English Name: genkwa flower
Pharmaceutical Name: Flos Genkwa
Medica Category: Downward Draining Herbs—Harsh Expellants (Cathartics)
Properties: Yuan Hua enters the Lung, Kidney, and Large Intestine channels; it is acrid and bitter in nature, warm in temperature, and considered toxic according to TCM theory.
The Chinese Herb Yuan Hua is the dried flower buds of the genkwa flower (aka lilac daphne– Daphne genkwa Sieb. et Zucc.), which come from a broadleaf deciduous shrub native to Anhui and Jiangsu provinces in China (as well as to Taiwan and parts of Korea). Flower buds appear in the Spring and are harvested before they have a chance to fully bloom; they are then dried for use as medicine. Unprocessed, Yuan Hua has drastic, toxic effects, causing abdominal cramping and pain and diarrhea. Frying the herb in vinegar reduces these adverse effects (although the herb retains its purgative function after this processing).
Yuan Hua purges stagnation and eliminates water accumulation and is used as a harsh cathartic to drive out congested fluids in the chest and abdominal region that involve edema in the face and extremities (e.g. ascites). In this action it is also used as a diuretic for treating constipation from excess accumulation/congested fluids in the intestines.
Yuan Hua kills parasites and can be used topically to kill infestations such as ringworm.
Yuan Hua is also used topically to drain abscesses and address dermatological disorders such as eczema, mastitis, and various other sores and carbuncles.
Yuan Hua is a potent purgative and must be used with extreme caution and only when necessary. It is suitable only for symptomatic relief in acute cases of ascites and constipation, and its use should be alternated with herbs that tonify the Spleen (to prevent overconsumption of qi).
Contraindicated during pregnancy and in persons with weak constitutions or deficiencies; contraindicated also for those with a tendency to bleed easily, a history of ulcers, cardiovascular disorders, upper GI bleeding, and impaired kidney function.
Prolonged usage (or usage for persons with deficiencies) may cause bleeding and semiconsciousness (due to overconsumption of qi).