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Notopterygium incisum (Qiang Huo)

Close up of Notopterygium incisum (Qiang Huo)

What is Notopterygium incisum (Qiang Huo)?

Notopterygium incisum (qiang huo, 羌活), also known as Notopterygium Root, is the rhizome and root of Notopterygium incisum or Notopterygium franchetii, which is a perennial herb belonging to the family Umbelliferae. 

In spring and autumn, people will gather the roots and rhizomes of these plants, remove their fibrous roots and slit, dry them under the sun, and cut them into slices for medicinal usage. 

This herb first appeared in The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, 神农本草经) in the late Western Han Dynasty, where it was thought to be the same herb as Doubletooth Pubescent Angelica Root (Du Huo) till Tang Dynasty. Today, Qiang Huo is considered to be stronger in its properties and have a stronger flavour than Du Huo, making it the more suitable choice in the treatment of fevers, spinal diseases, and pain in the upper body and the back of the head. Comparatively, Du Huo has a stronger descending quality, making it better for the treatment of rheumatism in the lower body, and joint pain in the foot, lower back, legs and shin.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Qiang Huo falls under the category of ‘Warm/Acrid herbs that release the exterior’. Such herbs aim to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, eyes, ears, nose, throat or skin. These herbs can induce sweating by increasing the flow of sweat to our capillary pores, which then expel external diseases from the body and prevent them from invading further.

Warm in nature, Qiang Huo 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, Qiang Huo can cleanse the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. Also, Qiang Huo can promote the circulations of qi and body fluids. In particular, Qiang Huo targets the bladder and the Kidneys.

Functions and Benefits of Notopterygium incisum (Qiang Huo)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Qiang Huo has the following health benefits.

Qiang Huo can release the exterior, dispel Cold, expel Wind-Damp and alleviate pain. This herb is often indicated for cases with more severe syndromes of external Wind-Cold, manifested as symptoms such as aversion to cold, chills, fever, absence of sweat, headache, painful and stiff nape, body ache, and pain in the limbs. Qiang Huo is very effective in treating the above symptoms, especially when they are accompanied by Dampness with joint pain, a general feeling of heaviness, sleepiness and occipital pain. 

Qiang Huo is also used for Wind-Cold-Damp arthralgia and Wind-Cold-Damp Bi, especially in the upper limbs and back. The herb is able to expel Wind-Cold-Dampness, unblock painful obstruction and alleviate pain.

Qiang Huo can also direct qi to the Tai Yang channel and Governing vessels, and hence can act as a guide herb for other herbs. The herb can also treat symptoms such as acid reflux caused by Qi Deficiency.

Notopterygium incisum (Qiang Huo) on a wooden spoon
Notopterygium incisum (Qiang Huo) can help to ease rheumatic pains in the upper body.

How to Use Notopterygium incisum (Qiang Huo)

The recommended daily dosage of Qiang Huo is 3 – 10g, when used in the form of pill or powder. When used to make tea or decoctions, the recommended dosage of Qiang Huo is 6 – 15g. Qiang Huo and its supplements, such as pills and extracts, can be found in herbal stores and Asian specialty markets.

Qiang Huo and Du Huo are often paired together in herbal formulas to enhance their individual and mutual properties, which then enhances their effectiveness. Qiang Huo is also often paired with Cinnamon to expel Wind and Cold. 

In China, Qiang Huo has been used as an injectable for its analgesic and antipyretic properties, which help to reduce pain and fevers.

Cautions and Side Effects of Notopterygium incisum (Qiang Huo)

Qiang Huo should not be used by individuals experiencing Blood Deficiency, Yin Deficiency, Exterior Deficiency, weakness in Spleen and stomach and febrile disorders. Overdosing Qiang Huo may cause side effects such as nausea and vomiting.

According to The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing), Qiang Huo should not be used when one is experiencing Blood-Deficiency headache and joint pain accompanied by chills and fever.

In addition, Qiang Huo should not be used together with flunarizine. It is also not recommended for individuals who are anaemic or individuals with weak gastrointestinal abilities.

We strongly encourage you to consult your healthcare provider before deciding to add Qiang Huo to your healthcare routine!


Here is a summary for Notopterygium incisum (Qiang Huo):

  • Herb name (Chinese): 羌活
  • Herb name (Pin Yin): qiāng huó
  • Herb name (English): Incised Notopterygium Rhizome or Root
  • Herb name (Botanical): Rhizoma et Radix Notopterygii
  • Origin of species: Notopterygium incisum Ting ex. H. T. Chang; Notopterygium franchetti H. de Boiss.
  • Part(s) of herb used: Root and rhizome
  • Geo-specific habitat(s): Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai, Gansu
  • Taste(s) & Properties: Pungent, bitter; Warm; Administrates the Bladder and Kidney Meridians
  • Actions: Relieves symptoms relating to early stages of influenza; Eases rheumatic pains in the upper body

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