Bai Zhu - Atractyloides macrocephala

Professional Data
 Pin Yin
Bai Zhu
Rhizome Atractylodes macrocephalae
 Introduction Back to Top
Atractylodes Rhizome is officially listed in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia as the rhizome of Atractylodes macrocephala Roidz. (Fam. Compositae). The drug is collected in winter while the lower leaf of the plant turns yellow and the upper leaf becomes fragile, removed from soil, baked or sunned to dryness, and then removed from fibrous root.
It is recommended in traditional Chinese Medicine as a digestive, diuretic and antihidrotic.

 Western medical Back to Top
Anorexia, abdominal distension, diarrhoea, excessive perspiration, dizziness, palpitations.

 Eastern medical Back to Top
  • Pattern: Tonifies spleen qi.
  • Properties: Bitter, sweet, warm.
  • Channels Entered: Spleen, stomach.
 Chemical constituents Back to Top
Sesquiterpenoids (volatile oil, 0.9-3%), atractylon, 3-?-hydroxyatractylon, 3-?-acetylactractylon, atractylenolides I, II, III.

 Pharmacological actions Back to Top
Diuretic action

A marked and prolonged diuretic effect was achieved with the decoction and fluid extract of the herb given to rats intravenously, rabbits via intragastric injection, and dogs by intragastric and intravenous injections. The agents promoted the excretion of electrolytes, particularly sodium.

Hypoglycemic action

Subcutaneous injection of A. macrocephala extract to rabbits resulted in a significant hypoglycaemic effect in 2-5hrs: blood glucose was lowered by 40% in comparison with the premedication level.

Anticoagulant action

Intragastric administration of the A. macrocephala rhizome decoction to rats for 1-4 weeks significantly prolonged prothrombin time. Its action was weaker than that of dicoumarol but stronger than that of butadione: the root had a stronger action than the stem. Healthy subjects taking the 5% root decoction, 1 tablespoon 3 times daily, had markedly prolonged prothrombin time and clotting time 4 days after medication. The measurements returned to their original levels 10 days after discontinuation of the decoction.

Cardiosvascular action

A. macrocephala rhizome was found to have vasodilatory action and cardiac depressant action.

Hepatic action

Atractylon has antihepatotoxic activity: it inhibited CCl4-induced cytotoxicity in primary cultured rat hepatocytes and CCl4-induced lipid peroxidation in rat liver microsomes. Studies on its mechanism of action support the hypothesis that both CCl4 and atractylon generate free radicals in rat liver microsomes. Free radicals from CCl4 , mediate lipid peroxidation and produce liver lesions whereas atractylon forms free radicals which scavenge radicals induced by CCI4 and thus inhibit lipid peroxidation by CCI4 and suppresses CCl4-induced liver damage.

Immunological action

Intragastric administration of the decoction of A. macrocephala for one month increased the body onload="highlight();" weight and swimming endurance of mice.

It was reported that the herb could increase the phagocytic function of the reticuloendothelial system. It was able to increase leukocytes in patients with leukopaenia.

The herb also increased the lymphocyte transformation rate, promoting cellular immunity and markedly increasing serum IgG.

Antineoplastic action

The neutral fraction of the volatile oil of the herb was proved in vitro to have a significant inhibitory action on esophageal carcinoma cells. Detachment of all the carcinoma cells was observed within 24 hours at the concentration of 10 m/ml and of most carcinoma cells at 5m/ml. The remaining cells showed shrunken nuclei, inconspicious nuclei and multiple vacuoles in the cytoplasm. Intraperitoneal injection of the volatile oil at the dose of 50-100 mg/kg also significantly inhibited Erhlich ascites carcinoma.

 Clinical Studies Back to Top
Chronic gastritis

Yi Qi Hua Yu Tang was used as the main formula: dang shen, bai zhu, wu yao, fu ling, tian hua fen, chao mai ya, 12g each; chao shan yao, 20g, chuan lian zi, 10g, bai shao, dan shen, 15g each; ji nei jin, (ground into powder and taken with water), tao ren, 6g each; san qi (ground into powder and taken with water), 3g. 1 dose every day, water decoction. 75 out of the 82 treated cases were effective.

