Shen Jin Cao (Jin Bu Huan) – Lycopodium serratum – “Stretch Sinew Herb” (“More Valuable than Gold”)

Nature: acrid, bitter, warm

Enters: Spleen, Liver, Kidney

Actions: Dispels wind, eliminates dampness; relaxes the sinews, invigorates the channels, promotes blood circulation.


• Wind damp painful obstruction (Bi) especially when there are problems flexing and extending the joints.
• Swelling and pain due to trauma (internal or external) with blood stasis.
• Difficulty bending and stretching the body with hemiplegia.
• Contains Huperzine-A and B
ITM on Huperzine in Alzheimer’s: 

Huperzine, an anticholinesterase alkaloid, is divided into two chemical species, huperzine A and huperzine B, which have similar effects but differing activity levels (huperzine A being about 10 times as strong as huperzine B). Huperzine A was first isolated from the Chinese herb Lycopodium serratum in 1980 at the Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences and the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Huperzine B was isolated five years later. The plant source, originally called Qian Ceng Ta, meaning thousand-layers pagoda (referring to the tall multi-leafed appearance of the plant), is also known in China as Jin Bu Huan, a term meaning “more valuable than gold,” usually applied to plants that have potent analgesic actions. This herb should not be confused with the patent remedy called Jin Bu Huan made from tetrahydropalmatine. The plant has been reclassified botanically as Huperzia serrata from the new family Huperziaceae, rather than from the closely related family Lycopodiaceae. It is reported that the Lycopodiaceae have two medicinal genera: Lycopodium (now Huperzia) and Phlegmariurus. A common constituent is the alkaloid fordine, which is found in 14 species of Huperzia and has similar action to the huperzines.

Huperzia, as it is now called, contains a wide variety of alkaloids, including lycodoline, lycoclavine, and serratinine, as well as the huperzines. The alkaloids are of a unique structure and have been called Lycopodium alkaloids. In general, they are comprised of four rings, though one of the rings may be opened. The huperzines, like many of the other lycopodium alkaloids, contain a nitrogen within one of the rings and an NH2 group attached to the ring structure (some of the Lycopodium alkaloids contain only a nitrogen within the ring structure).

Huperzia is not much used as a crude herb in Chinese medicine: the dominant application is for blood disorders caused by trauma or acute ailment, such as hematamesis caused by overstrain, bruises, hemorrhoids, and lung abscess. In addition to alkaloids, it contains triterpenoids. Huperzines and other isolated alkaloids are increasingly used in Chinese medicine as an alternative to crude herb preparations.


Huperzines A and B reversibly inhibit cholinesterase; huperzine A has a stronger action than huperzine B, which in turn has a stronger action than galanthamine (an alkaloid from Lycorus radiata that has been used for its anticholinesterase activity). Huperzine A has substantially stronger anticholinesterase activity than physostigmine or neostigmine (chinchona alkaloids obtained from Physostigma venenosum; neostigmine is a common drug for treatment of myasthenia at a dose of 1-2 mg by IM or 0.5 mg IV; physostigmine is also an approved anticholinesterase drug), but huperzine B is three to five times weaker than physostigmine. Huperzines A and B have greater effect on acetylcholinesterase (AChE) than on butyrocholinesterase (BuChE). Huperzine A, because of its cholinesterase inhibiting activity, has been used in myasthenia gravis patients in China, with apparent success.

Both huperzine A and B have been shown to have memory-enhancing activities in animals. At 0.075 mg/kg for huperzine A or 0.5 mg/kg for huperzine B, IP administration to mice significantly facilitated spatial discrimination learning in a Y-maze study. At slightly higher doses (0.075-0.125 mg/kg for A and 0.6-0.8 mg/kg for B) the huperzines given prior to exposure of mice to carbon dioxide prevented hypercapnia-induced impairment of learning. Memory retention and retrieval could be enhanced in animals when the alkaloids were given immediately or 6-12 hours after training. Substantially lower or higher doses of huperzines are not effective. Huperzine has been used for Alzheimer’s and senile dementia with positive results. In a double-blind trial with a group of 56 patients suffering from multi-infarct dementia or senile dementia and a group of 104 patients with senile and presenile memory loss, huperzine A was demonstrated to be effective for improving memory. It was given by intramuscular injection, 0.05 mg twice daily for four weeks to the first group and 0.03 mg twice daily for two weeks to the second group. The only side effect was slight dizziness experienced by a few patients. In rats, fordine, at 0.01-0.04 mg/kg IP, speeds up conditioned avoidance responses, reverses impairment of conditioned avoidance response, and antagonizes hippocampal and cortical EEG changes induced by quinuclidinyl benilate.

