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Largetrifoliolious Bugbane Rhizome (Sheng Ma)

Largetrifoliolious Bugbane Rhizome (Sheng Ma)

What is Largetrifoliolious Bugbane Rhizome (Sheng Ma)?

Largetrifoliolious Bugbane Rhizome (sheng ma, 升麻), also known as Rhizoma Cimicifugae or Black Cohosh, is the rhizome of Cimicifuga foetida, a perennial herb belonging to the family Ranunculaceae. Sheng Ma has been used by Native Americans and the Chinese for centuries to treat a wide variety of ailments. In China, Sheng Ma first appeared in Classic of the Materia Medica (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, 神农本草经) in the late Western Han Dynasty.

Best known for its ability to treat gynaecological disorders, Sheng Ma translates as ‘Ascending Hemp’, referring to the similarity of its leaves to Hemp leaves and its ability to treat yang-ascending conditions. In the West, early European settlers were taught how to use the herb by Native Americans, and began to use it as a tonic to support women’s reproductive health. The herb fell out of use in the West later, but became popular again in the 1950s for treating women’s health issues.

After the rhizomes of Cimicifuga foetida are gathered in autumn, the impurities on the herb are removed. The herb is then dried under the sun and cut into slices for medicinal usage.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Sheng Ma falls under the category of ‘Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior’. Cool in nature, Sheng Ma can help individuals with too much Heat in their body, such as those experiencing a Yang Excess or a Yin Deficiency, to restore a harmonious yin-yang balance.

Pungent and sweet in taste, Sheng Ma can promote the circulations of qi and body fluids, slow down acute reactions, detoxify the body and has a tonic effect on the body by replenishing qi and blood. In particular, the herb targets the large intestine, the Lungs, the Spleen and the stomach.

Functions and Benefits of Largetrifoliolious Bugbane Rhizome (Sheng Ma)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Sheng Ma has the following health benefits.

Sheng Ma can expel Wind pathogens and release the Exterior, which makes it effective in treating Wind-Cold Exterior syndromes such as fever. Sheng Ma is also used to promote the eruption of measles, clear Heat and relieve toxicity. Hence, the herb is often used to treat unsmooth eruption of measles in the beginning state caused by the invasion of Exterior pathogens or internal toxic Heat exuberance.

As Sheng Ma is good at clearing Heat and relieving toxicity, it is also used to treat pestilence, mumps, sore throat, toothache, swollen and painful gums, and swelling caused by excessive stomach Heat transformed into toxins. In addition, Sheng Ma can ascend the clear yang qi in the Spleen and stomach. The herb can be used to release the distention of abdomen, treat shortness of breath, fatigue, prolapse of rectum due to diarrhoea, prolapse of uterus and stomach due to Spleen Qi Deficiency.

One of the most famous benefits of Sheng Ma is its ability to relieve women’s health issues. For example, the herb can alleviate menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances and mood changes. Sheng Ma may also have beneficial effects on mental health, particularly in menopausal women.

Largetrifoliolious Bugbane Rhizome (Sheng Ma) on a white background
Largetrifoliolious Bugbane Rhizome (Sheng Ma) is effective in easing skin irritations, canker sores and sore throat.

How to Use Largetrifoliolious Bugbane Rhizome (Sheng Ma)

The recommended daily dosage of Sheng Ma is 3 – 10g. To release the Exterior, clear Heat and detoxify the body, you can use the herb in its unprocessed form. To ascend yang and elevate prolapsed organs, you can stir-fry Sheng Ma with honey to enhance its effectiveness.

Sheng Ma is available in many supplement forms such as capsule, liquid extract, powder or tea. You can find Sheng Ma and Sheng Ma products in many herbal stores and certain Asian markets.

Cautions and Side Effects of Largetrifoliolious Bugbane Rhizome (Sheng Ma)

Sheng Ma should not be used by individuals who are experiencing fully erupted measles, hyperactivity of yang or fire due to Yin Deficiency, pregnancy and breathing difficulties.

Overdose of Sheng Ma may cause side effects such as headaches, dizziness, tremors, spasms of limbs, vomiting, gastroenteritis and pathogenic erections. Sheng Ma may also cause ulceration, congestion of the blood in the skin, irritate the stomach and trigger delirium. 

Sheng Ma has been linked to some severe cases of Liver damage. For this reason, if you have Liver disease or are experiencing health problems with your Liver, it is best to steer clear from this herb for the time being. Moreover, a recent animal study observed that black cohosh in high doses was linked to red blood cell damage, leading to anemia. Still, more research is needed to study these potential effects in humans.

We strongly encourage you to consult your healthcare provider before deciding to add Sheng Ma to your healthcare routine!


Here is a summary for Largetrifoliolious Bugbane Rhizome (Sheng Ma):

  • Herb name (Chinese): 升麻
  • Herb name (Pin Yin): shēng má
  • Herb name (English): Largetrifoliolious Bugbane Rhizome
  • Herb name (Botanical): Rhizoma Cimicifugae
  • Origin of species: Cimicifuga heracleifolia Kom.; Cimicifuga dahurica (Turcz.) Maxim.; Cimicifuga foetida L.
  • Part(s) of herb used: Rhizome
  • Geo-specific habitat(s): Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Qinghai
  • Taste(s) & Properties: Pungent, slightly sweet; Slightly cold; Administrates the Lung, Spleen, Stomach and Large Intestine Meridians
  • Actions: Eases symptoms of influenza or related respiratory ailments; Eases skin irritations, canker sores and sore throat; Aids in lifting and circulation in symptoms of organ prolapse, chronic diarrhoea or excessive uterine bleeding

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