Non-specific colonitis

Jie Chang Ling (experiential formula): chai hu, bai zhu, bai shao, chen pi, fang feng, zhi shi, huang bo, ku shen, 9g each; mu xiang, wu mei, 6g each; gan cao, 3g, modify the formula according to TCM differentiation. 1 dose every day, water decoction. Enema mixture was also applied. 4 weeks as a course of treatment. 88 cases were treated, 84 cases were effective. Among 80 cases taking the reexamination of enteroscope, congestion, edema and erosion disappeared in 68 cases, improved in 12 cases.

Acute nephritis

Ma Gui Su Chan Bai Zhu Tang (experiential formula): bai zhu, 30g; ma huang, gui zhi, su ye, 10g each; chan tui, 6g; sheng jiang, 3 pieces, 1 dose every day, water decoction, 84 cases were treated. Compared with the control group, the symptoms of Wind-Exterior syndrome disappeared, edema relieved, the time for routine urine test turning negative decreased.


Bao Yuan Sheng Jing Tang: bai zhu, bai shao, huang qi, gou qi, xu duan, tu si zi, she chuang zi, lu jiao jiao, 10g each; zhe chong, dang shen, fu zi, shan yao, dang gui, du zhong, 12g each. Modify the formula according to TCM differentiation, 1 dose every day, water decoction, 2 weeks as a course of treatment. 28 out of the 35 treated cases were effective.

Dysfunctional uterine bleeding

Ning Gong Tang: huang qi, 45g; jiao bai zhu, 15g, han lian cao, xian he cao, 30g each; san leng, e zhu, 9g; e jiao (melted), 10g; xue yu tan, dang gui, 12g; tassel of fresh hu luo bo 100g (dried one 30g). Modify the formula according to TCM differentiation, water decoction, 1 dose every day. 7 days as a course of treatment. 126 out of the treated 129 cases were effective.

Ascites due to hepatocirrhosis

Qi Zhu San Jia Tang: huang qi, duan mu li, dan shen, mai ya, 30g each; chao bai zhu, 12g, zhi bei jia, zhi gui ban, fu ling, 12g each; ze xie, yu jin, 15g each. Modify the formula according to TCM differentiation, 1 dose every day, water decoction, 20 cases as a course of treatment. 14 out of the treated 125 cases were effective.

Meniere's disease

Modified Zheng Fu Tang: fu pian, pao jiang, 3g each; bai zhu, gou teng, fu ling, bai shao, ju hua, 10g each; dang shen, 15~30g; zhen zhu mu, dai zhe shi, 30g each; Ci Zhu Wan (swallowed additionally), yuan zhi, 6g each. Water decoction, after 3~7 doses, all the treated 37 cases were effective.

Hepatocirrhosis in the initial stage

Modified Gui Shao Liu Jun Zi Tang: dang gui, bai zhu, bai shao, dang shen, fu ling, 12g each; chen pi, ban xia, 9 g each; zhi gan cao, 4.5g. Modify the formula according to TCM differentiation. Water decoction, 1 dose every day, 1~3 months' treatment totally. 100 cases were treated totally, in the 1-year follow-up survey, none developed into decompensation stage.


Fang Qi Di Zhi Tang: fang feng, bai zhu, 12g each; huang qi, dang shen, 18g each; ze xie, 15g; da huang, shui zhi, gan cao, 6g each; tao ren, 9g; sheng jiang , 3 pieces; da zao, 6 pieces. 1 dose every day. Water decoction, 1~2 months' treatment totally, 40 cases were treated, and the effects were better than those of evening primrose oil.

 References Back to Top

Except those noted, all references come from Weng Weiliang, et al., Clinical Chinese materia medica, Henan Science & Technology Press, 1998