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Cornus (shan zhu yu)

What is cornus? What is it used for?

Cornus is a type of tree found in the woodland regions of China and Korea. It grows to a height of about 30 feet, and contains fleshy, green oval-shaped leaves and small, berry-shaped fruit.

Both the fruit and bark are used medicinally, but for different conditions. The fruits are harvested when ripe, then dried for future use. They can also be eaten as food, either raw or cooked.

Cornus has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. The fruit is associated with the kidneys and reproductive system (and to a lesser extent, the liver), and is characterized as being slightly warm and having a sour taste. Cornus is rarely taken alone, but is often used in formulas that control body fluids and treat excessive sweating and urination. Cornus may also be used in formulas that treat tinnitus, dizziness and extreme shock; extracts may be effective against the salmonella and shigella bacteria. In some cases, cornus bark is used as an astringent to treat fevers and combat malaria.

How much cornus should I take?

The dosage of cornus used depending on the condition being treated and the formula into which it is incorporated. If it is being used alone, most practitioners recommend 5-10 grams daily, either as a decoction or tincture. Dosage can be increased to 30 grams if necessary.

What forms of cornus are available?

Whole, raw or dried cornus fruits are available at most Asian markets. Cornus is also available as a powder, tincture or extract, or as part of a larger herbal formula.

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

Since cornus acts as diuretic, it should not be taken by patients who are on diuretic medications, nor should it be taken by patients who experience painful or difficult urination. As of this writing, there are no known side-effects or drug interactions with cornus.


  • Cornus. Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. Gale Group, 2001.
  • Reid D. A Handbook of Chinese Healing Herbs. Boston: Shambhala Press, 1995, pp. 104-105.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. (eds.) The American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 37.
  • Teeguarden R. The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs. New York: Warner Books, 1998, p. 205.
  • Zhu YP. Chinese Materia Medica. The Netherlands: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998, pp. 668-670.
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