Top 5 Chinese Herbs

Top 5 Chinese Herbs

At Aus Acu, we love Chinese Herbs! Below, Dr Simon explains our top 5 prescribed herbs so you can learn more about this incredible medicine and how it might help you. Check out the top 5 herbs used at Aus Acu, and some of the science behind how they work!

  1. Ginseng root (Ren Shen).

    Ginseng is one of the most commonly used Chinese herbs. It is a very potent Qi tonic, meaning it is a fantastic herb to boost energy and it also enhances the immune system1. Ginseng has a long history (thousands of years) in the successful treatment of deficient conditions of tiredness, fatigue, hepatitis, menopausal symptoms, erectile dysfunction and high blood pressure amongst other ailments. What is best about Ginseng is you can expect fast results when this is added to your formula.

    Modern research has discovered other beneficial effects of Ginseng. The main active components of Panax Ginseng are the Ginsenosides, which have been found to have a range of beneficial effects including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects2,3. It is also effective in the treatment of Diabetes4,5. Other research has found anti-aging and anti-amnesia effects6 as well as anti-oxidant7,8 effects. Ginseng also helps protect the liver, and improves the functioning of the cardiovascular system9

  2. Dang Gui (Angelica Root)

    Angelica root, or Dang Gui, is another commonly used herb at Aus Acu, mainly to move and build blood. Dang Gui is a fantastic herb for women’s health complaints, and in fertility treatments, too. For these cases, we will usually work with 2-3 menstrual cycles to see maximum improvement. Dang Gui has also been extensively used for heart conditions (irregular heartbeat, angina), and high blood pressure.

    Modern research has revealed additional benefits of this amazing herb. Dang Gui has been found to help modulate the immune system by regulating cytokines, which activate macrophages and natural killer cells (immune cells involved in non-specific immunity)10. Recent research is also finding cardiovascular and cerebrovascular protective effects of Dang Gui11. Other research has found it protects from hepatic (liver) injury12 and gastrointestinal complaints13,14.

  3. Huang Qi (Astralagus)

    Huang Qi is a commonly used Chinese herb with strong actions of building energy and raising energy from deep levels to the surface. It promotes our protective energy (such as our immune system), that helps protect us from things like the common cold, and many other viruses and bacteria. Huang Qi is an immune system builder and has been used for thousands of years.

    Modern research is now backing up what the Chinese knew about this herb for thousands of years – that it enhances the immune system. Studies have shown Huang Qi’s immunopotentiating function is conducted primarily through the non-specific immune system15,16, activating macrophages and also B cells17,18. The more recent research into Astragalus is also finding anti-aging properties of this fantastic herb through increasing production of telomerase, which is the enzyme that preserves and lengthens telomeres (which normally shorten as we age) 19,20.

  4. Gan Cao

    This herb could be the most commonly used Chinese herb, and definitely the most commonly prescribed at Aus Acu. It appears in almost every formula as a harmoniser – to enhance the main properties of the herbs and counteract potential adverse effects of some herbs. It has great healing and detoxification properties, – plus may help with gastric ulcers, fatigue, cough, asthma, cold/flu, depression and even heartburn.

    Research into Gan Cao has confirmed its roles in the treatment of gastric ulcers – through anti-inflammatory effects and also through preventing the bacteria Helicobacter pylori from being able to adhere to the wall of the stomach, thus preventing its infection21, 22.

  5. Gan Cao

    Chai Hu is best known for its ability to detoxify the liver, and improve overall liver health. It is primarily used in Chinese medicine to soothe the liver by spreading Qi (energy), and also to harmonise the exterior and interior of the body.  It may also have potential anti-inflammatory effects24,25.

    Chai Hu is the chief herb in an herbal formula called Xiao Chai Hu Tang, which has been shown to have hepatoprotective effects that are effective in the treatment of a range of diseases affecting the liver including Cirrhosis of the liver26, Hepatitis C27, Hepatitis B28 and even liver cancer29, 30.

    Remember, it is important to see a fully qualified Chinese Herbalist to ensure you are getting the most effective prescription that is matched precisely to you and the way you present, as well as ensuring its safety for you. At Aus Acu, we match our herbal prescriptions with your diagnosis and take into account your medical history, medications and make sure that the herbs you take have the best chance to deliver results. For more information contact Aus Acu or book in for a treatment today.


