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Curculigo (xian mao)

What is curculigo? What is it used for?

Curculigo is a type of grass native to east Asia, found growing throughout the hilly areas of India and China. The typical curculigo consists of a few long blades and a single, yellow flower, which has earned it the nickname of "golden-eye grass."

The plant's rhizomes are used in herbal remedies. The rhizomes are dug up in the early spring, stripped of loose fibrous material, dried in the sun, then cut into slices. It can be used raw, or after being baked with wine.

According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, curculigo has acrid and hot properties, and is associated with the Kidney, Liver and Spleen meridians. It is considered mildly toxic as well. It is used to treat a variety of conditions, ranging from pain in the knees and lower back to chest colds, abdominal pain, anemia, and difficult urination. Some practitioners recommend curculigo as a tonic to strengthen the functions of the kidneys.

How much curculigo should I take?

The typical dosage of curculigo is between 3 and 10 grams, combined with boiling water and drunk as a decoction. Some practitioners may recommend higher doses (10-15 grams), depending on the condition being treated.

What forms of curculigo are available?

Sliced, dried curculigo rhizome can be found at some herbal shops. It is also available as a decoction, and in pill, powder and ointment forms.

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

Curculigo should not be taken by patients diagnosed with yin deficiency and heat, and (because of its mild toxicity) should not be taken for extended periods of time.

The American Herbal Products Association has given curculigo a class 3 rating, which means that there is significant data to recommend the following label on any curculigo products: "To be used only under the supervision of an expert qualified in the appropriate use of this substance." The label must also include proper usage information, including dosage, contraindications, potential adverse effects, drug interactions, and any other relevant information related to the safe use of curculigo.


  • Cometa MF, Palazzino G, Galeffi C, et al. Studies on vasoconstrictor activity of curculigo pilosa extracts and of its isolated compounds. Farmaco May-July 2001;56(5-7):353-6.
  • Huang Y. Advances in the study of curculigo orchioids Gaertn. Zhong Yao Cai March 2003;26(3):225-9.
  • Lakshmi V, Pandey K, Puri A, et al. Immunostimulant principles from curculigo orchioides. J Ethnopharmacol December 2003;89(2-3):181-4.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 38.
  • Tang SY, Whiteman M, Peng ZF, et al. Characterization of antioxidant and antiglycation properties and isolation of active ingredients from traditional Chinese medicines. Free Radic Biol Med June 15, 2004;36(12):1575-87.
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