The purpose of this site is to offer information of Chinese herbs from numerous sources, primarily for practitioners of herbal medicine. This began as a labor of love in 1998, when I began taking all my class notes from studying with Guohui Liu and Wei Li at Oregon College of Oriental Medicine and converting the information into tables for my own reference. Over the years I added information from other sources and printed the material into a little reference guide. I was surprised by how popular it was among my fellow students, and much later I found that copies of it were still circulating.
It wasn’t until about 2014 that I began converting all this material to a WordPress site so it could be more widely distributed and more easily added to. I converted most of my single-herb information to this format, but life is busy and I don’t get paid for this, so the continued work of putting formulas here and doing better attribution of my sources – which I believe is highly important – has slowed way down. Someday I hope to complete this.
If you want to express your support, leave a comment and please visit my and my wife’s business, The Dragontree.
Dr. Peter Borten
Below are my sources. Apologies to any sources that haven’t been adequately cited on the individual herb / formulas pages. I mean to go through and turn all the abbreviations into proper links to the source material.
Bensky, D., R. Barolet. Chinese Herbal Medicine, Formulas and Strategies, Eastland Press, Seattle, 1990.
Bensky, D., A. Gamble. Chinese Herbal Medicine, Materia Medica, Revised Edition, Eastland Press, Seattle,
Chen, John & Tina. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology, Art of Medicine Press, 2004.
Chinese Herb Academy. (Email discussion group, featuring submissions from various licensed professionals of Chinese herbal medicine, annotated individually). Founded and maintained by Todd Luger, L.Ac. http://www.chineseherbacademy.org/
Christopher, J. R. School of Natural Healing, Christopher Publications, Springville, Utah, 1996.
Coletto, J. Lecture Notes: Western Clinical Diagnosis, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, Portland, 1999-2000.
Culpeper, N. Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, W. Foulsham & Co., Ltd., New York.
Dharmananda, S. Bidens, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 2000.
Dharmananda, S. Borneol, Artemisia, and Moxa, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1998.
Dharmananda, S. Ephedrine: Actions and Dosage, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1997.
Dharmananda, S. Gastrodia, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1998.
Dharmananda, S. Ginkgo, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1997.
Dharmananda, S. Ginseng, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1997.
Dharmananda, S. Ho-Shou-Wu: What’s in an Herb Name?, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1998.
Dharmananda, S. Lycium Fruit, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1997.
Dharmananda, S. The Medicinal Use of Snakes in China, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1997.
Dharmananda, S. Millettia, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1997.
Dharmananda, S. Modern Study and Application of Materia Medica, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland
Dharmananda, S. Sophora, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1998.
Dharmananda, S. Tortoise Shell, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1997.
Dharmananda, S. Turmeric: What’s in an Herb Name?, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1999.
Dharmananda, S. Uncaria Tomentosa: Cat’s Claw, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1994.
Dharmananda, S. The Use of Aromatic Agents for Regulating Qi, Vitalizing Blood, and Relieving Pain, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1997.
Dharmananda, S. Zizyphus, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, 1998.
Flaws, R. A Brief Discussion of Mume and Perilla, Blue Poppy Press.
Flaws, R. Gu Parasites and Yin Fire Theory, Blue Poppy Press.
Frawley, D. Ayurvedic Healing, Passage Press, Salt Lake City, 1989.
Frawley, D., V. Lad. The Yoga of Herbs, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, 1988.
Fruehauf, H. Translation of Zhang Xichun’s Chinese at Heart But Open to the West: An Integrated Approach to Traditional and Modern Medicine (Yixue Zhongzhong Canxi Lu, 1923), from lecture notes.
Fruehauf, H., S. Dharmananda. Pearls from the Golden Cabinet, Institute for Traditional Medicine and Preventive Health Care, Portland, 1996.
Hall, D. Creating Your Herbal Profile, Keats Publishing, Inc., New Canaan, CT, 1988.
Hsu, H. Y. Oriental Materia Medica, Oriental Healing Arts Institute, Long Beach, CA, 1986.
Integrative Body/Mind Information System, Integrative Medical Arts Group, Beaverton, OR, 1999.
Jin, H. Lecture Notes: Traditional Chinese Medical Pathology and Therapeutics, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, Portland, 1999-2000.
Kenner, D., Y. Requena. Botanical Medicine: A European Professional Perspective, Paradigm Publications, Brookline, MA, 1996.
Letchamo, W. Lecture Notes: Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 1996.
Li, W. Lecture Notes: Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, Portland, 1999.
Liu, G. Lecture Notes: Chinese Herbal Medicine: The Pharmacopeia; Herbal Combinations; Traditional Chinese Medical Pathology and Therapeutics, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, Portland, 1998-2000.