  1. Kang, S. W., & Min, H. Y. (2012). Ginseng, the’immunity boost’: the effects of Panax ginseng on immune system. Journal of ginseng research, 36(4), 354-368.
  2. Kiefer, D., & Pantuso, T. (2003). Panax ginseng. American family physician, 68(8), 1539-1542.
  3. Attele, A. S., Wu, J. A., & Yuan, C. S. (1999). Ginseng pharmacology: multiple constituents and multiple actions. Biochemical pharmacology, 58(11), 1685-1693.
  4. Attele, A. S., Zhou, Y. P., Xie, J. T., Wu, J. A., Zhang, L., Dey, L., … & Yuan, C. S. (2002). Antidiabetic effects of Panax ginseng berry extract and the identification of an effective component. Diabetes, 51(6), 1851-1858.
  5. Sotaniemi, E. A., Haapakoski, E., & Rautio, A. (1995). Ginseng Therapy in Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetic Patients: Effects on psychophysical performance, glucose homeostasis, serum lipids, serum aminoterminalpropeptide concentration, and body weight. Diabetes care, 18(10), 1373-1375.
  6. Cheng, Y., & ZHANG, J. T. (2005). Antiamnestic and antiaging effects of ginsenoside Rg1 and Rb1 and its mechanism of action. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica, 26(2), 143-149.
  7. Lee, S. E., Lee, S. W., Bang, J. K., Yu, Y. J., & Seong, N. S. (2004). Antioxidant activities of leaf, stem and root of Panax ginseng CA Meyer. Korean Journal of Medicinal Crop Science, 12(3), 237-242.
  8. Keum, Y. S., Park, K. K., Lee, J. M., Chun, K. S., Park, J. H., Lee, S. K., … & Surh, Y. J. (2000). Antioxidant and anti-tumor promoting activities of the methanol extract of heat-processed ginseng. Cancer letters, 150(1), 41-48.
  9. Zhou, W., Chai, H., Lin, P. H., Lumsden, A. B., Yao, Q., & Chen, C. (2004). Molecular mechanisms and clinical applications of ginseng root for cardiovascular disease. Medical Science Monitor, 10(8), RA187-RA192.
  10. Yang, T., Jia, M., Meng, J., Wu, H., & Mei, Q. (2006). Immunomodulatory activity of polysaccharide isolated from Angelica sinensis. International journal of biological macromolecules39(4), 179-184.
  11. Hou, Y. Z., Zhao, G. R., Yang, J., Yuan, Y. J., Zhu, G. G., & Hiltunen, R. (2004). Protective effect of Ligusticum chuanxiong and Angelica sinensis on endothelial cell damage induced by hydrogen peroxide. Life sciences75(14), 1775-1786.
  12. Ye, Y. N., Liu, E. S. L., Li, Y., So, H. L., Cho, C. C. M., Sheng, H. P., … & Cho, C. H. (2001). Protective effect of polysaccharides-enriched fraction from Angelica sinensis on hepatic injury. Life Sciences69(6), 637-646.
  13. Cho, C. H., Mei, Q. B., Shang, P., Lee, S. S., So, H. L., Guo, X., & Li, Y. (2000). Study of the gastrointestinal protective effects of polysaccharides from Angelica sinensis in rats. Planta Medica66(04), 348-351.
  14. Ye, Y. N., So, H., Liu, E. S. L., Shin, V. Y., & Cho, C. H. (2003). Effect of polysaccharides from Angelica sinensis on gastric ulcer healing. Life Sciences72(8), 925-932.
  15. Yin, G., Jeney, G., Racz, T., Xu, P., Jun, X., & Jeney, Z. (2006). Effect of two Chinese herbs (Astragalus radix and Scutellaria radix) on non-specific immune response of tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus. Aquaculture253(1), 39-47.
  16. Ardó, L., Yin, G., Xu, P., Váradi, L., Szigeti, G., Jeney, Z., & Jeney, G. (2008). Chinese herbs (Astragalus membranaceus and Lonicera japonica) and boron enhance the non-specific immune response of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and resistance against Aeromonas hydrophila. Aquaculture275(1), 26-33.
