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Herbal Monograph

Herb: BUPLEURUM (Bupleurum falcatum; Umbelliferae

Other Names: Hare’s Ear;  ch’ai-hu (Chinese name)    (42)

Character/Energetics: bitter, slightly acrid, mildly cooling  (1a);  pungent, bitter, cool   (6);  

bitter, mild cold   (21);   cold, bitter   (42)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected: liver, pericardium, triple warmer, gall bladder   (6)  

stomach, intestines, liver, lungs, head, sense organs of the face, limbs, leg muscles   (20)

pericardium, the liver, the triple warmer, gallbladder   (21)

Parts used: root   (6)     

Identification & Harvesting: A perennial herb 30-80 cm tall, the rhizome branching. Stem slender, flexuous, branches spreading. Leaves alternate, simple, entire, provided with a marginal vein….Flowers yellow; July-October; calyx teeth almost wanting; petals with lobules inflected….

The root is officinal. It occurs pale red in color….Northern China, northern Asia, Europe.   (19)

Active constituents:  saponin glycosides (saikosides, 2.8%), and also flavonoids such as quercetin, isoquercetin, isorhamnetin, rutin and narcissin, and volatile oil  (1a)

furfurol, sterol, bupleurumol (6)

The active principles appear to be a mixture of triterpene glycosides, referred to as saikosides (20)

palmitic acid, stearic acid, linolic acid, spinasterol, stigmasterol, adonitol, saponins   (42)

Actions: sedative, analgesic, anti-hepatoxic, antipyretic, anti viral (flu virus), antitussive  (1a)

febrifuge, deobstruent, carminative (1b);   antipyretic, diaphoretic, carminative, alterative  (6)

energy tonic, liver stimulant, cooling, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, stimulates bile flow, reduces blood cholesterol levels  (15)

cholerectic, antipyretic, hypoglycemic, anticancer, smooth muscle relaxant, strengthening of the capillaries, anti-inflammatory, analgesic; hypotensive, cardiotonic, sedative, stimulant, anti-ulcer; antibacterial, antiviral  (20) 

revolves surface, disperses heat, dissolves liver congestion, disperses stagnancy, raises yang ch’i; anti-hepatosis, tranquilizing and analgesic, antibacterial, antiviral, antiphlogistic  (21)

antipyretic, diaphoretic, neutralizes the liver, regulates menstruation   (42)

Conditions and Uses: Bupleurum extract increases the total bile output, which helps remove toxins and digest fats. This herb is excellent for restoring normal liver function, especially in patients with hepatitis, for which it is often prescribed either alone or in combination with other herbs. It is used in formulas that can help relieve painful digestion and early cirrhosis and remove heat from the liver (hepatitis, etc.)   (1a)

(Bupleurum) is used in flatulence and indigestion, in colds and coughs, muscular pains and cramps, amenorrhea, thoracic and abdominal inflammations, puerperal fevers, and in acute diarrhea.  (1b)

liver tonic, ‘dredges’ negative emotions   (2)

(Bupleurum) is one of the most important Chinese herbs for treating the liver because it acts on diseases of a mixed conformation, i.e. both internal and chronic, and both external and acute; both hot and cold; both deficient and excess. For more than 2000 years a wide variety of Bupleurum formulas outlined in the early clinical text by the Chinese herbalist Chang Chung Ching have been widely studied and used by both Chinese and Japanese herbalists. Bupleurum seems to be effective against those diseases that tend to begin externally as an acute syndrome and to linger for a prolonged period.

Bupleurum is one of the major chi regulating or carminative herbs that help regulate moodiness. It has a strong ascending energy so that it is also added in small amounts to tonic formulas to raise the yang vitality, treat organ prolapse and raise sagging spirits.

It is used for hepatitis and all liver disorders and to help resolve and bring out eruptic diseases. In this sense, one of the peculiarities of bupleurum is its capacity to ‘dredge’ out old emotions of sadness and anger that may be stored in the organs and tissue of the body.

In Ayurvedic medicine it would be considered to be anti-kapha (water) and anti-pitta (fire) but pro-vata (air). Ayurvedic doctors apparently do not use the herb, but according to David Frawley, achieve a similar action (of releasing the liver) with a combination of tumeric and barberry root. (6)

For liver disorders:  bitter liver tonic; encourages energy flow/add 10 g herb to 600 ml water for a decoction/combine with bai shao yao, chuan xiong, goldenseal, and dandelion to help regulate liver function.  (15) 

Large doses (50 gm. of a 20% decoction) have been employed as antipyretic in malaria and blackwater fever.  Prescribed as antipyretic, and in amenorrhea.  (19)

BUPLEURUM (Bupleurum falcatum; Umbelliferae)

