Home / Chinese Herb / CNIDIUM [川芎, CHUAN XIONG]


Name : CnidiumCnidium_silaifolium0_opt

Chinese Name : 川芎

Latin Name : Radix Ligustici Chuanxiong


This herb is the dried rhizoma of Ligusticum chuanxiong Hort. of the  family Umbelliferae. It grows mainly in the Guizhou, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces of China is collected in summer, washed, sliced, and used unprocessed or stir baked with wine until dry.

Cnidium promotes blood circulation, and relieves stagnation of Qi and blood. This outstanding herb was traditionally used for a large variety of difficulties, such as cold, headaches, anemia, menstrual difficulties, sterility, and pains and aches of all kinds, including toothaces, headaches, and rheumatalgia. Today, cnidium is widely used for coronary heart disease and  cerebral embolism. Cnidium is an excellent antiaging medicinal herb.

Use of Cnidium in TCM

Pungent in taste and warm, it acts on the liver and gallbladder meridians.

Effects, Medicial Uses, and Combinations

  1. Promotes the circulation of Qi and blood, and relieves stagnation and pain:
  • For menstrual pain caused by stagnation of Qi and blood, cnidium is commonly precribed with Chinese angelica root and red peony root (chi shao). Cnidium is also used with bupleurum for pain in the hypochondriac region or with red peony root and carthamus (hung hua) for  numbness in the extrem ities and for traumatic injuries.
  • Cnidium is blended with Chinese angelica, peach jernel carthamus, and astragalus root, as in Bu Yang Huan Wu Tang (R-34), for hemiplegia and after-stroke symptoms.
  1. Dispels pathogenic Wind, and eliminates associated headaches and pain:
  • For migraine headaches due to Wind-Cold pathogens, a stuffy nose, sinus headaches, fever, and pain in the limbs, cnidium is combined with dahurian angelica root (bai zhi), siler (fang feng), notopterygium, schizonepeta, licorice root, mentha, and asarum root (xi xin), as in the Chuan Xiong Cha Tiao San (R-49).
  • To treat headaches caused by Wind-Heat pathogens, cnidium is mixed with chrysanthemum, gypsum (Shi gao), and silkworm (jiang can).
  • For headaches due to Wind-Damp pathogens, cnidium is dispensed with notopterygium root, pubescent angelica, licorice root, ligusticum root (gao ben), and siler (fang feng), as in the Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Tang (R-57).
  • For headaches due to blood deficiency, cnidium is often combined  with Chinese angelica root, prepared rehmannia root, white  peony root, and chrysanthemum.
  • For headaches caused by stagnation of blood circulation, cnidium is mixed with salvia root, red peony root, carthamus, peach kernel, bupleurum, and platycodon root, as in Xue Zhu Yu Tang (R-38).
  • For rheumatic arthralgia, cnidium is prescribed with siler, pubescent angelica root, large-leaf gentian root (qin-jiao), and loranthus (sang ji sheng).
  1. Invigorates the circulation of blood and regulates menstruation:
  • For menstrual disorders, irregular menstruation, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, dystocia (dificult labor), postpartum lochiostasis, or lower abdominal pain due to stagnant blood, cnidium is used with red peony root and cyperus tuber, or with peach kernel, carthamus, Chinese angelica, and white peony, as in Tao Hong Si Wu Tang (R-16).
  • For early onset of menstruation, excessive blood loss, shortness of breath, or fatigue, cnidium is prescribed with ginseng, astragalus, processed rehmmania, and Chinese angelica in a decoction , as in Sheng Yu Tang.
  • For metrorrhagia, metrostaxis, dysmenorrhea accompanied by blood clots, or uterine functional bleeding as a result of Ren and Chong meridian imbalance, cnidium is dispensed with donkey-hide gelatin, artemisia leaf, Chinese angelica, white peony, processed rehmannia, and licorice root, as in Jiao Ai Tang.


In a decoction of 3 to 9 g.


This herb should be used cautiously by those who have a deficiency of yin and Qi, those who have headaches due to hyperactivity of liver yang, or those who suffer from  profuse menstruation.

Side Effects and Toxicity

The therapeutic dose of cnidium is safe. No severe adverse  reactions have been reported, however the following symptoms may occur in a minority of patients: gastrointestinal discomfort and, in rare cases, advanced menstruation and menorrhagia (Zhu, 1998). A daily oral dose of 5 or 10 mg/kg of the alkaloid  from the herb, tetramythylpyrazine (TMZ), for four weeks showed no significant abnormalities in body wight, blood profiles, liver and kidney functions, and in pathological examination.

Chemical Constituents

Cnidium root and rhizome  contain alkaloids, phthalides, phenols, and volatile  oil. The alkaloids include ligastrazine, chuanxiongzine, cnidilide, tretramethylpyrazine (TMZ), and perlolyrine. The phthalides include ligastilide, chuanxiongol, butylphthalide, butylidene phthalide, and senkyuolide. The phenols include ferulic acid, chrysophanol, vanilic acid, caffeic acid, and sedanoic acid. The volatile oil contains phthalides.

Pharmacological Findings

  1. Action on uterus: 10 percent cnidium extract the contractions of the uterus in pregnant rabbits and even caused spasms. Large doses caused paralysis and stopped
  2. Action on the heart in rabbits: chuanxiongzine increased the contractions of heart muscles and left ventricle activity, increased consumption of oxygen in the cardiac muscles, and increased  the heart rate.

In anesthetized dogs and rabbits, cnidium aqueous extract and chuanxiongzine both lowered blood pressure,     enlarged the peripheral blood vessel, improved peripheral circulation, and decreased the consumption of oxygen in the cardiac muscles and the resistance of the peripheral blood vessels.

  1. Action on CNS : a sedative, tranquilizing and anticonvulsive reactions have been observed. A small dosage is excitatory on the respiratory center, the medullary  cardiovascular center, and cerebral reflex. A large dosage showed opposite effects.
  2. Reduces the agglutination and peripheral activities of blood platelets: TMZ inhibited ADP-or collagen-induced platelet aggregation in rabbits and human patients with coronary heart diseases.
  3. Antimicrobial.

Clinical Findings

Cnidium is now widely used  in Chinese hospitals to treat ischemic cerebrovascular diseases, coronary heart disease, and angina pectoris satisfactorily, without side effects. In nineteen patients with angina pectoris treated with the extract of the herb, significant symptomatic improvement of the ST segment of electrocardiogram (ECG) was reported in one-third of the cases. Blood pressure was normalized in six of the twelve case complicated with hypertension.

Cnidium has been used to treat migraines. Oral administrationkn  of sodium ferulate (a salt of ferulic acid isolated from the herb) was  tested in 187 migraine patients. The effective rate was 89.3 percent in an open clinical trial and 86.9 percent in a double-blind trial. The clinical effect was associated with the inhibitory rate of platelet aggregation.