Actea rubra and related species

Welcome back, I have been a bit busy with writing  and other various projects, but I thought I would give you a preview of one of the monographs from my upcoming book. The book is the second volume of Western Herbs According to Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Practitioners Guide, which you can find in the Books I Recommend gadget to the right of the blog text here. I have brought in a co-author for this volume, long time friend and gifted herbalist and teacher, Benjamin Zappin. This text will prove to be a significant addition to the first book with more monographs, deeper explanation of the process I/we use and more translation of source material. It will also have other goodies, stay tuned. We are also planning an online course for those who want to learn how to work with Western herbs in their practice beyond what we present in the texts.
Actea rubra
Actea rubra
It is sweet, slightly bitter, slightly acrid, warm
It enters the liver and spleen channels.

It nourishes the liver, enriches blood, and relaxes the sinews. Treats a variety of symptoms associated with liver blood vacuity such as scant menstruation, tugging and slacking, sinew hypertonicity, sinew pain.
And it also quickens the blood and resolves stasis. Treats blood stasis, especially due to or in combination with blood vacuity. This medicinal is particularly important for lower burner stasis associated with menstrual disorders or other conditions associated with the liver channel.
This genus, Actea, has, in the past couple years, grown by a bit since the genus, formally known as cimicifuga (but had been formally listed as actea) has now been reunited as Actea. What this means is that the plants in the genus Cimicifua, which includes the Chinese herb sheng1ma2 (升麻) and the famous Western medicinal black cohosh are no longer in the cimicifuga genus, in fact the cimicifuga genus no longer exists. This is, in the end, not all that important, but what it does tell us is that plants formally known as cimicifuga and those that have always been in the actea genus are more closely related than we had thought previously (Note: Another genus Souliea, which has only one species in China, Bhutan, Burma (Myranmar), India, and Sikkim has also been merged into the Actaea genus, see below for more info.) This is good news in a way, although many herbalists have recognized the similarities in use between actea and cimicifuga, we now have a combined larger genus, ~18 cimicifuga ~8 actaea means that we now have ~24 species in one genus to study and assess for medicinal qualities. It should be noted here that the Grand Dictionary of Chinese Medicinals lists three species of cimicifuga as sheng1ma2 (C. heracleifolia, C. dahurica, and C. foetida [the last two have also been listed as Actaea]. Another species known as xiao3sheng1ma2 (小升麻) is listed as C. acerina (Sieb. Et Zucc.). And, finally a plant known as ye3sheng1ma2 (野升麻) listed as C. simplex Wormsk. All these species are used more or less the same, although, of course, each has some of its own individual characteristics. 
Here is some information on some related species used in China.
Actea asiatica Hara (绿豆升麻 lv4dou4sheng1ma2) first appeared in the Wan Xian Zhong Ben Cao (万县中本草, 1977) although it has likely been used for a lot longer than that. It has a very wide range between 350-3100 meters throughout much of China from Inner Mongolia south and west to Yunnan and Tibet. The Grand Dictionary of Chinese Medicinals says it is acrid and slightly bitter, and neutral. It dissipates wind-heat, outthrusts papules, and resolves toxin. It is used to treat wind-heat head ache, wind-papules, measles not outthrusting, whooping cough, and dog bite. The Gan Su Zhong Yao Shou Ce (甘肃中药手册) calls this herb lei4ye4sheng1ma2 (类叶升麻) and says it is acrid bitter and slightly warm. It dispels wind-dampness and effuses the exterior and outthrusts papules. It treats wind-damp pain, measles not outthrusting, and skin wind-papules, etc.
Souliea vaginata (Maxim.) Franch. is known as huang2san1qi1 (黄三七) and as mentioned above has been brought into the Actaea genus along with Cimicifuga. It first appeared in 1971 in the Shaanxi Zhong Cao Yao (陕西中草药). In this book it is considered bitter and cool. It drains fire and dries dampness, clears the heart and eliminates vexation, is antibacterial and disperses inflammation, and fortifies the stomach. It is used for throat inflammation, conjunctivitis, stomatitis, steaming bone tidal heat, flusteredness and heart palpitations, vexation and disquietude, bacterial dysentery, intestinal inflammation, and toxic swollen welling-abscess.

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