Purgatives Herbs

Table of contents
  1. Laxatives and Lubricants
  2. Purgative Herbs

Herbs which promote catharsis or even cause diarrhoea. These herbs are used not only for relieving constipation, but also for removing pathogenic heat or fire from the bod

Laxatives and Lubricants

  • Sweet and moist in flavour.
  • Moisturises the large intestine, easing digestion and defecation.
  • Suitable for use in the elderly or for physically frail individuals suffering from dry intestines and constipation caused by blood deficiency

Hemp Seed

Source Hemp Seed is the dried ripe seed of Cannabis sativa L. (Fam. Moraceae).
Producing Areas Shandong, Zhejiang, Hebei, Jiangsu and the provinces of Northeast China.
Properties Sweet, Neutral
Channels Spleen, Stomach, Large Intestines

  • Moistens the intestines
    For constipation from blood deficiency, fever, or post-partum. Especially useful in treating constipation in the elderly or debilitated.
  • Strengthens yin
    For constipation from a mild case of yin deficiency.
    Clears heat
  • Used with other herbs to reduce ulcerations and sores. For this purpose it is either used topically or taken internally.

Usage and Dosage
10 – 15g is used in decoction for oral use and it should be broken before decocting. A suitable amount of the powder can be used externally as application.

Notes The excessive doses used orally can cause poisoning and side effect.

Keep in a cool and dry place. Protect from moths and heat.

Description of Quality Herb 
The good one is full-grained, with milky white cotyledons.

Chinese Dwarf Cherry Seed

Source Chinese Dwarf Cherry Seed is the seed of Prunus humilis Bunge or P japonica Thunb. (Fam Rosaceae).

Producing Areas Hebei, Liaoning and Inner Mongolia, etc.

Properties Spicy, Bitter, Sweet, Neutral

Channels Liver, Large Intestines, Small Intestines, Spleen

  • Stimulates the intestines
    For constipation from qi stagnation in the intestines.
  • Promotes urination
    Used in treating edema, leg qi, or difficulty with urination.

Usage and Dosage
6 – 12g is decocted for oral use. It should be broken before decocting.

Notes Use with caution for pregnant women. This herb can injure yin and should not be taken for a long period.

Keep in a cool and dry place. Protect from moths.

Description of Quality Herb
Yuliren with high quality should be full-grained, complete, light yellowish-white in colour and without oil seeping out.

Professional Advice 
Small Yuliren is 5 – 8mm long, 3 – 5mm in diameter with yellowish-brown or light yellowish-white surface.
Big Yuliren is 6 – 10mm long, 5 – 7mm in diameter, externally yellowish-brown.

Purgative Herbs

Bitter and cold.

Promotes defecation, clears heat and purges fire.

Suitable for accumulation of excess heat, obstruction of qi in the internal organs, constipation due to heat accumulation, etc.


Source Rhubarb is the dried root and rhizome of Rheum palmatum L, R. tanguticum Maxim. ex Balf. or R. officinale Baill.(Fam. Polygonaceae).

Producing Areas Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Tibet, etc. Nan Dahuang (South Rhubarb) is mainly produced in Sichuan province.

Properties Bitter, Cold

Channels Spleen, Stomach, Large Intestines, Liver, Pericardium


  • Drains heat and purges excess
    For yang ming organ stage or intestinal heat excess with very high fever, constipation and abdominal fullness.
  • Reduces damp-heat
    For draining damp-heat through the stool in cases of damp-heat jaundice or acute dysentery.
  • Reduces blood-level heat
    For bloody stools caused by haemorrhoids or heat in the intestines. Also for epistaxis or hematemesis from reckless movement of hot blood.
  • Invigorates blood and removes stagnation
    For dysmenorrhoea or amenorrhea, fixed abdominal masses, tumours, or pain from blood stagnation. Also for blood stagnation in the intestines and intestinal abscesses.
  • Clears blood-level heat
    For fever, swollen eyes, or fire toxins both internally and externally in the blood or on the skin, such as burns and skin lesions.Usage and Dosage
    The crude is for purgation. The prepared with wine is for removing blood stasis. The carbonised is for arresting bleeding. 5 – 10g is decocted for oral use. Suitable amount of Dahuang can be used externally.Notes Contraindicated for pregnant women and women in menstrual or breastfeeding period.
    Use with caution in the case with deficiency of the spleen and stomach.

    Keep in dry place and protect it from moths.

    Description of Quality Herb
    The good one is large in size, compact and with delicate fragrance, bitter and slightly astringent flavour.

