Q&A: Chinese herbal nomenclature

 

Responses to enquiries about Chinese herbs, their Chinese and scientific names, and their properties and uses are found on this page. 

Veronica peregrina
Posted on November 11, 2011 by masterchensays
Veronica peregrina, Scrophulariaceae, is bitter. It is hemostatic. It regulates menstruation. It is used for external wounds and injuries and dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), as decoction.

Dysmenorrhea or painful menstruation may be the result of the contraction of the uterus during menstruation, when endometrial tissue from the endometrium or lining of the uterus sheds during menstruation and passes through a narrow cervical canal, a retroverted uterus (tilting backwards), lack of exercise, psychologic and social stress, endometriosis, fibroids and adenomyosis (when the uterine lining invades the muscular wall of the uterus), inflammation of the fallopian tubes, abnormal fibrous attachments between organs. [The Merck Manual of Medical Information]

Horse Grass

Enquiry about Lonicera japonica, Centilla asiatica, and “horse grass”

Lonicera japonica is known as yin hua (silver flower) in southern Chinese dialects. It’s standard name in Mandarin is jin yin hua (gold and silver flower). It is bitter. It is a detoxicant. It reduces fever. It is used for larygitis, bacterial dysentery, enteritis, tymphadenitis, and rheumatism, in decoction.

Centilla asiatica, beng da wan (broken bowl, some say peng da wan, big bowl of Mr. Peng), puo tong bi (broken copper coin), puo tong qian (broken copper money), is a detoxicant. It reduces fever and it is used for upper respiratory tract infections and pleuritis in decoction or poultice.

When we mention “ma cao”, “horse grass”, we usually think of ma chi xian or ma chi cai, horse’s teeth vegetable, Portulaca oleracea. It is antipyretic, a detoxicant, a diuretic, and it is used for dysentery, enteritis, urinary tract infections, leukorrhea, hemorrhoids, erythema, ulcers, snake and insect bites.

There are at least forty other species of plants that are called “horse grass” and each has its own species name and medicinal properties.

Response to the term “zhi shi”

There are two similar sounding terms.

Zhi` shi” is a mineral called vermiculite. Zhi` is a leech. Vermiculite is called the “leech’s stone”.

Zhi`xi” means to suffocate and suffocation.

Response to enquiry: “pao jiang ginger”

Pao jiang is a specific term used in Chinese herbal formulas and decoctions. Pao is roasted, fried, dried by roasting or frying, literally meaning “explosion, exploded”. Jiang is ginger. Pao jiang is the dried roasted ginger in Chinese herbal formulas. The actual roasted ginger used looks black and is acrid and bitter (from being roasted and burnt) but is not spicy and does not sting in the mouoth as fresh raw ginger would.

For ginger tea, candy, and in steamed fish dishes, ginger is used fresh and raw. Only Chinese herbal formulas for decoctions call for the use of “pao jiang”, which specifically is the roasted ginger as an herbal medicinal ingredient.

To prepare pao jiang ginger, one can fry it or one can roast it in an open pan. If it is wrapped in aluminum foil and baked or roasted, it may not become burnt. However, over roasting it will, and the effect is like over baking and over roasting potatoes in foil.

Enquiry about “feiji cao”

Feiji cao, “airplane grass”, is Eupatorium odoratum.  It is acrid, fragrant, vermicidal, hemostatic, used for bleeding caused by leech bites, and control of leptospirosis, whole plant as decoction or leaves as poultice.

Leptospirosis is any of several diseases of humans and domestic animals caused by infection with spirochetes of the genus Leptospira, also called Lepto, Weil’s disease.  Weil’s disease is leptospirosis with chills, fever, muscle pain, hepatitis and jaundice caused by a spirochete of the genus Leptospira interrogans. [Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary]

About “beng da wan”

Beng da wan is Centella asiatica, also called puo tong quan (broken copper money), lei gong geng (root of the god of thunder), luo de da (fallen and beaten), ji xue cao (snow collecting grass) .  Centella asiatica is a detoxicant.  it reduces fever and it is used for respiratory tract infections and pleuritis,  as decoction.

