English Name: euphorbia, gansui root, kansui root
Pharmaceutical Name: Radix Euphorbiae Kansui
Medica Category: Downward Draining Herbs—Harsh Expellants (Cathartics)
Properties: Gan Sui enters the Lung, Kidney, and Large Intestine channels; it is bitter and sweet in nature, cold in temperature, and considered toxic according to TCM theory.
The Chinese Herb Gan Sui is a perennial herb native to Shanxi and Henan provinces in China (Euphorbia Kansui Liou). It has rounded green leaves and blooms in the late spring and summer with little yellow flowers. The roots of this plant are used medicinally in TCM—they are harvested in early spring (before the flowers bloom) and again in the fall after the leaves and stems have withered, cleaned, and dried for use as medicine.
Gan Sui is a potent cathartic herb and considered toxic in TCM (see sections below).
Gan Sui is a harsh expellant (Bensky notes: “this is a violent, cathartic herb that causes one to pass water anally” (Bensky p. 123)). It purges accumulations downward and drives out water and congested fluids in severe patterns of excess (i.e. severe phlegm stagnation) in the chest and abdomen. Clinical presentations for which it is indicated correlate with the Western diagnoses of pleurisy and ascites. It is also used to address generalized edema, facial edema, abdominal distention, and intestinal obstruction with fluid retention (e.g. severe constipation due to excess conditions).
Gan Sui eliminates phlegm to address seizures and epilepsy caused by phlegm heat and stagnation.
Contraindicated for pregnant women; contraindicated for weak patients and those with any kind of deficiency patterns as use of this herb consumes qi and will cause complications.
Gan Sui is extremely irritating to the gastrointestinal tract; persons with sensitive stomachs should take this herb in capsule form with Da Zao tea.
Gan Sui is a potent cathartic and should be used with extreme caution, only when necessary, and only in robust persons (i.e. not an herb for those with deficient patterns). It is suitable for symptomatic relief in acute cases of ascites and constipation.
Use of Gan Sui should be alternated with use of herbs that tonify Spleen qi to prevent overconsumption of qi.