Bupleurum is a distinctive genus that is easily recognized by the simple leaves and conspicuous bracts and bracteoles. Species within Bupleurum are, however, notoriously difficult to identify on account of wide morphological variation within a species, often spread across wide geographic distributions. Many Bupleurum species are difficult to characterize, as is evident by complex classifications where all possible taxonomic ranks have been used. Several taxa are recorded only from a few collections, and it is likely that future work will reduce the number of species[
Bupleurum falcatum longipedunculatum H.Boissieu
Bupleurum falcatum scorzonerifolium (Willd.) Ledeb.
Bupleurum sinensium Gand.
Bupleurum stenophyllum (Nakai) Kitag.
Common Name: Hong Chai Hu
Bupleurum scorzonerifolium is a herbaceous perennial plant producing 1 - 3 much-branched stems from a stout, branched taproot; the plant grows 20 - 60cm tall[
This species is one of two primary species the roots of which are used for the major traditional Chinese medicine 'chai hu'[
]. The plant is commonly harvested from the wild for this purpose and is also often cultivated.
E. Asia - western and eastern Siberia, Russian Far East, Mongolia, China, Japan, Korea
Shrub forest margins, sunny mountain slopes, dry grasslands; at elevations from 100 - 2,300 metres[
]. Dry meadows, shrubs, edges and clearings of pine forests, steppe slopes, sometimes to subalpine belt[
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
Chai hu root has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for at least 2,000 years[
]. It is a bitter herb that is used to harmonize the body, balancing the different organs and energies within the body[
]. It strengthens the digestive tract, acts as a tonic for the liver and circulatory system, lowers fevers and has anti-viral effects[
The root is alterative, analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiperiodic, antipyretic, antiviral, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, haemolytic, hepatic, pectoral, sedative[
, 174. 176,
]. It is taken internally in the treatment of malaria, blackwater fever, uterine and rectal prolapse, haemorrhoids, sluggish liver, menstrual disorders, abdominal bloating etc[
]. The roots are harvested in the autumn and can be used fresh or dried[
The root contains saikosides[
]. These saponin-like substances have been shown to protect the liver from toxicity whilst also strengthening its function, even in people with immune system disorders[
]. These saikosides also stimulate the body's production of corticosteroids and increase their anti-inflammatory affect[
The plant is often used in preparations with other herbs to treat the side effects of steroids[
Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 8 weeks at 15°c[
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer or following spring.
Division in spring. Very easy, larger clumps can be planted direct into their permanent positions. 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.