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Selaginella (shi shang bai)

What is selaginella? What is it used for?

Selaginella is a perennial, fern-like plant, also known as the spike moss, which grows throughout the rain forests and tropical regions of Asia and the Americas. It grows quite low to the ground, with small, bright green leaves that often overlap one another.

According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, selaginella has sweet, spicy, bitter and cold properties, and is associated with the Liver, Lung and Stomach meridians. Its main functions are to clear heat, reduce toxicity, and drain damp heat. Among the conditions selaginella is used for are coughs, sore throats, and jaundice. Selaginella is also used to treat cancer of the liver and cirrhosis of the liver. More recent research has shown that selaginella may be effective against both acute and chronic hepatitis. Selaginella may also be used externally to help stop bleeding and promote wound healing.

How much selaginella should I take?

The typical dose of selaginella is between 15 and 30 grams. Larger doses (up to 60 grams per day) are considered if selaginella is being used to treat cirrhosis or other liver disorders.

What forms of selaginella are available?

Selaginella is available in a variety of forms. Whole, dried selaginella may be purchased at some Asian markets and herbal shops. Prepared selaginella can be found in pill, powder and tablet forms.

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

Selaginella should be taken with caution by patients diagnosed with cold deficiency. Taking large amounts of selaginella may result in loss of appetite and abdominal discomfort.

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


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  • Ma SC, But PP, Ooi VE, et al. Antiviral amentoflavone from selaginella sinensis. Biol Pharm Bull March 2001;24(3):311-2.
  • Yin MH, Kang DG, Choi DH, et al. Screening of vasorelaxant activity of some medicinal plants used in Oriental medicines. J Ethnopharmacol May 13, 2005;99(1):113-7.
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