  17. Shao, B. M., Xu, W., Dai, H., Tu, P., Li, Z., & Gao, X. M. (2004). A study on the immune receptors for polysaccharides from the roots of Astragalus membranaceus, a Chinese medicinal herb. Biochemical and biophysical research communications320(4), 1103-1111.
  18. Sinclair, S. (1998). Chinese herbs: a clinical review of Astragalus, Ligusticum, and Schizandrae. Alternative Medicine Review3, 338-344.
  19. Zhang, P. X., Liang, Y. X., & Tang, X. L. (2006). Effects of Astragalus Root on the expression of P16 mRNA and telomere of human dermal fibroblasts by serum pharmacology. Chin J Rehabil Med21, 789-791.
  20. Kendrick, M. (2009). Anti-aging pill targets telomeres at the ends of chromosomes. Scientific American17.
  21. Wittschier, N., Faller, G., & Hensel, A. (2009). Aqueous extracts and polysaccharides from liquorice roots (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.) inhibit adhesion of Helicobacter pylori to human gastric mucosa. Journal of ethnopharmacology125(2), 218-223.
  22. Khayyal, M. T., El-Ghazaly, M. A., Kenawy, S. A., Seif-El-Nasr, M., Mahran, L. G., Kafafi, Y. A., & Okpanyi, S. N. (2001). Antiulcerogenic effect of some gastrointestinally acting plant extracts and their combination. Arzneimittelforschung51(07), 545-553.
  23. Van Uum, S. H. (2005). Liquorice and hypertension. Neth J Med63(4), 119-120.
  24. Just, M. J., Recio, M. C., Giner, R. M., Cuéllar, M. J., Máñez, S., Bilia, A. R., & Ríos, J. L. (1998). Anti-inflammatory activity of unusual lupane saponins from Bupleurum fruticescens. Planta medica64(05), 404-407.
  25. Martin, S., Padilla, E., Ocete, M. A., Galvez, J., Jimenez, J., & Zarzuelo, A. (1993). Anti-inflammatory activity of the essential oil of Bupleurum fruticescens. Planta medica59(06), 533-536.
  26. Sakae, A., Masakane, H., Yukio, O., Yasuhiko, O., Kenji, F., Hiroshi, O., … & Toyokazu, K. (1989). Treatment of chronic liver injury in mice by oral administration of Xiao-Chai-Hu-Tang. Journal of ethnopharmacology25(2), 181-187.
  27. Deng, G., Kurtz, R. C., Vickers, A., Lau, N., Yeung, K. S., Shia, J., & Cassileth, B. (2011). A single arm phase II study of a Far-Eastern traditional herbal formulation (sho-sai-ko-to or xiao-chai-hu-tang) in chronic hepatitis C patients. Journal of ethnopharmacology136(1), 83-87.
  28. Chang, J. S., Wang, K. C., Liu, H. W., Chen, M. C., Chiang, L. C., & Lin, C. C. (2007). Sho-saiko-to (Xiao-Chai-Hu-Tang) and crude saikosaponins inhibit hepatitis B virus in a stable HBV-producing cell line. The American journal of Chinese medicine35(02), 341-351.
  29. Yamamoto, S., Oka, H., Kanno, T., Mizoguchi, Y., & Kobayashi, K. (1989). Controlled prospective trial to evaluate Syosakiko-to in preventing hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with cirrhosis of the liver. Gan to kagaku ryoho. Cancer & chemotherapy16(4 Pt 2-2), 1519-1524.
  30. Gu, L. Y., Chen, Z., Zhao, J., Ruan, X. J., Zhao, S. Y., & Gao, H. (2015). Antioxidant, anticancer and apoptotic effects of the Bupleurum chinense root extract in HO-8910 ovarian cancer cells. Journal of BU ON.: official journal of the Balkan Union of Oncology20(5), 1341.
Gregory Dunn is a Doctor of Chinese Medicine; registered Acupuncturist with the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA). Greg is one of the directors of Australian Acupuncture Clinics and enjoys treating a variety of concerns, specialising in Dermatology, Digestive Health and Mental Health. Greg also writes and instructs Yoga therapy online, and you can find his classes and eBooks via At home, Greg lives on the Gold Coast with his partner and their two miniature Dachshunds, Porsche and Alexa.
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