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Chai Hu

Veterinarian Reviewed on June 6, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized

Chai Hu (Radix Bupleuri) aka Thorowax Root


Thorowax is also referred to as Bupleurum. It is a medicinal root originated in East Asia. The Chinese name of this herb is Chai Hu. Other common names for this plant are Hare’s Ear, Saiko and Chinese Thorowax root.

It can be mistaken for dill as it looks very similar. The flowers are small and pale yellow with thin reed like stalks and narrow leaves that resemble a hare’s ear.

History and Origin

Bupleurum, or Chai Hu, literally translates to “Kindling of the Barbarians” but there is nothing that substantiates this name. Thorowax root can be found growing in central and eastern regions of China. It has also been found growing in other areas of Asia and some parts of Europe. It propagates from seed in the springtime, or by dividing the roots in autumn. This plant thrives in well drained soils with plenty of sunshine. The root is harvested in both spring and fall and then dried out under the heat of the sun.

In Eastern medicine it is used for several issues. Vertigo, diarrhea and stomach deficiency are some of these. It is taken orally and it is used also to treat the symptoms of flu, Fatigue, malaria, epilepsy, Depression, anorexia, muscle cramps, asthma and as a liver tonic. In China it is usually combined with other ingredients to produce a better effect of the herb.

Ancient Uses

It is first mentioned in a text dating to the 1st century BC as a balancing or harmony herb for different organs and energy centers of the body. It is a useful tonic that strengthens the digestive tract, improves liver functions and helps raise blood to the skins surface. When used for liver issues, it is thought to harmonize the energy between the stomach, spleen and liver. It is also used for upset stomachs, intestinal pain, poor digestion, vertigo, dizziness, vomiting and general digestive health.

It has found use in treating infections with fevers, especially with ones that also create a bitter taste in the mouth. Chai Hu was used to effectively treat hemorrhoids, pelvic bleeding and for a prolapsed uterine lining.

Modern Uses

In Western medicine practices there have been several uses that reflect the traditional Eastern practices for this wonderful herb. Bupleurum contains high levels of saikosaponins and these are one of the main medicinal properties of the herb.
Chai Hu, or Bupleurum, is taken orally to help with the following issues:

• Anorexia

• Angina

• It has antifungal, antiviral and antiseptic properties

• Antioxidant benefits


• Bronchitis

• Reducing Cholesterol numbers

Colds and Flu


• Constipation

• Dysmenorrhea

• Epilepsy

• Fatigue

• Fever


• Inflammation

• Indigestion

• Muscle cramps

• Premenstrual Syndrome

• Mild Sedative

There are promising research studies that show that the saikosaponins contained in Chai Hu can reduce or inhibit liver cancer cell growth, reduce the effects of Hepatitis in some patients and in test tube studies there has even been evidence that it may even inhibit the Human Immunity Virus (HIV) cell expansion.

One of the most important properties of the Thorowax root, or Chai Hu, is that it cleanses the liver and protects it from toxins. This is especially true if it is combined with Milk Thistle as together they become a rather potent team. Many studies have also found that it can be an effective follow up supplement to liver cancer treatments.

Chai Hu is found in different forms, from powder to raw root. The herb is taken internally through oral means such as an encapsulated pill or drunk as a tea.

Side Effects

Overdosing can cause minor side effects that can be discomforting. The most common side effects are nausea and vomiting. Other side effects may include drowsiness, increased bowel movement, facial and extremity edema, constipation and gastrointestinal distention.

Read also: Jin Yin Hua

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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