissoides 白马骨 (bai ma gu) is the ‘white horse bone.”

Menyanthes trifoliate 睡菜 (shui cai) is the “sleeping vegetable.”

Eragrostis chariis or Eragrostis nutans 鼠妇草 (shu fu cao) is the “rat’s wife grass” or the “rat’s woman grass.”

Boea hygrometrica 牛耳草 (niu er cao) is the “cow’s ear grass.”

Gentiana scabra 龙胆 (long dan) is the “dragon’s bladder.”

Salvia japonica 鼠尾草 (shu wei cao) is the “rat’s tail grass.”

Polygonum cuspidatum虎杖 (hu zhang) is the “tiger’s cane.”

Dichondra repens 黄胆草(huang dan cao) is called the “yellow bladder grass”,馬蹄金 (ma ti jin) “horse’s hoof gold”, or 落地金钱 (luo di jin qian) “money that fell on the ground.”

Centipeda minima 鹅不食草(e bu shi cao) is “grass that the goose does not eat”, or 球子草(qiu zi cao) “ball grass.”

Verbena officinalis 馬鞭草(ma bian cao) is the “horse’s whip grass” or鐡馬鞭 (tie ma bian) “iron horse whip.”

Murraya paniculata九里香 (jiu li xiang) is the “nine li fragrance.”  “Li” 里 is a distance measurement.  One “li” is 500 meters or 0.3107 miles.

Impatiens balsamina 鳳仙花(feng xian hua) is the “phoenix fairy flower”, 指甲花 (zhi jia hua) “fingernail flower”, or  急性子 (ji xing zi) “impatience.”

Prunella vulgaris 夏枯草 (xia ku cao) is “summer wilting grass.”

Andrographis paniculata 穿心莲 (chuan xin lian) is the “piercing heart lotus”, 苦胆草(ku dan cao) “bitter bladder grass” or 斩蛇剑 (zhan she jian) “snake slaying sword.”

Pulsatilla chinensis白头翁 (bai tou ong) is the “white haired old man” or奈何草 (nai he cao) the “so what grass.”

Stephania sinica 金不换 (jin bu huan) is the “gold that is nonconvertible.”

Salaginella tamariscima老虎爪 (lao hu zhua) is the “tiger claw.”

Pinellia ternate 半夏(ban xia) is “half summer.”

Breynia fruticosa 黑面神 (hei mian shen) is the “black faced deity.”

The centipede 百脚 (bai jiao) is a “hundred feet”, or 白足虫 (bai zu chong) “hundred feet insect”.

Eupatorium odoratum飞机草 (fei ji cao) is the “flying machine grass” or “airplane grass.”

Solidago virgo-aurea 一支箭 (yi zhi jian) is “one arrow” or 一支黄花 (yi zhi huang hua) “one yellow flower.”

Pteris multifida 凤尾草 (feng wei cao) is the “phoenix’s tail grass.”

So there you have it.


About masterchensays

Victor Chen, herbalist, alternative healthcare lecturer, Chinese affairs analyst, retired journalist
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