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Alisma (ze xie)

What is alisma? What is it used for?

Alisma is a water plant found throughout the marshlands of Asia. Also known as the Oriental water plantain, alisma stands approximately three inches in height and 1-2 inches in diameter, with raised fibrous roots that are tuberous in appearance. It has a slight odor and a slightly bitter taste. The roots are used in herbal remedies, and are prepared by soaking the rhizome in water, they cutting it into thick slices and drying it in the sun.

Many of alisma's uses center around the urinary system. It is often used by obese people to help remove water weight, or by people who have urinary infections or difficulty urinating. It is also used to help the prostate gland function properly and to improve urinary function.

How much alisma should I take?

The amount of alisma to be taken depends on the condition being treated. Some practitioners recommend 6-9 grams of dried alisma root placed in water as a decoction. For fluid retention and dizziness, some herbalists combine alisma with atractylodes in a decoction. For diarrhea, some practitioners suggest using alisma along with atractylodes, moutan and polyporus.

What forms of alisma are available?

Sliced, dried alisma root can be found at Asian markets and some specialty food stores.

What can happen if I take too much alisma? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Because alisma is used to promote urination, it should not be taken by patients who are dehydrated or have difficulty retaining fluid. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with alisma. As always, make sure to consult with a qualified health care provider before taking alisma or any other herbal product or supplement.

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  • Hsu HY, Hsu CS. Commonly Used Chinese Herb Formulas with Illustrations. Long Beach, CA: Oriental Healing Arts Institute, 1980 (revised).
  • Shibata Y, Wu J. Kampo Treatment for Climacteric Disorders. Brookline, MA: Paradigm Publications, 1997.
  • Yuang Z, Feng J. Treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus with compound qinjiao tablet and minimum dose of prednisone. Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine 1989;9(3):156-157.
  • Zhang J. Prostatitis and traditional Chinese medicine. International Journal of Oriental Medicine 1992; 17(2): 112-113.
  • Zhou Z, Jin H. Clinical Manual of Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture. London: Churchill-Livingstone, 1997.



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