Home / Chinese Herb / BUPLEURUM ROOT [柴胡, CHAI HU]


Name : Bupleurum Rootbupleurum_root_800_opt

Chinese Name : 柴胡

Latin Name : Radix Bupleuri


This herb is the dried root of Bupleurum Chinese DC. or B. scorzonerifolium Willd. of the family Umbelliferae. The formers is grown in the Gansu, Hebei, and Liaoning provinces; the latter is grown in the provinces of  Hubei, Jiangsu, and Sichuan of China. The root is dug up in the spring or autumn, dried, sliced, and used unprocessed, or stir baked with vinegar or wine.

As a medicine, it is considered to be febrifuge, aperients, a mild laxative, and carminative, and has been used for the treatment of flatulence, indigestion, colds and coughs, muscular pain and cramps, and acute diarrhea. Today it is used to relieve stagnancy in the liver and is mediating herb that perticulary benefits infectious febrile diseases of the Shao-yang meridian.

Use of Bupleurum Root in TCM

Bitter and pungent taste, and slightly cold, it acts on the liver and gallbladder meridians.

Effects, Medicinal Uses, and Combinations

  1. Expels Exterior pathogens and reduces Heat: For a feeling of fullness and discomfort in the chest, a bitter taste in the mouth, and dryness in the throat, bupleurum is combined with scute, pinellia, and codonopsis root, as in Xiao Chai Hu Tang (R-53).
  2. Invigorates Liver-Qi: for fullness and oppression in the chest and diaphragm region, with distending pain in the breasts and in the costal regions, caused by stagnation of the Liver-Qi, bupleurum root is dispensed with cyperus tubers (xiang fu), cnidium rhizome, tangerine peel, bitter orange, Chinese angelica, atractylodes, and white peony, as in Chai Hu Shu Gan San.
  3. This herb is blended with Chinese angelica and white peony root, as in Xiao Yao Wan (R-41). For irregular menstruation caused by stagnation of the Liver-Qi. It relieves prolapsed of the anus and rectum, and replenishes Qi. To treat proctoptosis, hysteroptosis, gastroptosis, shortness of breath, fatigue, and lassitude due to a deficiency and Sinking of Qi, bupleurum is blended with ginseng, astragalus root, and cimicifuga, as in Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (R-9), to reinforce the Middle-Jiao. To relieve pain in the costal region, bupleurum is mixed with 9 g each of aurantium fruit, and white peony, and 6 g of licorice root in a decoction.


In a decoction of 3 to 10 g.


People with excessive Fire of the liver or deficiency of yin should avoid this herb.

Side Effects and Toxicity

The therapeutic dose generates few side effects. With a large dose, patients have developed  mild  lassitude, poor appetite, drowsiness, and sedation after taking the granulated form of the herb. Toxicological studies show that the oral LD50 of the powedered herb in mice was 3 g/kg. The  LD50  values of the saponin fraction of the herb were 4.7 g/kg by oral administration, 1.9g/kg by subcutaneous administration, and 70 mg/kg by intraveneous administration. Another species, B. longiradiatum, is highly toxic (about six times more) and should not be used as a substitute for B. Chinese (chai hu).

Chemical Constituents

The roots and fruits contain saikosaponins as the main components. Other components include shaikosides, essential oil (blupleurmol, alphaspinasterol, and stigmasterol), pertoselic acid, petroseloidic acid, linolic acid, angelicin, and kaempferitrin.

The root of  B, chinense D.C (bei che hu) contains the volatile oil bupleurumol, oleic acid, linolenic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, lignoceric acid, saponins, and glucose.

The root of  B. scorzoneraefolium contains volatile oil, fat, alkaloids, and bupleurumol.

Bupleurumol, an essential oil, is the major active component of the herb. Also, alpha-spinasterol, stigmasterol. 422– stigmasterol, and adonitol have been isolated. The aboveground part of the herb yields flavones and saikosaponins.

In addition to those previously mentioned, several other bupleurum plants produced in north China and northeast China. One particular variety, called B. longiradiatum Turez, is highly toxic and should not be used for medicine purposes.

Pharmacological Findings

  1. The decoction or the alcoholic extract of the herb was shown to reduce fever in rabbits induced by triple vaccine, yeast, or colibacillis.
  2. Analgestic, sedative, antitussive, and anti-inflammatory.
  3. The decoction of the herb significantly alleviated liver injury, degeneration, and cirrhosis caused by carbon tetrachloride (CCI4), and decreased serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase levels.
  4. The sarkosaponin of the herb showed effectiveness in preventing rat gastric and duodenal ulcer induced by acetic acid, histamine, or by pylorus ligation.
  5. Antimicrobial. The herb’s decoction showed effectiveness in inhibiting the growth of S. hemolyticus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Leptospira.