Aromatic perennial growing to 8 ft (2.5 m). Has a hollow stem, large 3-branched leaves, and umbels bearing many white flower heads.
Habitat & Cultivation
Grows wild in thickets in China, Japan, Korea, and Russia. Cultivated mainly in central and eastern regions of China.
Bai zhi contains a volatile oil and the coumarins imperatorin, marmesin, and phellopterin.
History & Folklore
Bai zhi is first mentioned in Chinese herbal medicine in the Divine Husbandman’s Classic (Shen’nong Bencaojing) of the 1st century CE. The famous military physician Zhang Congzheng (1150–1228) classified bai zhi as a sweat-inducing herb able to counter harmful external influences on the skin, such as cold, heat, dampness, and dryness.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
The pungent, bitter bai zhi is used for headaches and aching eyes, nasal congestion, and toothache. Like its cousins angelica (A. archangelica) and dong quai (A. sinensis), it is warming and tonic, and it is still given for problems attributed to “damp and cold” conditions, such as sores, boils, and ulcers affecting the skin. Bai zhi also appears to be valuable in treating the facial pain of trigeminal neuralgia.
Do not take during pregnancy.