Huperzine A has been evaluated at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. According to Alan Kozikowski, a chemist who is heading the research there, Huperzine A is more effective and more specific than tacrine, another anticholinesterase drug. Interneuron Pharmaceuticals in Lexington, Mass. is testing Huperzine A in human clinical trials.

Dose: 9-15g on Huperzine-A:

Huperzine-A is a compound extracted from the herbs of the Huperziceae family. It is known as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, which means that it stops an enzyme from breaking down acetylcholine which results in increases in acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine is known as the learning neurotransmitter, and is involved in muscle contraction as well. Increasing levels of acetylcholine is routinely used as a technique amongst weight-lifters and scholars.

Huperzine-A appears to be a relatively safe compound from animal studies of toxicity and studies in humans showing no side-effects at dosages routinely supplemented with. Huperzine-A is in preliminary trials for usage in fighting Alzheimer’s Disease as well.

  • Huperzine-A appears to be water-soluble, and taking with food is not needed
  • Although its initial spike is quick, it appears to have a long half-life; the pharmacokinetic profile might change when changing dosages though.

Supplementation of huperzine-A tends to be in the range of 50-200mcg daily, and while this can be divided into multiple dosages throughout the day it tends to be taken at a single dose. Supplementation of huperzine-A does not require food to be coingested with it and can be taken in a fasted state.

Cycling of huperzine-A tends to be used since the half-life exceeds 24 hours, and although a ‘cycle’ of huperzine-A tends to last 2-4 weeks followed by a break the optimal cycle length is not yet known.

Notes on This Category

• Use caution with cases of Yin or blood deficiency, since these herbs tend to be acrid, warm, and drying.
• Since the dispersing effect of some of the more aromatic herbs in this category is dependent on their volatile oils, they are often decocted only for a short time (or are infused only).
• Herbs in this category are frequently combined with:
A. Herbs that eliminate wind and relieve exterior syndromes when the disease is located on the body surface or in the upper part of the body.
B. Herbs that promote blood circulation and remove obstruction from the channels and collaterals when there is associated blood stasis.
C. Herbs that warm the channels when there is cold associated.
D. Herbs that tonify Qi and nourish blood when there is Qi and/or blood deficiency.
E. Herbs that tonify the kidneys and liver when there is deficiency of these organs.

Bai Hua She – Agkistrodon Snake or Bungarus Snake – “White-Patterned Snake”

Nature: sweet, salty, warm

Enters: Liver, Spleen

Actions: Eliminates internal and external wind; activates the collaterals; relieves convulsions; powerfully unblocks the channels.

• Wind-related disorders:
• Wind-damp: Bi syndrome, numbness and weakness of the limbs, cramping of the sinews.
• Wind-stroke: facial paralysis, hemiplegia.
• Wind in the skin: itching, tinea, numbness of the skin, any kind of rash.
• Liver wind stirring: infant convulsions and tetanus.
• Wind in the sinews: spasms, tremors, seizures.
• Doctrine of signatures: the movement and pervasiveness of a snake: can go anywhere, deep or superficial, even to the bones, to eliminate wind.
Hsu: Tranquilizer, hypotensive.

Dose: 3-10g (1-1.5g directly as powder)

Du Huo – Angelica pubescens root** – “Self-Reliant Existence”

Nature: acrid, bitter, warm

Enters: Liver, Kidney, Bladder

Actions: Eliminates wind-dampness, alleviates pain; releases the exterior, disperses wind-cold-dampness.

• Wind-damp: Bi syndrome, body pain – especially lower back and legs – can be used for both acute and chronic conditions. Gout.
• Exterior wind-cold together with dampness.
Shaoyin headache radiating to the teeth.
• A small dose (3-6g) can lift spleen Yang and treat internal dampness.
• Tranquilizing effect.
• **As with numerous Chinese herbs, several different species are used as this herb. In some parts of China A. dahurica (Bai zhi) is used, and species of the Heraclelum and Aralia genera are also used.
• May cause skin photosensitivity with topical application.
• It is said that when the wind blows, this plant is still.
• Compared to Qiang huo, Du huo is more for the lower body (while Qiang huo is stronger & more for the upper body), Du huo is milder at eliminating exterior syndromes but is more effective at eliminating dampness than Qiang huo.
MLT: Promotes Qi and blood circulation, similar to Western (A. archangelica) species.
Hsu: Sedative, analgesic, antiarthritic, hypotensive.
DY: Moderate in action; treats hidden wind or wind which is more internal and fixed; tropism: the lower part of the body, lumbar area, knees, legs, feet, and Shaoyin.
• With Qiang huo to dispel wind, cold, dampness, and treat Bi over the whole body. For indications such as:
– 1. Moving rheumatic pains all over the body. (Juan Bi Tang)
– 2. Common cold with fever, back pain, and joint pain due to wind, cold, and dampness. (Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Tang)
– 3. Joint running wind due to wind, cold, and dampness penetrating the channels and network vessels. Li jie feng or joint running wind refers to acute arthralgia which is severe and movable with loss of joint mobility, swelling, and intense joint pain which is worse at night. This affection can transform itself into heat and then cause redness, pain, swelling, and heat.

