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Bupleurum (chai hu)

What is bupleurum? What is it used for?

Bupleurum is an upright-growing plant native to China, Japan and central Europe, but now widely dispersed throughout the U.S. It has a variety of names, including thoroughwax and hare’s ear (the latter name due to the shape of the plant’s leaves, which resemble a hare’s ear). It contains yellowish-green petals arranged in groups of five, and small yellow flowers. The root is used medicinally.

The active ingredients in bupleurum root include saponins and plant sterols, which have been shown to lower fevers and reduce inflammation in animal studies. It is used for a variety of conditions, including inflammatory conditions, angina, nausea, vomiting, and fever. It also strengthens the stomach and intestines and promotes blood circulation to the liver.

In traditional Chinese medicine, bupleurum is not usually used alone, but rather as part of various herbal remedies. In TCM terminology, it reduces fever and resolves the shao yang level; spreads liver qi (good for vertigo, emotional instability and menstrual problems), and raises yang qi in spleen/stomach deficiency.

How much bupleurum should I take?

Bupleurum is typically used as part of a larger, more complex herbal formula. The amount to be taken depends in large part on the condition being treated. For general use, many practitioners recommend 1.5-6 grams of dried bupleurum root in a decoction, or 3-12 ml of a 1:2 extract.

What forms of bupleurum are available?

Some Asian markets sell dried bupleurum root. It is also available in capsule and tincture forms.

What can happen if I don't get enough bupleurum? What can happen if I take too much? Are there any side-effects I should be aware of?

When taken in the proper dosage, there are no known adverse reactions associated with bupleurum. However, large doses of bupleurum may cause dizziness or diarrhea, due to its high saponin content. It should not be taken by patients with high blood pressure, or by women who are pregnant or nursing. There are no known drug interactions with bupleurum.

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  • Bone K. Bupleurum: a natural steroid effect. Can J Herbalism Winter 1996;22-41.
  • Duke J. Handbook of Phytochemical Constituents of GRAS Herbs and Other Economic Plants. Boca Raton, FL. CRC Press, 1992.
  • Jin RL, Shi L, Kuang Y. Comparative studies on the roots of wild and cultured bupleurum chinense. DC Chung Yao Tung Pao April 1988;23:11-3.
  • Ohtsu S, Irumi S, Iwanaga S, et al. Analysis of mitogenic substances in bupleurum chinense by ESR spectroscopy. Biol Pharm Bull Jan 1997;20:97-100.
  • Zhang J. Comparison on saikosaponin levels in the root of bupleurum chinense of various sizes. Chung Yao Tung Pao April 1985;20:13-4.



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