Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome
What is Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome?
Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome (bai zhu, 白术), known by its formal name of Atractylodes lancea, is a plant member of the sunflower family that grows in East Asia. For thousands of years, it has been highly respected by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners, where they often refer to the herb as “The First Herb of Invigorating qi and strengthening the Spleen”.
Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome ranks high in the pantheon of Chinese herbs, and some actually consider it to be an equal of Ginseng. An old TCM aphorism stated that there is Ginseng in the North and Bai Zhu in the South, drawing a parallel between the health benefits that Ginseng and Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome offer.
In TCM, Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome belongs to the category of ‘Tonic Herbs for Qi Deficiency’. Such herbs are used for individuals who are experiencing patterns of deficiency, where they lack one of the four treasures (qi, blood, yin, yang).
Warm in nature, Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome tends to help individuals who have too much ‘Cold’ in their body, such as those who are experiencing Yin Excess or Yang Deficiency.
Bitter and sweet in taste, Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome has a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination and bowel movements. It can also slow down acute reactions, detoxify the body, and has a tonic effect on the body by replenishing qi and blood. In particular, Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome targets the Spleen and the Stomach. In TCM, the Spleen assisted with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid metabolism in the body. As for the Stomach, it is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It also helps to descend digested substances downwards to the Small Intestine.
Functions and Benefits of Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes in the following Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome benefits:
Firstly, Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome tonifies the Spleen qi, fortifies the Spleen yang, and dispels Dampness through urination. By invigorating the Spleen and inducing diuresis through drying Dampness, it can help to relieve poor appetite, loose stool, diarrhea, phlegm-fluid, edema and leukorrhagia due to Spleen Deficiency with Dampness Stagnation. This herb can also promote body fluid metabolism and reduce fluid retention. Thus, it can reduce both bloating and swelling caused by water retention.
Secondly, Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome can help to tackle syndromes of spontaneous sweating due to Qi deficiency. For spontaneous sweating caused by wind pathogens due to exterior deficiency, Lung and Spleen Qi Deficiency, or insecurity of Defensive qi, the herb can be combined with other Lung and Spleen-tonifying herbs or Wind-dispersing herbs to tackle such sweating symptoms.
Thirdly, Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome can help to soothe a restless fetus, prevent miscarriage, relieve vomiting and poor appetite during pregnancy due to Spleen Deficiency. For vomiting with poor appetite and swollen limbs during pregnancy due to damp-turbid stagnation, this herb can be combined with other qi-tonifying, Spleen-invigorating and Dampness-eliminating herbs to relieve such symptoms. This herb has been used for years to reduce the irritability of the uterus muscle to prevent early labour.
Fourthly, Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome supports digestive health, helps to relieve the accumulation of food and treat digestive disorders such as gastric pain and indigestion. It can also eliminate Wind and disperse Cold. TCM practitioners have been using this herb to treat digestive disorder for thousands of years. Not only that, Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome also improves the movement of intestines and bowels. Due to its ability to regulate intestinal inflammation, it is also used to treat individuals who are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and gastrointestinal disease. It does so by reducing inflammation and protecting the intestinal barrier from damage.
How to Use Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome
Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome is available to consumers in a number of forms. For example, you can buy it in the form of dried, sliced roots, capsules, herbal tea, powder, Atractylodes Macrocephala extract, decoction, or as liquid tinctures. The required dose may vary based on your condition, so be sure to reach out to a healthcare provider to discuss which form will suit your needs better.
Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome is also widely used in Chinese herbal formulas, such as Li Zhong Tang (理中汤) and Si Jun Zi Tang (四君子汤).
Orally, the usual recommended dosage for Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome is 10-15g. The raw herb is usually used to dry Dampness in the body, promote urination, and arrest sweating. The fried herb is usually used to invigorate the Spleen, preventing miscarriage and harmonizing the Stomach. The deep roasted herb is commonly used to promote digestion, stimulate appetite and arrest diarrhea.
Cautions and Side Effects of Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome
Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome should not be used by individuals who have Yin Deficiency with Heat signs, those who are experiencing extreme thirst, and those who are experiencing acute gastro-intestinal infections.
Some reported side effects include nausea, dry mouth, and it may leave a bad taste in the mouth.
Here is a summary for Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome:
- Herb name (Chinese): 白术
- Herb name (Pin Yin): bái zhú
- Herb name (English): Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome
- Herb name (Botanical): Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae
- Origin of species: Atractylodes macrocephala Koidz.
- Part(s) of herb used: Rhizome
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Zhejiang, Hubei, Hunan
- Taste(s) & Properties: Sweet, bitter; Warm; Administrates the Spleen and Stomach meridians
- Actions: Helps to strengthen digestive functions; Eases excessive or uncontrollable perspiration.
Bailly, C. (2021). Atractylenolides, essential components of Atractylodes-based traditional herbal medicines: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. European journal of pharmacology, 891, 173735. [Accessed on 18 September 2022]
Wang, R., Zhou, G., Wang, M., Peng, Y., & Li, X. (2014). The metabolism of polysaccharide from Atractylodes macrocephala Koidz and its effect on intestinal microflora. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014.[Accessed on 18 September 2022]
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