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Cibotium (gou ji)

What is cibotium? What is it used for?

Cibotium is a large fern native to China and Mexico, with lacy, light green, leathery fronds which range in length from 18 inches to 3 feet.

There are approximately 12 different species of cibotium; however, the version used in traditional Chinese medicine is cibotium barometz, although it is not being cultivated in the U.S. on a commercial scale. The rhizomes are covered with long, soft, golden-yellow hairs, which have given the plant nicknames such as "golden hair dog" or "yellow dog hear." The rhizome is used in herbal formulas.

In traditional Chinese medicine, cibotium is used a tonic for the liver and kidneys. It strengthens the sinews and bones of the lower back, and expels wind and dampness. Cibotium is usually not taken alone, but is combined with other yang tonic herbs to strengthen the back and sexual organs. These same herbs may be used with other ingredients such as eucommia, drynaria and cinnamon twigs to relieve aches, pains and stiffness in the lumbar region of the back, and to relieve pain in the knees.

How much cibotium should I take?

Most herbalists recommend 10-15 grams of cibotium depending on the condition being treated.

What forms of cibotium are available?

Dried cibotium rhizome is usually available at quality Asian markets and specialty stores. The cibotium found in Chinese herb shops is considered to be of especially good quality. Cibotium powder is also available, though it is not as easy to find.

What can happen if I take too much cibotium? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

As of this writing, there are no known side-effects or drug interactions with cibotium. However, it should not be used by patients who are dehydrated, or have dry mouth or dark yellow/brown urine, or a bitter taste in the mouth. As always, consult with a qualified health care provider before taking cibotium or any other dietary supplement.


  • Buchner R, Dietrich G, Kiehn M. Tree fern parts in trade in Central and South America. CITES News March 1997, p. 3.
  • Jiansheng J, Xianchan Z. Assessment of resources and sustainable harvest of wild cibotium barometz in China. Beijing: CITES MA Appendix, 2001, unpublished report.
  • Kovacs J, Unschuld PU. Essential Subtleties on the Silver Sea. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998.
  • Lu W, et al. 230 cases of aseptic necrosis of the femoral head treated by combining therapy. China Journal of Orthopedics and Traumatology 2000;13(2):98-99.
  • Xu ZL. Pocket Handbook of Chinese Herbal Medicine. Miami: Waclion International, 2000, p. 93.
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