From left to right: Tree peony, Chinese figwort, marshmallow


The herbal category, Herbs that Cool the Blood, is not known in Western herbalism but is one of the five main categories in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for clearing Heat. This category of herbs treats many different conditions, for when Heat enters the Blood level it can push the Blood out of its pathways like lava (bleeding), cause skin outbreaks and eruptions, dry fluids resulting in dryness, and when penetrating as a fever, causes more severe symptoms. Western herbs that cool the Blood include demulcent febrifuges.

When Heat penetrates to the Blood level, there may be skin eruptions and bleeding such as epistaxis and hematuria. (It is also possible to experience moderate symptoms of these Heat levels without fever.) However, when febrile diseases penetrate deeper in the body, it is the most serious stage of an infectious disease or its sequelae since it burns up the vital fluids, causing acute internal deficiency. Possible symptoms include high fever, fever at night, mental restlessness, irritability, insomnia, dry mouth with no desire to drink, spots on the skin, manic behavior, and in severe cases, convulsions or coma.

Herbs that cool the Blood are also useful for chronic low-grade febrile or infectious conditions, skin diseases, and Deficient Heat symptoms of five palm heat (heat in the palms, soles, and/or chest regions), malar flush, low-grade afternoon fever, dry mouth at night, night sweats, irritability, restlessness, and steaming bone disorder.

These herbs combine demulcent and Blood-nourishing properties as well as a cool energy. Many have tonic properties and are related to Yin and Blood tonics. Demulcent febrifuges (fever-reducing herbs) are often added to strong Heat-clearing herbs to help protect the body’s fluids, or to Blood tonics to protect and nourish the Blood.

Contraindications include Cold conditions or those with Phlegm and/or Damp Stagnation.

Example herbs that cool the Blood (along with the three described below) include: raw rehmannia, white mulberry leaf, isatis leaf, anemarrhena rhizome, Chinese lobelia herb, star jasmine stem, red sage root, madder root, and burnet root.

Tree Peony: Moutan Peony Root Bark, Paeonia suffruticosa, Mu dan pi

When taken raw, moutan or tree peony eliminates Heat from the Blood and clears Deficient Heat. It treats steaming bone disorder, late afternoon and night fevers, and hot flashes. As well, moutan peony is used for symptoms of headache, flushing, and eye pain. If stir-baked, it increases the blood circulation, and when calcined (roasted), it stops bleeding such as spitting of blood, vomiting of blood, nosebleed, and menorrhagia.

Energy and flavors: Slightly cold, pungent, bitter
Organs and channels affected: Heart, liver, kidney
Chemical constituents: Paeonolide, paeonoside, paenol, paeoniflorin, oxypaeoniflorin
Properties and actions: Antibacterial, hypotensive, sedative, analgesic, anti- inflammatory; cools the blood, calms liver yang rising
Contraindications: Pregnancy, diarrhea
Dosage and preparation: Decoction, 6-12g. Standard tincture (1:2 @50% ABV)

Chinese Figwort Root, Scrophularia ningpoensis, Xuan shen

Chinese figwort Is an example of a common, widely underutilized herb with about 200 species growing worldwide that offers tremendous therapeutic value to herbalists. Many have been used medicinally for relieving inflammation, pain, and arthritis, all similar uses to the Chinese species, and so can only be surmised that many of these would share similar properties as those ascribed to the Chinese species discussed here.

Chinese figwort clears Heat and Fire, cools the Blood, and transforms Phlegm Heat, making it quite a versatile herb. It especially treats conditions in the upper part of the body such as dry cough with thin, blood-streaked sputum, dry cough, and symptoms of irritability, insomnia, nervousness, and dizziness. It is specifically used to reduce hard lumps and nodules due to Phlegm-Fire (extreme Heat), particularly in the neck, such as boils, carbuncles, scrofula, and goiter. It also is effective for infectious diseases. It further has pain-killing properties and reduces edema.

It has a secondary function of nourishing Yin and thus, treating Deficient Heat symptoms such as steaming bone disorder, dry mouth and throat (especially at night), continuous low grade or afternoon fevers or sensation of Heat in the afternoon or evening, malar flush, and dry constipation.

Energy and flavors: Cold, bitter, salty, sweet
Organs and channels affected: Lung, stomach, kidney, large intestine
Chemical constituents: Harpagide, stachyose, fatty acid, phytosterol, L-asparagine, oleic acid, linoleic acid, stearic acid, carotene
Properties and actions: Antibacterial, antifungal, hypotensive, tonic; cools the Blood, nourishes yin, transforms phlegm
Contraindications: Diarrhea, poor digestion
Dosage and preparation: Decoction,9-15g; take with a pinch of salt to enhance its Yin-nourishing properties. Standard tincture (1:2 @75% fresh; 1:5 @60%ABV dry)

Marshmallow Root, Althaea officinalis

While marshmallow is classified as a demulcent with a cooling energy and moistening nature, it also clears Heat and cools the Blood and thus, stopping bleeding. The use of marshmallow root both as a medicine and a food (the leaves are steamed and eaten as a potherb) dates far back into antiquity and is rich in mild mucilage.

Its nourishing, moistening, and anti-inflammatory nature specifically treats dry conditions of the mouth, throat, stomach, intestines, bladder, kidneys, urethra, and skin, plus irritation and inflammation of all mucous membranes (GI and urinary tract). It also treats nosebleed, hematuria, and vomiting or spitting of blood

Marshmallow root treats septic, inflamed tissues and infections. It is used for pharyngitis, laryngitis, bronchitis, dry cough or thick and difficult-to-expectorate sputum, sore throat, tracheitis, ulcerative colitis, peptic ulcers, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, cystitis, kidney or bladder stones, and diabetes.

Energy and flavors: Cool, sweet, bitter
Organs and channels affected: Lung, stomach, kidney, small and large intestines, bladder
Chemical constituents: Starch, mucilage, pectin, oil, sugar, asparagin, phosphate of lime, glutinous matter, cellulose
Properties and actions: Demulcent, antitussive, anti-bacterial, nutritive, anti-inflammatory, alterative, diuretic, emollient, vulnerary, mild laxative, antipyretic; tonifies Yin, clears Heat toxins, stops bleeding
Contraindications: Loose stools, diarrhea with poor digestion
Dosage and preparation: Let 6-15g (or 1 tsp. chopped root to 1 oz water) stand several hours or prepare as short decoction or cold infusion; 1 cup TID. Paste, 1⁄2-1 tsp. taken 30- 60 minutes after meals.

NOTE:  Marshmallow root should be taken at least an hour apart from medications as it may inhibit their absorption.

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