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Ophiopogon (mai dong)

What is ophiopogon? What is it used for?

Ophiogon is a small herb grown in small parts of China. The plant has long, thin green leaves and tuberous whitish roots, which are used in a variety of herbal remedies. It is typically harvested in the summer and allowed to dry out before use.

Studies on ophiopogon have shown it to possess antipyretic, antitussive, expectorant, diuretic, cardiotonic and tonifying properties. It has also been reported to lower blood sugar, reduce inflammation and protect the body from bacterial infections.

In traditional Chinese medicine, ophiopogon is believed to moisten the lungs and nourish yin; strengthen the stomach; clear away heat in the heart; and moisten the bowels to relieve constipation. It is also believed by some to be a very powerful shen tonic.

How much ophiopogon should I take?

Most practitioners recommend 5-10 grams of dried ophiopogon root decocted in water, depending on the condition. It may also be combined with other herbs to treat deficiencies or tonify yin.

What forms of ophiopogon are available?

The most common form of ophiopogon is as a whole, uncut root. Fresh ophiopogon tuber is considered better than hard, dry tubers. It may also be available in powder form, especially as part of another herbal formula.

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

According to TCM principles, ophiopogon should not be used in cases of spleen deficiency that result in diarrhea, or in cases of cough due to exopathegonic wind or retention of phlegm in the lungs.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with ophiopogon. As always, consult with a qualified health care provider before taking ophiopogon or any other herbal remedy or supplement.


  • Chang HM, But PPH. Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica. Philadelphia, PA: World Scientific, 1986.
  • Hua Q, et al. Experimental study on the potentiation effect of ginseng and ophiopogon injection for chemotherapy in mice with graft tumors. International Journal of Oriental Medicine 2001; 26(1): 14-18.
  • Huang B, Wang Y. Thousand Formulas and Thousand Herbs of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Harbin: Heilongjiang Education Press, 1993.
  • Yeung HC. Handbook of Chinese Herbs. Rosemead, CA: Institute of Chinese Medicine, 1996.
  • Zhu YP. Chinese Materia Medica: Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Applications. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998.
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