About the enquiry:  “liu xue hua”

Liu xue hua, in Mandarin, is readable as “the bleeding flower”.  The official Chinese Encyclopedia of Vegetation and Plants (1980) as well as the Handbook of Practical Medicines and Treatments (1971) and the English-Chinese Encyclopedic Dictionary of Science and Technology (published by Qing Hua University, 1978) do not have any entry as such.  Western references list a garden flower as “the bleeding heart” flower, Dicentra spectabilis of the genus Dicentra.  The genus Dicentra is not listed in the official Chinese Encyclopedia of Vegetation and Plants.

It is likely that the term “liu xue hua” i.e., “bleeding flower” is a translation of the name of the Western garden plant “bleeding heart flower.”

“Ink plum”, “feng xian cao”, and “sau feng wei cao [Pteris multifida]”

“Ink plum” in Cantonese is “mak mui”, thus in Mandarin it would be rendered as “mo mei”, or as “hei mei”, “wu mei” or “black plum.”  If we follow the “plum” category, there is the Prunus mume which would be simply called “mei” (Mandarin) or “mui” (Cantonese).  In Mandarin, “wu mei” is the “black plum”.  It is preserved plum and it is a sour plum candy.  In Taiwan, there is a famous wine called “Wu Mei Jiu”, or “Black Plum Wine”.  This is a very sweet wine of about 14% to 17% alcohol by volume.  A bottle of Black Plum Wine sold in the neighborhood Asian food markets in the U.S. costs around US$6.00.

There is the term “hei zao”, date plum persimmon, Diospyros lotus.  Under the genus Diospyros, there is the “wu shi” (Diospyros cathayensis) and the “hei shi” (Diospyros nitida).   This is the genus of the persimmon family, not the plum family.

“Feng xian cao” is Impatiens balsamina, also called “Fingernail flower”, “Impatience”, “Feng xian hua” or “Phoenix fairy flower”, “Feng xian tou gu cao” or “Phoenix fairy penetrating bone grass”.

Impatiens balsamina is bitter, acrid, toxic, analgesic, stimulates circulation for chronic rheumatism, and used as decoction.

“Sau feng wei cao” I assume is “feng wei cao”, [Pteris multifida], meaning Phoenix tail grass.

Pteris multifida is acidic and has a stinging taste.  It reduces fever.  It is a detoxicant, hemostatic, stimulates weight gain, is used for dysentery, hepatitis, urinary tract infections, external bleeding.  It is used as antidote against insecticide poisoning, and it is used against poisoning by Polygonum perfoliatum and Tripterygium wilfordii, as decoction.

Impatiens balsamina and Pteris multifida are two different Chinese medicinal herbs.

<Enquiry about “ephedra plant in market hua hin”

As far as I know, the Asian supermarket Hua Hin is Vietnamese-Chinese-Cantonese.  Its herbs section may have packaged ephedra plant in plastic bags or in powder form sold in rectangular boxes under the commercial name Yunnan Bai Yao, or Yunnan White Medicine.  Yunnan Bai Yao (Yunnan White Medicine) killed some 260 people within the first four years following its introduction into the market.  Importation of Yunnan Bai Yao in powder form is supposed to be banned.  Yunnan Bai Yao is a so-called “cheng yao”.  Importation of processed ephedra as so-called “cheng yao” or “manufactured medicine as commercial product” is banned.  As a dried plant, the loophole in US import law would consider the dried plant as “foodstuff” and thus allowed.  If this is the case, the plastic bag would not have any warning, nor is it allowed by law to describe or list any medicinal effect of the “plant”.   The plant is boiled to make a tea for relieving hay fever, asthma, and congestion.  Boiled and taken as a tea, the ephedra plant would not be as dangerous as its processed crystalline alkaloid ephedrine.

About wine and herbs

In Chinese herbal medicine, rice wine of rather low alcoholic content by volume, 11% to 14%, is used to soak herbs for external application, not for ingestion.  Some Chinese drinking wines have a rather high alcoholic content by volume.  A good bottle of gao liang for example may have an alcoholic content of 50%.  Another gao liang has a 38% alcoholic content.  Zhu ye qing has an alcoholic content of 47%.  One Chinese gao liang produced in Tianjin, northeastern China, is 56% by volume.  This particular wine is of very bad quality.  The best quality gao liang is that made in Taiwan.  It is 50% alcohol by volume.

