The Flowers of Traditional Chinese Medicine

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I always feel that the bright blooms of spring and summer are a balm for my frayed nerves. A spot of delicate color or the scent of a living plant can boost my mood incredibly, and it’s not just me. Apparently, patients who are exposed to flowers during surgery recovery heal more quickly and are generally more optimistic. And of course, the emotional and psychic impact of flowers is far from the only benefit they hold from us. Both western and Eastern medical traditions have long utilized flowers as solutions for physical complaints. 

Some healing flowers may be immediately familiar to you: Herbs such as chamomile, echinacea, calendula and St. John’s Wort are commonly known to Western herbalists. Others, like hawthorn, yarrow, meadowsweet and lavender, may be recognizable for other reasons. I certainly never considered lavender as more than a pretty, soporific flower before I started at The Herb Companion. Hawthorn was just a kind of tree, and one I wouldn’t be able to recognize on sight at that.

And then there’s Traditional Chinese Medicine, which lists a whole different host of blooms to ease the body’s ailments. According to Cathy Margolin, licensed herbalist and blogger for Huffington Post, the following seven flowers are just a few examples: 

The lotus flower is one of the most iconic images of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
 Photo by Kevin Harber/Courtesy

Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) is perhaps one of the best-recognized flowers used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Eight separate parts of the lotus flower are used for a variety of ailments, especially those relating to fevers, irritability and bleeding. 

There are more than 30 species of chrysanthemum in the world, and only a few are fit to be used medicinally. Medicinal varieties are most often recommended to treat symptoms of the common cold such as fever, headache, and dry or irritated eyes. TCM practitioners also combine chrysanthemums with other herbs to treat dizziness and high blood pressure. 

Magnolia bark is known as hou po in TCM and is reportedly good for relieving upper-respiratory congestion. Some scientific research provides evidence for magnolia’s use in fighting tumor growth and depression. It may also play a role in preventing periodontal disease.      

The Pagoda flower (aka sophora, Styphnolobium japonicum) has antibacterial, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is used to treat hemorrhoids and excessive menstruation. 

The viola flower is a common component of healing herbal teas.
Photo by David/Courtesy Flickr

Viola flowers contain high levels of vitamins C and A, and are often used in herbal teas for the treatment of fevers and bacterial infections. Viola has also been used to reduce toxicity and swelling due to snakebites.   

Lonicera flower, commonly known as Japanese honeysuckle, is traditionally used to “clear heat and remove toxins,” which makes it ideal for fighting colds, inflammation and viruses, including swine flu.   

Safflower may be familiar for its use as a carrier oil for herbal extracts and an ingredient in salad dressings, margarine and cosmetics. Its yellow thistles are sometimes cooked as a cheaper alternative to saffron. In TCM it is used to increase circulation and dissolve clots, making it applicable to the treatment of heart disease and joint pain. It has also been effective in easing cramps and eliminating warts.

*Please note that the information presented in this blog is not intended as medical advice. If you are interested in TCM please contact a qualified herbalist. Some resources can be found at the end of this article.  

Read More:Herbs that Boost Immunity – The Herb Companion
Herb Basics: Herbal Medicine History – The Herb Companion
Guide to Eating Flowers – The Herb Companion

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