Bupleurum is one of the most important herbs used in Chinese herbalism. It is not a tonic herb, but it is useful in the tonic system because of its ability to relieve Liver tension and digestive disturbances, and because it is detoxifying and anti-microbial. Bupleurum has the ability, when combined with other herbs to clear stagnation virtually anywhere in the body. It can be used to relieve spasms, muscle tension, lumps, bleeding due to heat and menstrual irregularity. The essential oil in Bupleurum is responsible for its ability to relieve surface heat.
Bupleurum is the primary herb in dozens of classical formulations which serve a wide variety of harmonizing and decongesting activities. For example, Bupleurum and Dragon Bone Combination, a classical formula, is superb as a Spirit Stabilizing anti-stress formula. It is used extensively in Japan to reduce tension and anxiety. Bupleurum and Peony Combination and Bupleurum and Tang Kuei Combination are the primary formulations for women who suffer from hormonal imbalances resulting in syndromes such as pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopausal distress. Bupleurum and Cyperus Combination is a powerful digestive regulating formula and Bupleurum and Rehmannia Combination is a powerful detoxifying formula which is especially useful when there is blockage in the lymph glands. A formula known as Minor Bupleurum Combination is the most widely used formula in the Japanese Kampo system of herbalism. Kampo is the government certified Chinese herbal system used by millions of patients in the national health care system of Japan. Minor Bupleurum Combination is used in Kampo for a wide range of problems, including hepatitis B, the flu, liver cancer and more, all approved by the Japanese Health Ministry. A slightly modified version has been shown to block HIV replication and is thus being tested in Japan for use by HIV infected individuals. Initial studies have proven very favorable (See the discussion of Scutellaria for more about this therapy). It is even more widely used by health conscious people of Japan to prevent flues, especially during the flu season, and during recovery from the flu to speed up recovery and to prevent relapses.
Bupleurum is a powerful, cold, detoxifying herb. It is not a tonic herb. Therefor it has the potential to have side effects if not used carefully. The primary side effect is excessive detoxification in too short a period of time. For this reason, Bupleurum should never be used without being combined either with White Peony or Scutellaria, both of which detoxify the blood and eliminate heat. They tend to prevent over-zealous detoxifying. The toxins will be released more or less unnoticed by the bowels and through perspiration and urination. Excessive intake of Bupleurum without the appropriate amount of Scutellaria or Peony sometimes causing a "toxic headache," a common sign of detoxifying. Chinese herbalism does not generally condone detoxifying so rapidly as to cause a headache. Use more Peony or Scutellaria in your formula if you discharge toxins so rapidly that it causes discomfort. A tea of White Peony Root and Licorice Root can rapidly counteract the toxic discharge and its symptoms caused by Bupleurum. The toxins are not re-absorbed, they are simply re-routed out by the proper means.
There are many such Bupleurum-based formulations, all of which regulate body energy, allowing it to flow freely and in a balanced manner, and for relieving blockages in the body and then discharging the toxin safely out of the system. Bupleurum formulas are extremely useful at the early stages of tonic use in helping to establish radiant health. They serve the purposes of relieving blocks, imbalances and tension while eliminating toxins. Bupleurum formulas are useful when taking tonics because they assure that the newly abundant energy will flow freely through the body. As time go by, these formulas become less and less necessary until eventually they only need to be used occasionally, if at all. These formulas will be discussed in some detail in a later section dealing with common imbalances.
1. Scutellaria to relieve the surface, dredge and soothe the Liver, purge heat, clear fever, and detoxify the body
2. White Peony Root to do the same thing as Scutellaria, but not as strongly (White Peony is usually used for chronic conditions and Scutellaria is used for acute conditions with raging fire. Peony moderates the release of heat and pent-up tension that may result from the detoxification)
3. Pinellia to relieve Lung congestion