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Zhu Li

English Name: dried bamboo sap

Pharmaceutical Name: Succus Bambusae

Medica Category: Phlegm-Resolving Herbs

Properties: Zhu Li enters the Heart, Lung, and Stomach channels; it is sweet in nature and cold in temperature.

What is Zhu Li?:

The Chinese Herb Zhu Li is the dried sap that comes from one of three species of bamboo native to the Yangtze river region and the provinces of South China:

  • punting-pole bamboo (Bambusa tuldoides Munro);
  • Beechy’s bamboo (Sinocalamus beecheyanus (Munro) McClure var. pubescens P. F. Li); and/or
  • black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra (Lodd.) Munro var. henonis (Mitf.) Stapf. ex Rendle)

Zhu Li itself is obtained when the inner pith (or haulm) of the bamboo stalks is roasted and a clear, yellow liquid (ideally free of precipitate) is obtained. This sap is dried and then dissolved into decoctions of other herbs immediately prior to ingestion.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Therapeutic Actions of Zhu Li:

Zhu Li strongly clears heat and resolves phlegm accumulations throughout the body and in classical times was considered to be the “king of the phlegm-dispelling herbs”. Modern clinical applications for this herb include cough with dyspnea and either stubborn, sticky, (yellow) phlegm accumulations or profuse expectoration of (yellow) phlegm.

Zhu Li enters the Heart channel to clear heat and resolve phlegm and in this regard is used clinically to address infantile convulsions, complications from stroke, irritability, mania, and unconsciousness.

–clinical/safety notes:

Zhu Li is cold in nature and is not indicated for coughs due to cold (i.e. with white sputum); it is also contraindicated for persons with loose stools (from deficient Spleen qi).

Tian Zhu Huang (Concretio Silicea Bambusae) and Zhu Li have similar functions. Zhu Li acts quickly and directly enters the channels and collaterals; it is colder and more slippery than Tian Zhu Huang and focuses on dislodging phlegm and keeping the orifices open. By contrast, Tian Zhu Huang is slower to act and focuses on calming the Spirit and controling palpitations and anxiety.

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