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Bugleweed (Ze Lan)

Close up of Bugleweed (Ze Lan)

What is Bugleweed (Ze Lan)?

Bugleweed (ze lan, 泽兰), also known as Herba Lycopi or Lycopus lucidus, is an herbaceous plant native to East Asia, particularly China and Japan. It belongs to the Lamiaceae (mint) family, and its aerial parts have a long history of medicinal usage. This perennial plant typically grows to a height of about 30 – 60cm, and it features square stems with opposite leaves that are lance-shaped or elliptical with a glossy appearance. The plant also produces small, inconspicuous white or pale purple flowers in clusters.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ze Lan falls under the category of ‘Herbs that invigorate the blood’. Such herbs can stimulate the blood flow, and are thus used to aid blood circulation in cardiovascular conditions or menstrual irregularities, as well as to treat acute pains caused by Blood Stagnation. These herbs are also used to treat tumours, cysts and hardened clots caused by Blood Stagnation.

Warm in nature, Ze Lan can help individuals with too much Cold in their body, such as those experiencing a Yin Excess or a Yang Deficiency, to restore a harmonious yin-yang balance. Bitter and pungent in taste, Ze Lan can cleanse the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. Also, Ze Lan can promote the circulations of qi and body fluids. In particular, Ze Lan targets the Spleen and the Liver.

Functions and Benefits of Bugleweed (Ze Lan)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Ze Lan has the following health benefits.

Ze Lan can invigorate one’s blood and dispel Blood Stasis. The herb can thus treat symptoms caused by Blood Stagnation, such as helping to regulate menstruation, relieve postpartum abdominal pain, as well as pain and swelling from both internal and topical abscess or trauma. Ze Lan may be used externally as a compress or internally for conditions such as goiter or lymph node enlargement.

Also, Ze Lan can promote urination and disperse swellings. Due to its diuretic effects, Ze Lan can increase urine production to help eliminate excess fluids from the body, and support urinary health. For example, Ze Lan can help to treat systemic and facial oedema, as well as postpartum painful urinary dysfunction. 

Bugleweed (Ze Lan) close up
Bugleweed (Ze Lan) is effective in easing water retention in the abdominal area.

How to Use Bugleweed (Ze Lan)

The recommended daily dosage of Bugleweed is 6 – 12g, when used in the form of pills or powder. For external application, do consult your healthcare provider on the dosage suitable for your condition. The herb can be decocted as a wash or pounded to apply on desired area.

Bugleweed and its supplements are usually available in herbal stores and Asian specialty markets.

Cautions and Side Effects of Bugleweed (Ze Lan)

Ze Lan should not be used by individuals experiencing pregnancy, hypermenorrhea and Blood Deficiency. Also, individuals who are not experiencing Blood Stasis are advised against using this herb too.

Do note that Ze Lan should not be used concurrently with other diuretics such as chlorothiazide, hydrochlorothiazide and torsemide, as it may lead to dehydration.


Here is a summary for Bugleweed (Ze Lan):

  • Herb name (Chinese): 泽兰
  • Herb name (Pin Yin): zé lán
  • Herb name (English): Hirsute Shiny Bugleweed Herb
  • Herb name (Botanical): Herba Lycopi
  • Origin of species: Lycopus lucidus Turcz. var. hirtus Regel
  • Part(s) of herb used: Plant parts above ground
  • Geo-specific habitat(s): Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Zhejiang, Hubei
  • Taste(s) & Properties: Bitter, pungent; Slightly warm; Administrates the Liver and Spleen Meridians
  • Actions: Eases painful menstruation or pain experienced after delivery; Helps to speed up recovery from physical injuries; Eases water retention in the abdominal region

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