Liu, J. Chinese Dietary Therapy, Churchill Livingstone, London, 1995.
Mabey, R. The New Age Herbalist, Macmillan Publishing Co., New York, 1988.
Sionneau, P. Dui Yao: The Art of Combining Chinese Medicinals, Blue Poppy Press, Boulder, CO.
Svoboda, R., A. Lade. Tao and Dharma: Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, WI, 1995.
Tierra, M., L. Tierra. Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine, Volume II: Materia Medica and Herbal Resource, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, WI, 1998.
Weiss, R. F. Herbal Medicine, Beaconsfield Publishers, Ltd., Beaconsfield, England, 1988.
Werbach, M., M. Murray. Botanical Influences on Illness, Third Line Press, Tarzana, CA, 1994.
Wood, M. The Book of Herbal Wisdom, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 1997.
Wood, M. Seven Herbs: Plants as Teachers, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 1987.
Wood, M. Lecture Notes, National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, 1998.
Wren, R. C., E. M. Williamson, F. J. Evans. Potter’s New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C. W. Daniel Co., Ltd., England, 1988.
Xu, L. & P. Borten. Chinese Research on Selected Herbs: translations from Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Chinese Association of TCM and Pharmacology. vol. 37, nos. 3, 9, 10, 11, 12. 1996; vol. 39, nos. 1, 2, 6, 7. 1998.
Sources Abbreviations in Text:
The general information on each herb (before any citations) is from my class notes with Guohui Liu at Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, corroborated and supplemented by information from Bensky and Gamble’s Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. Liu or Bensky/Gamble is cited only when their material differs significantly from other sources. Material cited from the following sources is paraphrased except where enclosed in quotation marks (it is then verbatim).
The origin or (predominant) perspective of each of the following sources is indicated as: (C) Chinese, (A) Ayurvedic (Indian), (W) Western (Euro-American)
AH: Ayurvedic Healing, David Frawley (A)
Amato: William B. Stavinoha, Neera Satsangi, Ganoderma Lucidum as an Anti-inflammatory Agent.
(University of Texas Health Science Center). Amato Reishi and Kyotan Group. www.kyoto.com (W, C)
B&G: Bensky and Gamble. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. (C, W)
BF: Bob Flaws, various articles through Blue Poppy Press (C, W)
BII: Botanical Influences on Illness, Murray and Werbach (W)
CDT: Chinese Dietary Therapy, Jilin Liu (C)
CHA: submission from the Chinese Herb Academy (an email list for students and professional practitioners of
Chinese herbal medicine) – chineseherbacademy.org (C, W)
Cpep: Culpeper, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal (W)
GIRI: Ganoderma International Research Institute, proceedings from first internat’l symposium, 1997 (C, W)
Hall: Dorothy Hall, Creating Your Herbal Profile (W)
HF: Heiner Fruehauf (C)
HL: Heiko Lade, Man Jing Zi – The Tonic (C)
Hsu: Hong-Yen Hsu, Oriental Materia Medica (C)
IBIS: Integrative BodyMind Information System, Integrative Medical Arts Group (W)
JC: John Christopher, The School of Natural Healing (W)
Jin: Hong Jin, L.Ac. (lecture notes) (C)
Joe: Joe Coletto, N.D., L.Ac. (lecture notes) (W, C)
JTCM: Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine (as translated by Li Xu and edited by Peter Borten for our
paper, Chinese Research on Selected Herbs) (C)
K&R: Kenner and Requena, Botanical Medicine (W)
KAD: King’s American Dispensatory, Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph.D. (W)
Li: Wei Li, L.Ac. (lecture notes) (C)
Liu: Guohui Liu, L.Ac. (lecture notes) (C)
LL: Lei Liu, L.Ac. (internship supervisor) (C)
MLT: Michael and Lesley Tierra, Herbal Medicine Vol II (C)
MM: Michael Moore, Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West (W)
MW: Matthew Wood, The Book of Herbal Wisdom; Seven Herbs; lecture notes (W)
NAH: The New Age Herbalist, Richard Mabey (W)
PCBDP: Potters (New) Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, R.C. Wren (W)
PFGC: Pearls from the Golden Cabinet, Heiner Fruehauf with Subhuti Dharmananda (C)
PLB: Peter L. Borten, L.Ac.: Information acquired through my own research, discussions with field professionals, and limited clinical experience (C, W, A)
RW: Rudolf Weiss, Herbal Medicine (W)
SD: Subhuti Dharmananda, articles through the Institute for Traditional Medicine (C, W, A)
T&D: Tao and Dharma, Robert Svoboda and Arnie Lad (A, C)
WL: Wudeneh Letchamo, Ph.D. (lecture notes) (W)
Yoga: The Yoga of Herbs, Frawley and Lad (A, C)
I am suffering from Endometriosis and adenomyosis.I have been trying to conceive from 2009 but nothing happened ,underwent 2 IVF which failed.I have cysts on Left ovary, bilateral hydrosalphix and a large focal adenomoya.
