Anemarrhena (Anemarrhena asphodeloides or Zhi Mu ) is a rare herb that grows wild in Japan and the northern part of China. It has a 2,000-year history of use, and written records of its use date from 200 a.d. It is an attractive-looking plant that belongs to the lily family. At the top of three-foot spikes, it has small, fragrant, white six-petaled flowers that bloom at night. The medicinal parts are the rhizomes (roots) and the stems. Rhizomes that are large, hard, and round with pale-yellowish color inside are best for medicinal use.
Traditional Chinese medicine classifies this herb as cold (or yin) and bitter. Yin and yang are the two opposite energies that complement one another. Yin conditions are described as cold, damp, and deficient, while yang is characterized by heat, dry, and excess. Anemarrhena is used to treat heat disorders, which are caused by excessive yang or insufficient yin functions. When there is excessive heat, dryness often follows. For example, fever—an excessive internal heat symptom—is followed by thirst, which is a sign of dryness. Traditional Chinese medicine uses bitter and cold herbs such as anemarrhena to clear the internal heat and provide moisture to the lungs and the kidneys.
Because anemarrhena brings moisture and coolness, it will bring relief to excessive internal heat and dryness symptoms such as fever , thirst, irritability, racing pulse, cough , bleeding gums, night sweat, insomnia , and hot flashes . Anemarrhena has been used in herbal combinations such as Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan to relieve symptoms such as coughing, ulcers of the mouth, kidney dysfunction, urinary tract infection, insomnia, restlessness, genital herpes , and sterility.
Laboratory studies have shown that anemarrhena can effectively eradicate infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterial strain that often causes lung infections. Anemarrhena has been effectively used to treat bronchitis as well as exacerbating symptoms of chronic bronchitis such as chronic coughing.
Anemarrhena is also used to treat tuberculosis . Here, however, laboratory results do not support its use. When given as 2.5% powder, anemarrhena may slow down disease progression, but overall it does not reduce death rates in laboratory mice. At higher dosage (5% powder), anemarrhena appears to be toxic. More mice treated with anemarrhena died than in the control group. Therefore, even though the herb can effectively reduce the low-grade fever associated with tuberculosis, it is a poor substitute for conventional antibiotics, which can cure the disease and prevent death.
Urinary tract infections
Anemarrhena has been used to treat cystitis, an infection of the bladder. Studies have shown that it is effective against Escherichia coli, which commonly causes cystitis in women. Therefore, it may be effective against urinary tract infections caused by this bacterial strain.
There is little information available concerning the use of anemarrhena in other types of infections. However, laboratory studies show that anemarrhena has antibacterial activity against Salmonella typhi and Vibrio cholera, the bacteria that cause salmonella food poisoning and cholera, two common infections of the bowels. Studies also show that anemarrhena may also be effective against fungal infections .
Anemarrhena provides moisture to dry internal organs. Therefore, it is often used as diuretic to improve kidney function.
Ulcers of the mouth and/or bleeding gums
Anemarrhena can restore moisture in these oral conditions that exhibit excessive dryness and inflammation.
Because Chinese herbalists believe that yin deficiency is the underlying cause of diabetes, they often use anemarrhena to treat this disease. In fact, there is scientific evidence to support its use in the treatment of diabetes. Animal studies show that anemarrhena contains two pharmacologic agents, mangiferin and mangiferin-7-0-beta glucoside, which appear to increase the effectiveness of insulin and can lower blood glucose levels. Anemarrhena has the greatest effect in mild to moderate diabetic conditions. However, it does not affect glucose levels in nondiabetic conditions. Anemarrhena may be combined with Shi Gao (Gypsum) for additional hypoglycemic effects.
Chemotherapy and radiation side effects
Anemarrhena is often effective in relieving severe adverse reactions associated with conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatments in cancer patients. According to traditional Chinese medicine, x rays used in radiation treatment and drugs used in chemotherapy are considered "heat toxins." These agents are very toxic so that they can kill tumor cells. But they are also toxic to the body, causing excessive build-up of heat inside the Lungs and damaging the Kidneys.
Another use of anemarrhena is to treat menopausal symptoms such as insomnia, hot flashes, and irregular periods.
High blood pressure
Anemarrhena is often used in combination with phellodendron and rehmannia to treat high blood pressure conditions in patients with symptoms of Liver-fire deficiency (dizziness, headache , ringing in the ears, back pain , insomnia, palpitations, dry eyes, and night sweat). Recent studies in laboratory animals confirm that this herb is effective in lowering blood pressure.
The usual dosage of anamarrhena is 6–12 g per day. It is available as a single ingredient or in combinations in the following forms:
- Powder or pills. Should be taken with warm water on an empty stomach.
- Decoction. A method often used in traditional Chinese medicine to make an herbal preparation at home. Herbs, usually in combination, are simply boiled down to a concentrated broth or tea to be taken internally.
Anemarrhena should not be used under the following conditions:
- watery diarrhea
- chronic loose bowel movements
- hypotension (low blood pressure). (Anemarrhena at very high dosages can cause severe drops in blood pressure levels)
Animal studies show that anemarrhena, when administered intravenously at only moderate dosage, can cause breathing difficulty and a decrease in blood pressure. High dosages reportedly can cause a severe drop in blood pressure, respiratory arrest, and even death.
Anemarrhena has been known to interact with:
- Iron supplements or multivitamin, multimineral supplements containing iron. Therefore, patients should take iron supplements at least two hours before or two hours after the herb.
- Iron pots or pans. Patients should not use iron cooking utensils to make decoctions as they may alter the chemistry of the herb.
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American Association of Oriental Medicine (AAOM). 433 Front St., Catasauqua, PA 18032. (610) 266-1433. Fax: (610) 264-2768. E-mail: [email protected] <http://www.aaom.org.>
American Foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 505 Beach Street, San Francisco, CA 94133. (415) 776-0502.
American Herbal Products Association. 8484 Georgia Ave., Suite 370, Silver Spring, MD 20910. (301) 588-1174. <http://www.ahpa.org.>
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; National Institute of Health. NCCAM Clearinghouse, PO Box 8218, Silver Spring, MD 20907-8218. (888) 644-6226. Fax: (301) 495-4957. E-mail: [email protected] <http://nccam.nih.gov.>
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