Bupleurum: Where in the World
habitat and range for bupleurum

Bupleurum is native to East Asia—China, Korea.

Bupleurum: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about bupleurum

Bupleurum is a member of the Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae) family. This herb looks very similar to fennel and dill, excepting its long thin leaves are very different from the lace-like leaf appearance of the other two plants. Burpleurum is also bitter in comparison.

Bupleurum chinense is a perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.6 m (2ft). It is in flower from July to October, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects. The plant is self-fertile.

common names & nomenclature
The Chinese name for this plant is Chai Hu, which translates to mean "kindling of the barbarians".

Also known as:
hare’s ear, chai hu, bupleurum, chinese thoroughwax, thorowax, chaifu, chaihu, chai hu chaiku-saiko, chinese thoroughwax root, hare's ear root, northern chinese thorowax root, radix bupleuri, saiko, shi ho, shoku-saiko, sho-saiko-to, shrubby hare's ear, sickle-leaf hare's ear, siho, wa-saiko, xiao chai hu tang, yamasaiko.

Bupleurum: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting bupleurum

Bupleurum can be found in grassy areas on hills and mountain slopes in Korea. Grasslands, stream banks, sunny slopes and roadsides at elevations of 100-2700 metres in China. It can grow in semi-shade or no shade.

Bupleurum grows in sandy, loamy and heavy clay soils and prefers dry to moist, well-drained soil.

Sow seeds in spring in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates in 2-8 weeks. Transplant out the seedlings into pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer or following spring. Can also propagate by division in spring—larger clumps can be planted directly into the outdoor planting bed. It is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are well rooted before planting them out in the summer.

Harvest bupleurum roots in autumn, use fresh or dried.

Dry the roots completely and store as cut slices or as a powder in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Bupleurum: The Rest of the Story
bupleurum history, folklore, literature & more

Bupleurum root, also known as Chinese Thoroughwax and Hare's Ear, is obtained from Bupleurum chinense. As a member of the Umbelliferae family, this herb bears a resemblance to fennel and dill. However, the bitter taste of the leaves and stems excludes this herb from culinary duty and, unlike many of its botanical cousins, the only part of the plant with medicinal value is the root.

Chai Hu—as this plant is known in Chinese—translates to mean "kindling of the barbarians." Most likely this name stems from the fact that this herb has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries to treat impaired shaoyang, which is characterized by a blockage of "Qi" energy in certain channels in the body that causes internal heat to rise. Generally referred to as shaoyang syndrome, various organs may be affected, most notably the liver and gallbladder.

The first recorded medicinal use of Bupleurum appeared in the Treatise on Cold Induced Febrile Disease, a Chinese medical text that dates to the close of the Eastern Han Dynasty in the 3rd century AD. Since there are 269 herbal formulas given in this book, the volume is regarded as the “Father of Formula.” One of these formulas is Xiao Chai Hu Tang, an ancient Chinese remedy designed to harmonize shaoyang, an imbalance of which might otherwise lead to gynecological, liver or gallbladder disorders evidenced by fever, chills, infection, congestion, jaundice, nausea and vomiting. This same formula, which combines Bupleurum with licorice, ginger, ginseng, Chinese skullcap and peony root, is also known as the Japanese Kampo medicine Sho-Saiko-To. In Japan, this is the primary treatment for hepatitis and liver cancer.

Observations about the medicinal effects and administration of Bupleurum may grace the pages of ancient tomes, but the plant has made quite a splash in modern medical literature since the 1980s as well. More than 75 clinical studies on the pharmacological actions of Bupleurum root have been conducted at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the University of California and other institutions, and published in peer-reviewed journals, such as Cancer Letters and the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry. Of particular interest to scientists is a group of alkaloids isolated from the root collectively known as saikosaponins. In short, these compounds appear to diffuse biological processes that produce inflammation in the body, increase immune function and stimulate the expression of certain genes that suppress tumor growth and cause cancer cells to die. As an added bonus, some researchers suspect that Bupleurum compounds may directly destroy invading bacteria and viruses.

Long-term use or high dosages of Bupleurum may cause vomiting, constipation, bloating and swelling of the face or extremities. Another potential side effect may be an increased risk of interstitial pneumonitis, a disease that scars the lungs. Do not use this herb if you are pregnant, nursing or taking antibiotics.


Acupuncture Today; Herbal Monograph for Xiao Chai Hu Tang; John Chen, PhD, PharmD, OMD, LAc; July, 2007, Vol. 08, Issue 07

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Bupleurum