Conditions and Uses (cont):

Bupleurum is traditionally used to strengthen the stomach and intestines, and to promote blood circulation of the liver. It is said to warm the trunk and to pull fresh Ch’i  into the upper parts of the body….(and) to regulate the liver energy and to clear up stagnation in the liver. (20)

(Bupleurum’s applications include)  alternating episodes of chills and fever, jaundice, fullness and pain in the chest, bitter taste in the mouth, deafness, dizziness, vomiting, malaria;

hepatic melancholy, irritation, and pain; for fever and hypohidrosis.  (21) 

(Bupleurum is indicated for) alternating fever, swollen throat, bitter taste, deafness, vertigo, vomiting, malaria, irregular menstruation.  (42)

In Oriental traditional medicine, certain herbal mixtures containing the plant Bupleurum falcatum (Bupf) are used for the treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, and in the management of certain neurological disorders.  (43)

Combinations: Bupleurum is always combined with three or more other herbs (often as many as eight or nine) to influence and bring out its best features. For typical stress response, it is combined with either ginseng or Tang-kuei (dong quai), two of the best known oriental herbs. Ginseng is used especially when there are digestive disturbances or severe weakness. Tang-kuei is used when there is anemia or menstrual disorders. Ginseng contains another kind of saponins, called ginsenosides or panoxosides, which have actions somewhat like bupleurum’s saikosaponins.–see reference for other bupleurum combinations  (1)

For gallstones, fatigue with sore liver, and tendency towards constipation, decoct bupleurum (6) with scutellaria (3), paeonia (3), ginger (4), unripe orange peel–chih-shih or Zhi Shi (2), jujube (3), rhubarb (1), and pinella (3).

Bupleurum and cinnamon combination: for gallstones, gallbladder inflammation, and loss of appetite due to intestinal discomfort, decoct bupleurum (5) with pinella (4), licorice (1.5), cinnamon (2.5), scute (2), ginseng (2), paeonia (2.5), jujube (2), and ginger (1).      (1a)

For liver disorders, combine with bai shao yao, chuan xiong, goldenseal, and dandelion to help regulate liver function.  (15)

As a liver tonic, decoct with Paeonia, Citris aurantium, and licorice root.  As a female reproductive tonic, decoct with Tang Kuei, Paeonia and Atractylus.  (20)

Tincturing Process:

Vita Mix: Fill container half-full w/bupleurum root. Process: 40 seconds forward; 20 seconds reverse.   (1)

Dosage & Applications:  Decoction:  Add about 10 grams of the herb by itself (or with a little ginger and licorice), or about 20 grams total of a formula, to 12 oz. water. Simmer the herbs for 45 minutes, strain off the liquid, add 6 oz. of fresh water, decoct for another 20 minutes, strain again, and then add the first liquid and store the tea in the refrigerator. Drink 1 cup in the morning and 1 in the evening. To check for individual tolerance, it is always best to start with 1/2

cup morning and evening for a few days, then build up to a full dose.  (1a)

    3-15 gm  (6);   2-5 gm   (19);    

                                        Generally  6 to 18g; for hepatic melancholy, irritation, and pain 6 to 9g; for fever and hypohidrosis 15 to 18 g.  (21) 

Precautions:  Bupleurum formulas are usually not  recommended for persons who tend to get very severe headaches; for persons who tend to get nosebleeds, and for persons who have a tremendous amount of pent-up anger that’s rarely expressed (the formula will cause you to express it rather suddenly).  (1)

In some people, bupleurum in large amounts can cause nausea, in which case it is good to reduce the amount by half or more until it is tolerated. Try adding 1/2 part ginger and 1/4  

part licorice to moderate this effect. Caution is also indicated in yin-deficient people with persistent coughs.  (1a)


General Notes:            



(1) Cayuga Botanicals Research Data, “Bupleurum” file  (article by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D.) 

(1a) ibid Research Data, “Bupleurum” file (Foundations of Health by Christopher Hobbs, pgs. 224-226)

(1b) ibid  Research Data, “Bupleurum” file (Chinese Medicinal Herbs compiled by  Li Shih-Chen, pg. 76)

(2) Cayuga Botanicals Product Line and Price List

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pgs. 162-163

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 154-155, 180

(19) Chinese Herbs  by John D. Keys, pgs. 197-198

(20) Chinese Tonic Herbs by Ron Teeguarden, pgs. 125-126

(21) Oriental Materia Medica  by Hong-yen Hsu, Ph.D. and associates, pgs. 68-69

(42) Chinese Herb Medicine and Therapy by Hong-yen Hsu, Ph.D. & William Peacher, M.D, pg. 178

(43) Weiner’s Herbal by Michael Weiner, Ph.D, pgs. 232-233