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Cremastra (shan ci gu)

What is cremastra? What is it used for?

Cremastra is also known as Chinese tulip (cremastra appendiculata [D. Don] Makino), a type of flower native to the Guizhou and Sichuan provinces of China. The bulb is white in appearance, and resembles a large clove of garlic. Cremastra bulbs are usually harvested in May and June.

After getting rid of any attached stems, leaves and roots, the bulb is washed clean and dried in the sun before being used in herbal preparations.

Cremastra has sweet, cold and acrid properties in traditional Chinese medicine, and is associated with the Liver, Spleen and Stomach meridians. Its main actions are to clear heat and fire toxicity.

Cremastra can be used both internally and externally. Internally, it has been used to fight tumors and cancers of the breast, cervix and uterus in women; some studies have used injections of cremastra extracts to battle cancerous tumors. Externally, it treats boils and skin lesions, and can be applied to affected parts of the body as part of a poultice or paste.

The main active ingredient in cremastra is colchicine. Research has shown that colchicine is extremely toxic. As such, cremastra should be ingested or applied using extreme caution.

How much cremastra should I take?

The generally recommended dose of cremastra is 3-6 grams per day, using either crushed or powdered cremastra as part of a decoction. Larger amounts can be used when cremastra is applied topically.

What forms of cremastra are available?

Cremastra is available as a powder or pill. Some herbal shops may sell cremastra pastes, or whole, dried cremastra bulbs.

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

Large doses of cremastra can lead to a wide range of ailments, ranging from vomiting and abdominal pain to diarrhea, bloody stools and, in extreme cases, death. As a result, cremastra should never be taken without first consulting with a licensed health care provider. It should never be taken with alcohol, and should never be taken by patients who are deficient. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with cremastra. As always, make sure to consult with a qualified health care provider before taking cremastra or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Li H, et al. A report on four cases of liver carcinoma treated by topical adhesive method. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1996;16(4):243-246.
  • Lin CC, Namba T. Historical and herbological studies on the traditional Japanese and Chinese crude drugs. On the shan-ci-gu. Yakushigaku Zasshi 1985;20(2):88-98. Japanese.
  • Liu M, Yao M, Shen P. Personal experience in herbal treatment of post-operative breast cancer. Affiliated Longhua Hospital. Shanghai College of TCM 1991.
  • Shim JS, Kim JH, Lee J, et al. Anti-angiogenic activity of a homoisoflavanone from cremastra appendiculata. Planta Med Feb 2004;70(2):171-3.
  • Wang G, Zhao L, Xu G. Observation on the results of 216 cases of breast cancer treated with integrated Chinese-Western medicine. China Chinese Medicine Research Institute, Guang An Men Hospital. Intermediate Medical Periodical [Zhong Ji Yi Kan] 1988, 23(8).
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