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Imperata (bai mao gen)

What is imperata? What is it used for?

Imperata is a type of grass native to southeast Asia. It grows from two to four feet in height, with leaves that are about an inch wide that taper off to a sharp tip.

The surface of the plant is yellow-white in color; when it dies, however, it turns dark red, which has given imperata the nickname "blood grass." The rhizome of the plant is used medicinally; it is harvested in the spring or autumn, cleaned, dried and then cut into small pieces.

Imperata has a sweet taste; in traditional Chinese medicine precepts, it has a cold property, and works on the Lung, Stomach and Urinary Bladder channels. It functions to cool the blood and stop bleeding, and to clear heat from the lung and stomach and promote urination. Among the conditions it treats are vomiting; febrile diseases that cause excessive thirst; edema; dysuria; and bleeding. Imperata also has antibacterial properties; some studies have shown it can combat both staphylococcus aureus and bacillus dysenteriae.

How much imperata should I take?

The typical recommended dosage of imperata is 15-30 grams taken as a decoction, or 30-60 grams of fresh herb. Dosage may be adjusted depending on the condition(s) being treated.

What forms of imperata are available?

Both fresh and dried imperata rhizome are available at most Asian markets and/or health food stores.

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

The American Herbal Products Association has given imperata a class one rating, meaning that it can be safely consumed when used appropriately. However, imperata should not be used by patients with spleen deficiency. As of this writing, there are no known adverse drug interactions with imperata. Make sure to consult with a qualified, licensed health care provider before taking imperata or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Becker S. A Handbook of Chinese Hematology. Boulder, CO: Blue Poppy Press, 2000, pp. 160-174.
  • Gaffney JF. Ecophysiological and technological factors influencing the management of cogon grass (imperata cylindrica).  Dissertation. Agronomy Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, 1996.
  • Lippincott CL. Ecological consequences of imperata cylindrica (cogon grass): Invasion in Florida Sandhill.  Dissertation.  Botany Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, 1997.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 63.
  • Zixiao W. Differential treatment of frequent urination in elderly patients. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
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