    Professional Advice
    The roots and rhizomes of Zangbian Dahuang (Rheum emodi Wall.), Hetao Dahuang (R. hotaoense C. Y. Cheng et C. T. Kao), Huabei Dahuang (R. franzenbachii Münt.) and Tianshan Dahuag (R. wittrocki Lundstr.), from the same family of Dahuang, do not have the effective action of purgation. They are called Shan Dahuang or Tu Dahuang in some areas. There are no star spots in their cross-sections except Zangbian Dahuang which has a few star spots there.

Sodium Sulfate

Source Sodium Sulfate is a monoclinic system of mirabilite, with natrii sulfas as its chief component.

Producing Areas Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui and Shanxi, etc.

Properties Salty, Bitter, Very Cold

Channels Stomach, Large Intestines


Removes accumulation and reduces stagnation
For constipation from stagnant heat and dryness. This material both moistens and softens.

Clears heat and reduces inflammation
For swollen and red eyes, conjunctivitis, mouth or throat ulcers, mastitis, appendicitis and swollen skin lesions.

Usage and Dosage
10 – 15g is used orally after dissolved in water or other decoctions. A suitable amount can be used externally.

Notes Contraindicated for the person with deficiency of the spleen and stomach and women in pregnancy or breastfeeding period.
Use with caution for the person with edema.

Its surface is easily weathered in the air and becomes a layer of white powder. Keep it in airtight containers below 30 degrees C.

Description of Quality Herb
The good Mangxiao is a colourless, transparent crystallisation in strip-shaped blocks.

Professional Advice
Fakes Sodium sulfate and sodium nitrite
Sodium sulfate is a mineral with purgative and cooling properties, used in TCM to clear heat and reduce swelling.
Sodium nitrite is a chemical compound which is toxic when taken in large quantities.

Senna Leaf

Source Senna Leaf is the leaflet of Cassia angustifolia Vahl or Cassia acutifolia Delile (Fam. Leguminoscie).

Producing Areas Mainly produced in India, Egypt and Sudan. Cultivated in Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan province in China.

Properties Sweet, Bitter, Cold

Channels Large Intestines


Eliminates heat and stagnation by draining downward
For constipation from heat accumulating in the intestines with abdominal fullness. Especially useful in treating habitual constipation.

Usage and Dosage
1.5 – 3g is brewed in warm water or 5 – 9g is decocted for oral use. It is not suitable for a long decocting.

Notes Contraindicated for women in pregnancy, breastfeeding period or menstrual period.

It is in an elongated ovate or lanceolate ovate shape, 2 – 4cm long and 0.7 – 1.2cm wide, slightly rolled, with an asymmetric leaf base, and slightly leathery.

Keep in a well-ventilated and dry place. Avoid exposing it to light.

Description of Quality Herb
Fanxieye with high quality should be large-bladed, complete, and green in colour, with fewer stems and without impurities.

Professional Advice
Fakes Erye Fanxieye is the dry leaf of Erye Fanxie tree (Cassia auriculata L. ). The small leaf is ovoid or obovoid with greyish-green or reddish-brown surface.


Source Aloes is the dried concentrated matter obtained from the juice of the leaf Aloe barbadansis Miller.

Producing Areas Mainly produced in Africa. Cultivated in Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian, etc. in China.

Properties Bitter, Cold

Channels Liver, Stomach, Large Intestines


  • Drains fire and reduces accumulation
    For constipation, headache, dizziness, red eyes, insomnia, and irritability due to heat in the large intestine and liver. This herb can also be used to treat chronic constipation.
  • Kills parasites and strengthens digestion
    For childhood malnutrition especially as a result of roundworm. Also effective in treating ringworm. Used topically for treating burns.

Usage and Dosage
1 – 2g powder is used orally, not decocted.
A suitable amount of powder can be used externally.

Notes Contraindicated for pregnant women.
Use with caution in the case with deficiency of the spleen and stomach.

It melts easily when exposed to heat. Seal it in a container and keep it in cool and dry place. Protect from heat and light.

Description of Quality Herb
The good one is brownish-black or dark green in colour, brittle and lustrous with strong smell.

Professional Advice
Old Aloes have dark reddish-brown or dark brown surfaces. They are lusterless, hard, and difficult to break, with coarse broken surface.
New Aloes are externally dark brown and slightly green in colour, and lustrous. The texture is light and lax, easily broken. The broken surface is glassy, with striations.