Dose: 3-15g

Fang Ji – (Han Fang Ji) – Stephania root

Nature: bitter, acrid, cold

Enters: Bladder, Kidney, Spleen

Actions: Eliminates wind-dampness; drains dampness by promoting urination; relieves pain; reduces edema.

• Wind-damp-heat: Bi syndrome, fever, red, swollen, hot, painful joints.
• Damp accumulation in the lower Jiao: edema (facial, legs, or systemic, but especially good for the lower body), ascites, gurgling sounds in the intestines, abdominal distention, damp leg qi.
• Anti-inflammatory.
• Analgesic: 1/4 the strength of Yan hu suo, 1/1000 the potency of morphine, less effect in very high doses.
• Treats dampness in two ways (eliminates from the surface, promotes urination).
• Lowers BP by vasodilation.
• Antiparasitic: against Entamoeba histolytica (stronger than berberine).
DY: Quickens the channels; opens the pores of the skin; opens the nice orifices; disperses swelling; drains evil Qi.
• With Huang qi to simultaneously drain and supplement, to support the correct Qi and drain evil Qi at the same time, to regulate the upbearing and downbearing of the Qi mechanism and strongly promote diuresis. For the following indications, the combination is found in Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang:
– 1. Edema due to wind-water with fever, fear of wind, edema predominantly in the upper body and face, joint pain, scanty urination, and a floating pulse. If wind attacks the exterior and blocks the Lung Qi, this causes a disturbance in the Lungs’ diffusing and downbearing function. Therefore, because the water passageways are not regulated, dampness is not moved downward. Thus, there is accumulation of dampness in the upper body and edema appears.
– 2. Rheumatic pain due to damp Bi with heavy limbs, joint numbness, and sometimes swollen joints.
– 3. Chronic nephritis and cardiac disease with edema due to Qi deficiency and accumulation of dampness.
Han fang ji is usually used for edema and accumulation of damp-heat in the lower half of the body. When combined with Huang qi, Han fang ji can then treat edema in the upper half of the body and of the wind type.

Dose: 3-9g

Guang Fang Ji (Mu Fang Ji) – Aristolochia fangchi is also referred to simply as Fang Ji. It contains aristolochic acid, which has been associated with kidney damage when misused (though no historical sources of Chinese medicine recorded any detrimental effects when properly used). Its use is prohibited by the FDA in the United States.

Hai Feng Teng – Kadsura stem – Piper futokadsura – “Sea Wind Vine”

Nature: acrid, bitter, slightly warm

Enters: Liver

Actions: Eliminates wind-dampness; dispels obstructions from the channels and collaterals; disperses cold, relieves pain.

• Wind-damp: Bi syndrome with limited movement of joints, spasm of tendons, stiff joints, lower back pain, cramping of the muscles and sinews, sore knees.
• Pain due to trauma.
• Cold invading the spleen and stomach: epigastric and abdominal pain and diarrhea.
• Can be used for pain in either the upper or lower body.
• Some anti-neoplastic effects.
Hsu: Analgesic.

Dose: 6-15g

Hai Tong Pi – Erythrina bark – Coral-bean bark

Nature: bitter, acrid, neutral

Enters: Liver, Spleen, Kidney

Actions: Eliminates wind-dampness; dispels obstruction from channels and collaterals; promotes urination, reduces edema; treats itching skin lesions and toothaches.

• Wind-damp (heat or cold): Bi syndrome with spasm of tendons (especially in the extremities), soreness of the lumbar region and knees.
• Dampness: superficial edema.
• Gout pain.
• Topical: itching skin lesions – scabies, etc.
• Gargle for toothache due to cavities.

Dose: 6-15g

Luo Shi Teng – Trachelospermum – Star Jasmine stem – “Collateral Stone Vine”

Nature: bitter, slightly cold

Enters: Heart, Liver

Actions: Cools the blood; relieves swelling; eliminates wind-dampness; unblocks the channels.