Enquiry about jasmine tea, memory

Jasmine tea, like other “flower teas” (hua cha in Chinese), does have a slight sedative effect, calming the nerves and soothing nervousness.  It should not affect memory if taken in tea bag form unless one uses several tea bags together, say four or more tea bags boiled together as a very strong tea.  The sedative effect of jasmine tea would more likely be a relaxed but awake feeling.

Xia ku cao

Prunella vulgaris, xia ku cao, “summer wilting grass”, is bitter and acrid.  It is a liver cleansing herb for hypertension, dizziness, bitter taste in the mouth, dry throat, and headaches.

Feng xian cao

The most commonly used Chinese medicinal herb that has the word “phoenix” in its name is the Impatiens balsamina, the “phoenix fairy flower”, the “phoenix fairy piercing bone grass”, the “fingernail flower”, and “impatience.”  Impatiens balsamina is bitter, acrid, toxic, an analgesic.  It stimulates circulation and is used for chronic rheumatism.

Feng wei cao

Another is feng wei jue, feng wei cao, feng huang cao, “phoenix tail grass”, “phoenix grass”, Pteris multifida.  It has an acidic and stinging taste.  It reduces fever.  It is a detoxicant and it is hemostatic.  It stimulates weight gain.  It is used for dysentery, hepatitis, urinary tract infections.  It is used as an antidote for insecticide poisoning and poisoning by Polygonum perfoliatum and Tripterygium wilfordii.  It is also used to stop external bleeding, in decoction.

Enquiry about bai tou ong

Bai tou ong herb, the “white haired old man”, Pulsatilla chinensis, is bitter and has “cold” properties.  It reduces fever and detoxifies.  It “cools” the blood and stops amoebic dysentery.

In Chinese herbal medicine, herbs and foods have “hot” and “cold” or “cool” properties.  Ginger, garlic and onion are “hot”.  The bitter gourd is “cold”.  Seaweed is “cool”.

Enquiry, how do you say Rumex crispus in Cantonese

Rumex crispus, in Mandarin, it is known as Tu Da Huang, Yang Ti, Yang Ti Geng, Suan Mo.  In Cantonese, it would be known as Tou Dai Wong, Yeoung Tai, Yeoung Tai Geng.  Most likely, the herb would be known to the Cantonese as Tou Dai Wong or Yeoung Tai, or Yeoung Tai Geng, but not Xun Mo.  A “cold” herb, it tastes bitter and sour.  It is used to stop hemorrhage, facilitate defecation, and as insecticide.

Enquiry about jasmine tea and blood sugar

Jasmine tea, as well as chrysanthemum tea, are stimulant-depressant teas.  Although these teas are sometimes included as ingredients in commercially available “blood sugar reducing” teas, they are not the main ingredients.  Their effectiveness to lower blood sugar is actually unremarkable.  The most effective way to lower blood sugar and blood pressure is a forty-minute walk in the park everyday.   My wife is a very good example.  She used to take blood pressure and blood sugar medication but when she started taking the grandchildren to school every morning and then walking in the park afterwards everyday, she is medication free, and she has lowered and maintained her blood pressure and blood sugar at normal levels.  She does not drink tea of any kind.

One’s blood sugar level depends on one’s insulin production levels,  what one eats everyday, what one drinks everyday, and how much exercise one does everyday.  In general, vegetarians do not have high blood pressure or high blood sugar levels.  They usually have almost no sugar in their diet.  In my own daily routine, I hardly eat or drink anything that contains sugar.  I avoid foods that contain sugar.  It also means no pasta, no starchy foods, no sugar coated foods, no donuts and such.

Enquiry about ephedrine and pimples

According to Webster’s II New Riverside University Dictionary, Ephedrine, genus name Ephedra, is a white, odorless, crystalline alkaloid, C(10)H(15)NO, isolated from the mahuang shrub or made synthetically and used to treat allergies and asthma and as a vasoconstrictor.  Synthetic ephedrine is used in injections to revive a temporarily stopped heart.

