Acanthopanax Bark as an Antirheumatic Herb

Table of contents
  1. The Nature of Antirheumatic Medicines
  2. Acanthopanax Bark

Acanthopanax bark medicinal wine helps to relax tendons, promote blood circulation and expel wind-dampness. Prolonged consumption promotes longevity. There is a beautiful legend about the decoction of the acanthopanax bark medicinal wine.

Legend has it that the fifth daughter of the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea came to the mortal world and fell in love with a man. In order to eke out a living, the fifth princess brewed a type of invigorating liquor with curative powers and composed a song in praise of the potion:

“Chinese angelica root tonifies the heart and blood;

Turmeric rhizomeclears stasis and resolves dampness.

Spikenard awakens the spleen and removes aversion;

Aucklandia root disperses retention and harmonises the stomach. Peppermint has a cool nature that helps to clarify both head and vision; floweringqince fruit relaxes the collaterals and invigorates the mind; pubescent angelica root and hawthorn fruit relieve pathogenic dampness and can disperse wind-cold conditions.

Acanthopanax bark has an exquisite fragrance and nourishes both the liver and kidney, as well as strengthens the bones and muscles.

To prepare a harmonising blend, remember to add in liquorice, sweet osmanthus flower and fragrant solomonseal rhizome.

Make up the number of 12 Earthly Branches; alternatively, any adding or subtraction of the herbs would still make a good prescription.”

The song is a celebration of the 12 herbs that make up the prescription of the acanthopanax bark medicinal wine. Upon its introduction, the decoction drew a pool of users consisting not only of common people, but also high officials and nobles, which led to the business flourishing.

Acanthopanax bark has the effects of expelling wind-dampness, tonifying the liver and kidney, strengthening bones and muscles, and promoting diuresis.

The Nature of Antirheumatic Medicines

The vitality of the kidney and liver is closely related to the strength of the bones and muscles. The kidney affects the bones, while the liver affects the muscles. Prolonged wind-dampness can impair both the liver and kidney. As pathogenic wind-cold-dampness tends to retain in the waist and knees, this often leads to pain in the waist and knees, and weakness of the lower limbs. Thus, in treating rheumatism, medicines that expel wind-dampness as well strengthen bones and muscles are prescribed.

Acanthopanax Bark

Acanthopanax bark, also known as nan wu jia pi bei wu jia pi  , ci wu jia  (acanthopanax root), chuan jia pi , is the root-bark of slenderstyle acanthopanax and acanthopanax sessilifiorus.

Slenderstyle acanthopanax has deciduous leaves and shrubs. Acanthopanax sessilifiorus has shrubs or belongs to a species of small tree, growing at a height of 200 to 1600 metres above sea level in damp places such as thicket, forest fringe, mountain slope and open country. They are cultivated in south central China and southwestern China, including the provinces of Shanxi, Shaanxi, Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Fujian.

Acanthopanax bark may be used for medicine or as a beverage. It is recorded in the Compendium of Materia Medica [Ben Cao Gang Mu) that this herb bears five leaves on a stalk, hence it is named as wu jia (“five inputs”) or wu hua(“five flowers”). As the bark or piof the roots is harvested for use, it is known as wu jia pi(acanthopanax bark).

Acanthopanax bark helps to dispel cold and eliminate dampness. It has a tonifying effect and is suitable for the elderly and patients with a weak constitution and protracted illness.

Anyone suffering the five types of overstrain1 or the seven kinds of impairment2 (see page 28), blood and qi insufficiency and exhaustion, impotence, or a weak and thin physique can infuse the decoction in wine and consume it regularly. It may also be brewed with wolfberry root-bark and consumed. In ancient prescriptions, acanthopanax bark may be infused in wine or used for making wine. The powder of the acanthopanax bark is also blended with wine and used as medicine.