Adams Herbs



(Bupleurum chinense and B. falcatum are used medicinally; many others are ornamental)

Systemic antiviral and immune tonic. Supports hepatic detoxification and “clears heat from the liver.”

Bupleurum falcatum
Bupleurum falcatum from the SOPHY botanical database.
OTHER NAMES: Chinese Thoroughwax, Hare’s Ear, Chai Hu (Chinese)


USED IN: Immmune Dragon Super Brew, Roots Run Deep

NOTES: Bupleurum is one of those herbs which is crucial to the Chinese and Japanese traditions, but which is nearly impossible to translate to the conceptual framework of Western medicine. It just doesn’t fall into any neat Western categories. Something that “clears heat from the liver” usually doesn’t. But in TCM, Bupleurum is central to formulas that effectively treat everything from swollen lymph nodes, to crampy diarrhea, to cranky PMS. Sho-Saiko-To, or “Minor Bupleurum Combination,” is the most commonly prescribed herbal medicine in Japan, where it is used for viral hepatitis, and lingering or recurring infections.

So let's begin by exploring what it means to “clear heat from the liver” (and may my Chinese herbalist friends forgive me for my oversimplification!)

First, understand that the “liver” in the Chinese conceptual framework isn’t the same as the liver we recognize from anatomy and physiology. In TCM, the liver is an idea, intangible, lacking physical form. So the TCM liver “opens into the eyes” and “houses the ethereal soul.” The real liver doesn’t do that!

But of course I shouldn't say that.  The Chinese liver is “real” in its own way, if for no other reason than treating the Chinese liver gets real-world results.  In TCM, “heat in the liver” translates roughly as “pent up anger and frustration with a tendency to outbursts, high blood pressure, headaches, and an angry red face.” You ever get a chance to treat some with this symptom picture, releasing heat from the liver get you results more often than not, especially in get-the-hell-outta-my-way-or-I’ll-rip-your-[expletive-deleted]-arm-off PMS, or young children prone to throwing tantrums on a hair trigger. You treat them with a formula like Xiao Yao Wan (“Relaxed and Easy Wanderer,” a 1000-year-old classic based around Bupleurum), and maybe they get crankier for a few days (“the heat is being released”), and then they just... chill.

Research in animals seems to suggest Bupleurum can do something along these lines.  For example, tired and stressed rats are calmed slightly; their memories work better.   They're less frustrated and worked-up.  (Although, to be fair, they are rats, so it's kind of hard to extrapolate...)

Bupleurum also treats the Western liver. It has been shown to normalize elevated liver enzyme levels in animal studies, as well as protect the liver from chemical injury. And in some very preliminary research, it appears to exert a similar protective effect on the kidneys.

Finally, Bupleurum has complex interactions with the immune system. The more you get into the nitty-gritty of the research – specific constituents of Bupleurum having very specific effects on specific cytokines and lymphocyte subsets – the more confusing it can get. So I step back from the minutiae of the Immunology and just say: Bupleurum is indicated in lingering and recurrent infections – or acute infections that you don’t want to become lingering or recurrent.

Bupleurum essential oils reduce fever and inflammation.  These essential oils are poorly water-soluble, and evaporate rapidly.  A good tincture (stored with the lid tightly shut) ought to have some; a decoction will have almost none. 

SAFETY: Caution would be prudent if using Bupleurum in conjunction with psych meds, especially those that regulate mood. But I am unaware of any specific concerns.

I couldn’t tell you. 30-60 drops of the standard tincture, 2-3 times a day?  Honestly, this is an herb I really only think of using in formulas. 



© 2009 Adam Herbs. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Use common sense. Don't jump into a full therapeutic dose of anything the first day. Trust your experience more than someone's learned opinion. If you're dealing with something scary or serious, work with a professional. If the professional appears incompetent, find a better one.