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Cyperus (xiang fu)

What is cyperus? What is it used for?

Also known as the nutgrass, cyperus is a small plant found throughout China. It usually consists of a single stem, with smaller, extremely long, thin green leaves that taper to a point.

The rhizome of the plant is used in herbal remedies. It is harvested in the fall; after dirt and other fibrous matter has been removed, it is dried in the sun or steamed, then either smashed into pieces or cut into slices.

Cyperus has a slightly bitter taste. In traditional Chinese medicine, it serves two functions:

  1. It soothes the liver and regulates the flow of qi (often used in combination with other herbs to promote qi flow). In cases of epigastric or abdominal pain, cyperus is used with other herbs such as bupleurum, aucklandia and white peony.
  2. It regulates menstruation to relieve pain. Cyperus is a primary herb for the treatment of irregular menstruation and dysmenorrhea, and is especially effective when the condition is caused by depressed liver qi.

How much cyperus should I take?

The recommended dosage of cyperus is 6-9 grams, used in a decoction. Some herbalists recommend slightly higher doses (up to 12 grams) depending on the severity of the condition being treated.

What forms of cyperus are available?

Cyperus is available either as a decoction or extract. Raw herb is also available in some Asian markets; it is often pan-fried with vinegar.

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

As of this writing, there are no known interactions or adverse effects associated with cyperus. The American Herbal Products Association has given it a class one rating, meaning that it is safe when used appropriately. However, you should always consult with a licensed health care provider before taking cyperus or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Belanger C. Chinese Herb Selection Guide. Brookline, MA: Redwing Books, 1997 p. 633.
  • Bensky D, Gamble A. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1986, p. 415.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 40.
  • Mehta RS, Shankar MB, et al. Evaluation of cyperus rotundus for hepatoprotective activity. Indian Journal of Natural Products June 15, 1999(1):13-17.
  • Ying Q, et al. Recent developments in Chinese medicine research of liver disease. Zhongyi Zazhi (Journal of Chinese Medicine)1994:12, pp. 750-751.
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