The pimples you are talking about, I suppose, would be an outburst of facial pimples after taking commercial weightloss or weight reduction pills that contain guarana and ephedrine.  The outburst of pimples would have occurred within about five days after starting those weightloss pills.  The outburst of pimples is the result of guarana.  Guarana is a concentrated form of caffeine.   Again, a combination of guarana and ephedrine is very bad, extremely bad!  More than two hundred people have died from an overdose of mahuang (ephedra).

There is no magic pill that can reduce weight.  Exercise, your diet (what you eat and don’t eat), lifestyle, prescription pills that you are taking, all of these will affect your weight and determine if you gain unwanted weight or not.  Some prescription drugs and pills are notorious for making people gain weight and become obese.

For definitions of diseases please consult NIH and the US Department of Health.

About the key words “zhu ye qing cancer”

My guess is that you are talking about “zhu ye qing” and wondering if it might be a carcinogenic agent.  “Zhu ye qing”, if this is what you are talking about, is the “bamboo leaves clear” liquor.  It is a clear potent liquor distilled from bamboo.  The highest alcoholic content by volume I have seen in the Asian food markets for Zhu Ye Qing is 47%.  Like good Gaoliang which is from (38% to 56%), and good Vodka (40%), Zhu Ye Qing is a clear liquor of rather high quality.  And like all hard liquors, they are not considered carcinogenic.  They may quickly turn one into an alcoholic and ruin one’s liver and cause Progressive Supranuclear Palsy along the way, but otherwise, enjoy.

Enquiry about the medicinal value of Zhu Ye Ching

Zhu Ye Ching, as a strong clear liquor like gao liang and straight vodka, it would not have much specific medicinal value.  However, like vodka (40%), gao liang (38% – 50%), it has a rather high alcoholic content (47%).

Enquiry about hei mian shen herb

Hei mian shen, Breynia fruticosa, is bitter, it is a detoxicant, and it stops itching.  It is used for acute gastroenteritis, tonsillitis, laryngitis, allergic skin diseases.  Its roots and leaves are used in decoction.

Enquiry about “da nai nai cao herb”

The term “nai nai” refers to the paternal grandmother.  The term “po po” refers to the husband’s mother, mother-in-law or grandmother-in-law.  The Chinese encyclopedia of plants lists a “po po na” genus Veronica and the herb “da po po na” as Veronica grandis. In Chinese herbal medicine, the Veronica peregrina, Scrophulariaceae, is used.  Veronica peregrina of the Veronica genus (po po na) which would also include the Veronica grandis (da po po na) is bitter.  It is hemostatic, it regulates menstruation, it is used for external wounds, and it is used for dysmenorrhea as decoction.

Enquiry about horse whip grass

Horse whip grass (ma bian cao) is Verbena officinalis.  It is bitter, it is an anticoagulant, a detoxicant, and a diuretic.  It is used for amenorrhea, external injuries, hepatitis, mastitis, liver cirrhosis, nephritic edema, and urinary tract infections, as decoction or poultice.

Enquiry about zhi jia hua

Zhi jia hua, fingernail flower, aka feng xian hua, phoenix fairy flower, ji xing zi, impatience, is Impatiens balsamina.  It is bitter, acrid, toxic, analgesic, it stimulates circulation.  It is used for chronic rheumatism as decoction.

Enquiry about “ri jin” in Chinese

In Mandarin Chinese, the sound “ri” is unique.  There is only one Chinese character that has this sound.  The character “ri” is the character for “sun” or “day” and is a specific designation for “Japan” as in the “ni” in the Japanese proper noun “Ni Hon” (Japan).

In Chinese herbal medicine, there are 16 herbs that have names beginning with the character “ri”, and 13 of them contain the name “ri ben” meaning “Japanese”.   There is only one Chinese medicinal herb that has the name that includes “ri” and “jin”, and that is the Ri Ben Jin, also called Li Tou Cai.  The Ri Ben Jin (Li Tou Cai) is Viola japonica.

Viola japonica, of Violaceae, is bitter.  It reduces inflammation and is a detoxicant.  It is used for ulcers, abscesses, acute conjunctivitis, laryngitis, acute jaundice, and hepatitis as decoction.

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