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Patrinia (bai jiang cao)

What is patrinia? What is it used for?

Patrinia is a perennial herb that belongs to the valerian family. It grows throughout the world's mountainous regions; in addition to China and Japan, it is also found in Africa and South America.

The typical patrinia consists of a single, long stem (of which there may be two or three branches), with flowers that grow in groups of three to five, and are often clustered. The whole plant, including the roots, is used in herbal preparations. Patrinia is harvested in the late summer and early fall, then washed, dried in the shade, then cut into sections.

Patrinia is pungent, bitter and slightly cold, and is associated with the Large Intestine, Stomach and Liver meridians. Its main functions are to clear away heat and eliminate blood stasis. Patrinia contains a variety of chemical compounds, including oleanolic acid, sinigrin, tannin, and a powerful volatile oil. As such, patrinia is often used to treat inflammatory conditions related to the colon and abdomen, along with abscesses and infections. It can also treat various skin ailments via external administration. It is often used with houttuynia, dandelion and honeysuckle.

How much patrinia should I take?

The typical dosage of patrinia is between 6 and 15 grams per day, decocted in water for oral administration. Larger doses can be used as needed to treat external conditions.

What forms of patrinia are available?

Whole, dried patrinia can be found at some herbal shops and Asian markets. Fresh patrinia is less easy to find, but it can also be used by grinding and mashing it to apply to the skin. In addition, powdered patrinia is often found in some herbal formulas; a patrinia infusion, made from the herb's volatile oil, may also be available.

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

Patrinia should be avoided by patients diagnosed with weakness of the spleen or stomach. Long-term use may lead to nausea and/or dizziness, and may even lead to a temporary reduction in the amount of a person's white blood cells.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with patrinia. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking patrinia or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Gu Z, Chen X, Yang G, et al. Studies on immunocompetent constituents of patrinia scabra Bunge. Zhong Yao Cai March 2002;25(3):178-80.
  • Li TZ, Zhang WD, Gu ZB, et al. Studies on the lignans from patrinia scabra. Yao Xue Xue Bao July 2003;38(7):520-2.
  • Yang B, Jim N, Tong L, et al. Isolation and identification of oleanonic acid from patrinia scabiosaefolia. Zhong Yao Cai January 1999;22(1):23-4.
  • Yang GJ, Yu ZB, Liu WY, et al. Two new iridoids from patrinia scabra. J Asian Nat Prod Res December 2004;6(4):277-80.
  • Zhang W, Chen H. Studies on the chemical constituents of essential oil from roots and rhizomes of patrinia rupestris. Zhong Yao Cai August 1999;22(8):403-4.
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