I was told that Chinese medicine has cures for endometriosis.Can you suggest a treatment for me.
Hi Kiranmayi, yes, we do treat endometriosis. It can be difficult, but Chinese medicine does have a lot to offer in this condition, as does acupuncture. Unfortunately, it’s not something I can advise you on through this forum. I would really need to see you in person to do this medicine justice for a condition such as yours. I hope you can find someone in your area. Be well, Peter
I am always appreciative of those who know traditional Chinese medicine and want to share their insights with other healers. Thanks.
As a newly licensed practitioner, I am totally in awe right now! I also have shared a similar vision of creating my very own Materia Medica that encompasses so much more than what we are taught in the standard texts. I am very excited to have this as a resource and I look forward to trying out your products/tinctures as I would love to carry this type of product in my clinic. You have made my day, so THANK YOU!! 🙂
Thanks, Christanne! Glad you enjoy it. And yes, I’d love for you to check out my tinctures … you can see them at http://dragontreeapothecary.com/
Years back, and to this date, I occasionally read on a certain website that yang deficiency is very common in people today, and therefore people should avoid too much yin products.
In your practice, have you noticed this pattern as well, that many more people appear to need the energising quality of Yang to invigorate them? In Toronto, Canada, I see faces that could use that, but I wonder what your experience has been.
Sorry to bother you with trivialities but what does hsu stand for? Or mean??
Hsu, H. Y. Oriental Materia Medica, Oriental Healing Arts Institute, Long Beach, CA, 1986.
You have done wonderful work. Very useful for the students of TCM like me who struggle to study herbs and formulas. Thank you for your contribution to spreading knowledge.
Final Year Student TCM Practitioner @ Humber College, Canada
Greetings Peter! I have a question concerning a TCM called Jitai Tablet. I would like to find out more about it and its uses and how to obtain some and see if it might be able to help treat some neurological issues I suffer from. I can not find any other non-western name or description for it neither do I know how old the formulation is. In looking around for any manufacturers of Jitai Tablet, I read in an article that a company in China produced some for a study.(National Engineering Research Center for Traditional Chinese Medicine (Shanghai, China).I contacted them but received no response. All I am able to find out about the medication is that it has 15 different roots, flowers, stems,etc. I will add them all at the end so you can see them. I hope this is OK. Here is a recent study – 2018 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6389157/- hope you can copy/paste it. I have read quite a few as it fascinates me. It appears that the studies began within the last 10 years and all have suggested that apparently the formulation has neuro-protective as well as – this is amazing – neuro-REPAIRING capabilities..is that possible? And can this medicinal preparation be provided for treatment? Peter I hope you will forgive me for the length. I greatly respect your knowledge and deep understanding of TCM. Thank You for all the work you have done – WOW. I will continue to read more and learn. Here are the ingredients (just in case!) ?? Geoff
The JTT prescription consists of 15 herbs (with 101 compounds tentatively identified previously) , including Papaveraceae Corydalis (10.2%), Solanaceae Daturametel (2.18%), Lamiaceae Salvia Miltiorrhizae (16.87%), Araliaceae Panaxginsen (2.18%), Apiaceae Angelica Sinensis (10.20%), Ranunculaceae Aconitum (2.18%), Myristicaceae Myristicacagayanensis (2.18%), Asteraceae Aucklandia (5.71%), Thymelaeaceaceae Aquilaria, (4.35%), Zingiberaceae Zingiber (2.18%), Lauraceae Cinnamomum (2.18%), Semen Persicae (10.20%), Pearl powder (13.47%).
Hi Geoff, there are numerous studies on “Jitai Tablets” for a variety of neurological conditions. As far as I know, you can’t get it in the U.S., though the most likely place to find it would be in a Chinatown herb shop in a big city. Usually it’s no problem if you can’t find a premade formula, since you can just have an herbalist make you some. But that’s going to be close to impossible in this case, since some of those herbs are difficult to obtain.
When discussing Chinese herbs, it’s often easier to go by pinyin names.
Yan hu suo
Datura metel (I don’t know the pinyin)*
Myristica cagayanensis (I don’t know the pinyin)*
* = these herbs are hard to obtain. The first is a form of datura, which is highly toxic. It’s sometimes found as a weed and grown ornamentally, but you wouldn’t want to mess with it if you didn’t know exactly what you were doing. The second is probably a relative of nutmeg – I know nothing about it. The third, aquilegia (chen xiang) is occasionally available, but very expensive and probably often fake. The fourth, Zhu mu, is powdered pearl. It’s not that hard to come by – you could obtain some pearls and powder them – but not cheap, and some pearls are contaminated with heavy metals.
