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Veterinarian Reviewed on June 5, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
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Bupleurum Herb (Bupleurum Chinense)

The Bupleurum herb, (Bupleurum Chinense), is one of the oldest, and most important, plants that are utilized as a traditional herbal medicine in various countries in Asia. The plant belongs to the Apiacea family whose plant morphology makes it look very much like fennel or dill. The only difference is its long thin leaves that are very different from the lace-like leaf appearance of the other two plants.


Native to East Asia, Bupleurum in Chinese, ‘Chai Hu’, means ‘kindling of the barbarians’. Chinese and Japanese culture value the Bupleurum herb for its active compounds that are used to treat many conditions and diseases. It is mainly the root that is used for herbal medicine. Bupleurum is one of the main ingredients to a famous Japanese herbal concoction, known as the Minor Bupleurum Decoction, which is actually a combination of 9 different kinds of herbs to treat hepatitis and cirhhosis.

Ancient Eastern Uses

Chinese and Japanese cultures used the herb to treat wounds, diabetes, dizziness and even deafness. As mentioned before, it is a major ingredient of Minor Bupleurum Decoction, a Japanese formula which is made to treat Hepatitis and associated liver problems. The plant was also used to treat a certain blood disease called thrombocytopenic purpura. Some of these claims were later on confirmed through modern clinical trials and tests.

Modern Western Uses

Today, the plant is used to treat a number of illnesses. More thorough clinical tests and research have confirmed the potency of the plant and its ability to cure certain medical conditions, such as reducing fever, alleviating hemorrhoids and indigestion. It is also a powerful liver cleanser too, as well as having the ability to help relieve infections in the liver. Tests on the Japanese Minor Bupleurum Decoction have revealed that the recipe is indeed useful in treating Hepatitis B and to prevent hepatocellular carcinoma. Up until today, the herb is commonly sold in many stores and herbal shops. The Bupleurum root is typically harvested during the spring and autumn months. It has anti-inflammatory, hepato-protective, mildly sedative, analgesic, adaptogen and antitussive properties.

What Form It Is Available In

The Bupleurum is mainly available in the market in dried plant form or in tablet form. Basically, the tablet forms are the dried parts of the plant that are simply placed inside edible capsules. The dried herb can also be used as an ingredient in combination with other herbal products. But what users need to remember when buying Bupleurum is that, currently, the Food and Drug Administration, as with most herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, has not yet approved Bupleurum to cure or treat any kind of disease and it is merely regarded as a food supplement.

Side Effects or Cautions

Because of the lack of clinical studies, there is no conclusive report yet on the possible side effects and contraindications associated with the use of Bupleurum herb. Isolated studies have reported increased bowel movements, drowsiness and intestinal gas. Some patients using the Japanese concoction have also reported experiencing difficulty in breathing. Thus, it is highly recommended that pregnant or breastfeeding women and even children keep away from this alternative medicine just until clinical studies are made. And finally, medical experts discourage the use of this product for patients with pre-existing multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. This is because active ingredients in the plant can make the immune system weaker and possibly worsen the condition.

So if you are interested in using Bupleurum herb, make sure that you do so in recommended amounts. Dosage can vary according to age and the severity of your condition. And last but not least, if possible, seek professional medical guidance before using it by a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, herbalist or naturopathic doctor.

Read also: Xanthium Sibericum Root

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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