Bai Zhu plant - Atractylodes Macrocephala (Asteraceae)

Medicinal Use of Bai Zhu – Atractylodes Macrocephala (Asteraceae)


Erect perennial herb growing to 2 ft (60 cm). Has alternate oval- to lance-shaped leaves and purple flowers.

Habitat & Cultivation

Bai zhu is rare in the wild. It is cultivated in China, Japan, and Korea. The rhizome is unearthed in late autumn or winter.

Part Used



Bai zhu contains a volatile oil (0.35–1.35%), which includes atractylol, and the lactones atractylenolide II and III. Atractylol has a liver-protective activity.

History & Folklore

The first record of the use of bai zhu is in the Tang Materia Medica, written in China in 659 CE. Later, it was one of the 4 herbs that made up the “decoction of the 4 rulers,” a mixture prescribed by Wang Ji (1463–1539) as a treatment for syphilis.

Medicinal Actions & Uses

Bai zhu has traditionally been used as a tonic, building qi and strengthening the spleen. The rhizome has a sweet, pungent taste, and is used to relieve fluid retention, excessive sweating, and digestive problems such as diarrhea and vomiting. Combined with Baical skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), it is employed to prevent miscarriage.