• Wind-damp: Bi, spasm of tendons (especially suitable for wind-damp-heat).
• Heat in the blood: sore and swollen throat, carbuncles, red, hot, painful abscesses, toxic sores.
• Can be used for pain in either the upper or lower body.
• One component, Arctiin, is vasodilatory and lowers blood pressure.

Dose: 6-15g

Mu Gua – Chinese Quince – Chaenomelis fruit – “Wood Melon”

Nature: sour, warm

Enters: Liver, Stomach, Spleen

Actions: Relaxes the muscles and tendons; unblocks the channels; resolves dampness; harmonizes the stomach, adjusts the stomach and spleen; reduces food stagnation.

• Spasm of calves due to diarrhea and vomiting (earth is weakened, [metal becomes weakened and cannot control wood] wood wind attacks earth’s muscles of the limbs), also abdominal pain, and edema due to leg qi.
• Wind-damp: Bi with spasm of tendons, painful obstruction of the extremities, especially with severe, cramping pain, and weakness in the lower back and lower extremities.
• Cannot treat exterior syndromes (does not expel wind or cold) – only resolves dampness, has a more interior effect.
• Very effective at relaxing the sinews.
• Especially suitable for treating pain in the lower body.
• Anti-inflammatory.
• Bensky/Gamble: excessive use can harm the teeth and bones.
Hsu: Antispasmodic, antibacterial, diuretic.

Dose: 4.5-12g

Qian Nian Jian – Homalomena rhizome – “Thousand Years of Health”

Nature: acrid, bitter, warm

Enters: Kidney, Liver

Actions: Dispels wind-dampness; strengthens the sinews and bones.

• Wind-cold-damp: Bi syndrome with pain, spasms, or numbness wither perceived superficially (in the sinews) or deeply (in the bones).
• Weakness or softness in the sinews and bones: strong fortifying action.
• Traumatic injury: swelling, pain.
• Widely used in treating the elderly, both internally and as an external wash.

Dose: 4.5-9g

Qin Jiao – Gentiana macrophylla root

Nature: bitter, acrid, slightly cold

Enters: Stomach, Liver, Gallbladder

Actions: Relaxes the tendons and muscles; clears deficiency heat; eliminates wind-dampness; resolves dampness and relieves jaundice (damp-heat); moistens the intestines, unblocks the bowels.

• Wind-damp: Bi with muscle and tendon spasms.
• Yin deficiency: tidal fever, steaming bone disorder.
• Dryness of the intestines: constipation.
• Damp-heat: jaundice, especially in acute cases and in infants.
• Only herb in this category that is not very drying. Use in formulas with other wind-damp herbs to counteract their drying qualities. Safe with Yin or blood deficiency.
• Antibacterial/fungal.
• May treat meningitis (used successfully by IM injection in study).
MLT: Anti-inflammatory.
Li: Can astringe sweats.
Hsu: Hypotensive, antiarthritic, analgesic, increases secretions from adrenal cortex.
DY: Guides to the spine and lumbar area.

Dose: 4.5-12g

Qing Feng Teng – Sinomenium

Nature: acrid, warm

Enters: Liver, Spleen

Actions: Promotes urination; eliminates toxicity; eliminates wind-dampness; dispels obstructions from the channels and collaterals.

• Wind-damp: Bi syndrome with numbness of the skin.
• Accumulation of damp and harmful body fluids: edema.
• Heat-toxicity: carbuncles.
Wiki: Sinomenine or Cocculine is an alkaloid found in the root of the climbing plant Sinomenium acutum which is native to Japan and China. It is traditionally used in herbal medicine in these countries, as a treatment for rheumatism and arthritis.[1] However its analgesic action against other kinds of pain is limited. Sinomenine is a morphinan derivative, related to opioids such as levorphanol and the non-opioid cough suppressant dextromethorphan. Its anti-rheumatic effects are thought to be primarily mediated via release of histamine,[2] but other effects such as inhibition of prostaglandin, leukotriene and nitric oxide synthesis may also be involved.[3]
Hsu: Analgesic (increases pain threshold), tranquilizer, antitussive (one constituent is similar to codeine), hypotensive – fast acting and long lasting, antiphlogistic.

Dose: 10-15g

Sang Zhi – Mulberry twig – Morus alba

Nature: bitter, neutral

Enters: Liver

Actions: Eliminates wind and dispels obstructions from the channels and collaterals; benefits the joints.

• Wind-damp: Bi syndrome with spasm of the tendons – especially good for the upper extremities.
• Edema.
• May increase blastogenesis of lymphocytes.
• For lower body pain, can be combined with Du huo, Fang ji.