So, sorry to break the news to you. That said, acupuncture and herbs (a customized formula made by a proficient practitioner using the herbs we DO have available) should still be quite effective. I’d also look into lion’s mane mushroom, fish oil (perhaps with uridine), certain cannabinoids, creatine monohydrate, ginkgo biloba, bacopa moniera, ocimum sanctum, acorus gramineus, acetyl-l-carnitine, citicholine, phosphatidyl serine, vinpocetine, alpha-GPC, mucuna pruriens, and the pre-made formula called Bu Nao Wan.
Peter! Like Hippocrates Gracious you are indeed with the sharing of your knowledge of the, shall we say, Healing Art of TMC. Yes, I am sad to see my concerns were indeed valid regarding the inability/difficulty to obtain JTT.
But I’m happy to at least know that that is the truth and that I have finally LEARNED something! Now I can move forward! So greatly appreciated Peter!!
I will follow your instructions and try and locate a TCM herbalist. I live in Tucson but I will also check out Phoenix and LA. So you think it is possible providing I find a proficient TMC herbalist, that, even without all the JTT herbs, an effective mixture can be made?
Do you mean as far as the dopaminergic regenerative abilities? I appreciate it is your best opinion.
I am familiar with almost all of the things you have kindly recommended and am currently using Lions Mane (sublingual),Fish oil,Bacopa,ALCAR,Ginko and vinpocetine. Also, I am taking Gou Teng to help with cognitive issues. Would you recommend it for that as well? I have not heard of the Bu Nao Wan but will find out more. Thank you very much. Is it like Jitai tablet with regard to it’s healing capabilities? Also,along that line, are you aware of any TCM herbs or mixtures that benefit the reward circuit? Do the Chinese even have a name for that part of the brain?
With regards to acupuncture I have had some done and want to resume treatments but cant afford it right now.
Also, what do you feel is the best form to take TCM to get the best absorption ? I like to mix my powders in yogurt presently.
Lastly, I have read to be careful when buying Chinese herbs due to Aristolochic Acid content. Is there any guideline I can follow to avoid it?
Well Peter I will get cracking on seeing if I can find a TCM herbalist and what the availability is of any of the Jitai ingredients.Thank you for guiding me on what I need to do. Thank you VERY much for giving me the ingredients listed in their proper pinyin spelling and also for indicating which herbs will be the toughest to find and the specific reasons why.
I am truly grateful for the time you take from all that you need to find the time to do.
To answer your questions, since neurotransmitters have never been part of the theory of TCM, not only is it hard to say if Chinese herbs can restore these substances or the “reward circuit” of the brain, but a practitioner leaning on the strength of TCM wouldn’t even concern themselves with such things. That is, in my opinion, TCM works best when practiced according to its own methodology – meaning, TCM treatments are made to match TCM diagnoses. As you can see throughout this site, although I’ve sprinkled in references to modern research findings, the bulk of it is about actions and indications in the terminology of TCM. Most of these herbs have not just been in use for thousands of years, but their application has been cataloged and debated and refined over these years – and it’s all been in the context of Chinese medical theory. In other words, what they may do to our neurotransmitters is pretty speculative, while we can confidently say they have the TCM properties they’ve been relied on for centuries. Even if you do have a wonky reward circuit – and by the way, I would be cautious about trying to directly strengthen such a mechanism, since any successful means of doing so threatens to become addictive and to make you more at the mercy of pleasure-seeking behavior – the most holistic way of addressing it using Chinese Medicine, would be to start with a Chinese medical diagnosis. Numerous different underlying patterns could be at play. Without knowing the TCM patterns you’re trying to correct, you miss out on what makes this medicine most special and effective. So, again, even if you can’t afford ongoing treatment, if you’re interested in approaching your health issues with TCM, I encourage you to see someone in person who can set least give you a TCM diagnosis. Be well.
Hi Peter!Wow! Great stuff!Thank you again for generously sharing your thoughts,knowledge and recommendations. I see what you are saying with regards to how TCM should be looked upon when one is interested in using it to improve health….Western Medicine and it’s application indeed differs vastly. I bet there isn’t even a way to say neurotransmitter in ancient Chinese!!
Thank you for all the great info.
I do have many clients that will benefit from your services. Do you see patients online?
Your info or phone number website, will be helpful
Im a holistic nutritionists in Los Angeles.
Yes, people can find information about working with me here: