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Bupleurum is a member of the Apiaceae family of plants and has been a staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for over 2,000 years. The roots of this perennial plant are bright yellow, and bitter. It is referred to as “Chai Hu” in TCM texts. Its use for assisting with the proper movement of Qi (Chi) throughout the system most likely pre-dates written records. It is an ornamental plant with delicate yellow flowers and sickle shaped leaves. There is an American species (Bupleurum americanum) that can be found in Southwestern Montana and North Western Idaho.


It is a primary component in a Chinese patent medicine called “Xia Yao San” or “Xia Yao Wan” (“san” means powder and “wan” means pill). Another name for the formula is “Free and Easy Wanderer”, referring to the Taoist conception of being able to “Go with the Flow”. The function of the formula and of Bupleurum, is to help overcome the ingrained personal approach of clashing with-rather than flowing around-a difficulty that is encountered. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that living in conflict influences the person’s flow of qi and blood, causing it to flow erratically and bind up. In the Chinese model of health and disease, the free flow of Qi and blood is the requirement for health and the obstructed flow of Qi and blood is a cause of disease. Bupleurum is said to disperse Qi and clear heat from the liver network. Modern science is investigating the effects of Bupleurum on liver enzymes, mood, blood lipids, and immunity. It is a staple as well in Japanese Kampo medicine in the formula “Sho-Saiko-To” used to address liver concerns. Bupleurum is a staple in Chinese medicine for detoxification and is included in many formulas for this purpose.

Uses of Bupleurum


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Phyto-Sterols and Sapponins; Saikogenin (E,F,G,) and Saikosaponin (A,B,C,D).

Parts Used

  • Root

Important precautions

Not for use during pregnancy. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use.

Additional Resources

Cheung CS and Belluomini J, Traditional and new interpretation of prescriptions: the harmonizing group, Journal of the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1984; (1): 3-15.

Saruwatari J, Nakagawa K, Shindo J, Nachi S, Echizen H, Ishizaki T. The in-vivo effects of sho-saiko-to, a traditional Chinese herbal medicine, on two
cytochrome P450 enzymes (1A2 and 3A) and xanthine oxidase in man. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2003 Nov;55(11):1553-9. PubMed PMID: 14713367.

Zhang H, Huang J. [Preliminary study of traditional Chinese medicine treatment of minimal brain dysfunction: analysis of 100 cases]. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi.
1990 May;10(5):278-9, 260. Chinese. PubMed PMID: 2397543.

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