Dose: 10-30g

Wei Ling Xian Chinese Clematis root – “Awesome Spiritual Immortal” or “Temple’s Sacred Root” or “Strong and Very Effective”

Nature: acrid, salty, warm

Enters: Bladder

Actions: Eliminates wind-dampness, alleviates pain; dispels obstructions from the channels and collaterals; dissolves fish bones lodged in the throat; powerfully promotes Qi circulation at the body surface and in the channels; reduces phlegm and pathogenic water.

• Wind-damp: Bi syndrome.
• Phlegm and pathogenic water: focal distention and accumulation in the middle Jiao.
• Useful in icteric infectious hepatitis.
• Fish bone lodged in the throat: use 15-30g, make a thick decoction with vinegar and brown sugar, swallow slowly (not for deeply lodged or very big bones).
• Can be used for pain in either the upper or lower body.
• While Liu translates Wei ling xian as “Strong, Very Effective,” Bensky/Gamble interprets it as “Awesome Spiritual Immortal,” and MLT says it translates as “Temple’s Sacred Root” and refers to the ancient story of an old nun who lived in the “Temple of Powerful Spirits” atop a mountain and used this herb often and with great success.
Hsu: Antibacterial, antifungal, hypotensive, analgesic, antidiuretic; “anti-sprain action.”

Dose: 6-12g

Wu Jia Pi – Eleutherococcus gracilistylus root bark (formerly known as Acanthopanax) – “Bark of Five Additions”

Nature: acrid, bitter, warm

Enters: Liver, Kidney

Actions: Strengthens the tendons and bones; eliminates wind-dampness; transforms dampness and reduces swelling.

• Wind-damp: Bi syndrome with weakness in the lumbar region and knees (particularly when chronic deficiency of the liver and kidneys has led to weak or soft sinews and bones).
• Developmental delays in motor functions in children, especially retardation in walking.
• Urinary difficulty, edema, damp-cold leg qi.
• Good when the smooth flow of Qi and blood is obstructed.
• Especially effective for children and the elderly.
• The genera Acanthopanax and Eleutherococcus are one and the same (with the latter now being the preferred name), as authoritatively confirmed at the taxonomic symposium Biological Nomenclature in the 21st Century (University of MD, 1996). While Wu jia pi and Ci wu jia come from different species – E. gracilistylus and E. senticosus, respectively – E. gracilistylus seems to possess some (if not all) of the tonic properties attributed to E. senticosus (“Siberian Ginseng”). However, since it is the bark of the root that is used from the former (Wu jia pi) as opposed to the whole root, which is used in the case of Ci wu jia, Wu jia pi’s action is focused more on the surface (on dispersion of wind-dampness), than the interior (on tonification).
• A common but inferior substitute for this herb is Xiang jia pi – Periploca – which, although an effective herb at eliminating Wind-Dampness, is toxic and has little or no tonic properties. Unlike Wu jia pi, it is fragrant (slightly cinnamon-ish).
MLT: Often sold as a medicinal wine for neurasthenia, insomnia, excessive dreaming, forgetfulness, dizziness, poor appetite, palpitations, coronary heart disease, angina pectoris.
• Prolonged consumption can treat leukopenia from chemotherapy/ physiotherapy.
HF: A supplement with an anti-Gu nature, possessing acrid, toxin-resolving qualities, useful in Gu Zheng (Gu parasites) formulas.
BF: Good when wind-damp is accompanied by concomitant Qi and blood deficiency.
Hsu: Antiarthritic, antiphlogistic, analgesic, antipyretic, adaptogenic (increases the body’s non-specific resistance to disease and stress), hypotensive.

Dose: 4.5-15g

Xi Xian Cao – Siegesbeckia

Nature: bitter, cold

Enters: Liver, Kidney

Actions: Clears heat; eliminates toxicity; eliminates wind-dampness; dispels obstruction from the channels and collaterals; strengthens the sinews; calms the Shen; pacifies the liver; transforms damp-heat; alleviates itching.


• Wind-damp: Bi syndrome with numbness and weakness in the limbs; facial paralysis, hemiplegia, numbness and weakness in the back and legs.
• Damp-heat-toxicity: carbuncles, boils, eczema, sores, itching.
• Wind-damp: rash, itching.
• Shen disturbance: irritability, insomnia, forgetfulness.
• Liver Yang rising: headache, dizziness.
• Hypertension: lowers blood pressure.
• Acute malaria: use large doses (up to 60g per day).
• Topical: soak in this tea for numbness due to dampness.
• Use raw to clear heat and resolve dampness.
• Recently used in many topical “stretch marks” products for its purported ability to heal this form of scarring.
• Treat with wine for wind-damp Bi.
Hsu: Antibacterial, hypotensive, antiphlogistic.

Dose: 6-15g