English Name: erodium, geranium, cranesbill, common heron’s bill herb, wilford crane’s bill herb
Literal Translation: “old crane herb”
Pharmaceutical Name: Herba Erodii seu Geranii
Medica Category: Wind Damp Dispelling Herbs – Channel and Collateral Opening Herbs
Properties: Lao Guan Cao enters the Liver and Large Intestine channels; it is acrid and bitter in nature and neutral in temperature.
The Chinese Herb Lao Guan Cao is the dried aerial parts of two particular species of cranesbill (Erodium stephanianum Willd.; Geranium wilfordii Maxim.), autumn wildflowers with seeds that look like a crane’s bill (hence the common name). Cranesbill originally came from the Mediterranean area but is now found worldwide growing in fields and along the sides of roads (it prefers disturbed areas); it blooms from February to November and it is the aerial parts that are harvested and dried for use as medicine.
Lao Guan Cao dispels wind-damp and opens the channels and collaterals to treat bi zheng (painful obstruction syndrome) with clinical applications to include relieving joint pain and stiffness, numbness in the limbs, difficulty with mobility, and pain due to traumatic injury.
Lao Guan Cao clears heat, eliminates toxins, and dispels dampness to treat diarrhea and dysentery. It can also be made into a paste and used topically to treat skin disorders involving toxic heat (e.g. infected sores/burns and eczema).