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Western Herbs according to Traditional Chinese Medicine

A Practitioner's Guide

Published by Healing Arts Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

The first book to exclusively use Chinese medical theories and terminology to guide practitioners of Chinese medicine in the use of Western herbs

• Written entirely according to the theory, diagnosis, and treatment paradigm of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)

• Explains how to combine and modify the standard TCM formulas to non-Chinese herbs suitable for Western practitioners

• Includes 58 monographs of common Western healing herbs, detailing how each plant is used clinically

The ever-growing number of Chinese medicine practitioners in the West has brought about an amalgamation of many styles of Chinese medicine and various other forms of medicine from around the world. This book addresses the increasing demand for knowledge of how to integrate plants from outside the standard Chinese materia medica into the fold of Chinese medical practices in the West. It is the first in-depth guide to using Western herbs exclusively according to the theories, diagnoses, and treatments of traditional Chinese medicine that harmonizes the unique terminology and theories of TCM with other botanical medicines.

The book contains 58 monographs, illustrated with full-color photographs, of herbs commonly used by Western herbalists. Each herb is grouped by the basic categorization for medicinals in Chinese medicine, such as Herbs that Resolve the Exterior and Herbs that Regulate Blood. The monographs detail the energetics, function and indication, channels entered, dosage and preparation, and contraindications of each plant. The author also explains how to use the herbs to modify standard formulas used in everyday Chinese herbal medicine, based on his own clinical experience. An appendix of Western Analogs for Chinese Herbs further highlights 40 Chinese medicinals that have related species growing in the West.



This category is really two categories combined for clinical ease to distinguish these medicinals as those used to treat phlegm located in the lung. That being said, one should not assume that all three of the medicinals found in this chapter are used only for phlegm in the lungs. To transform phlegm implies a relative gentle action on eliminating phlegm. Stopping cough is exactly that, downbearing and restoring the depurative function of the lung.

Pleurisy root is a very important medicinal in this category with a wide range of actions, which also makes it a very important medicinal in the materia medica. It is bitter, acrid, and cold in nature. Pleurisy root is very effective for diffusing lung and circulating the of the chest, thus it is used for a wide variety of ailments in the chest including cough, major chest bind, and asthma. Yerba santa is likely the most famous of the California endemics. Unlike pleurisy root, yerba santa is warm and is an important medicinal for transforming phlegm in the lung and spleen. Yerba santa also has the extra benefit of warming spleen yang and resolving rheum. Both pleurisy root and yerba santa resolve the exterior, but their action is different. Grindelia is bitter, acrid, and cool in nature and is an important medicinal for diffusing and downbearing the lung . Grindelia also treats the lower burner with cool and bitterness, clearing heat in the kidney and bladder.

Pleurisy Root
Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly Weed, Wind Root

Flavor and Qì: bitter, acrid, cold
Channels entered: lung, large intestine
Actions: expectorant, antitussive, diaphoretic, anticatarrhal

Functions & Indications

Clears heat, diffuses the lung qì and transforms phlegm for lung-heat with symptoms of pain in the chest with fever and cough with no or difficult expectoration. Pleurisy root has a bitter and acrid flavor and is cold in nature. Its bitter and acrid flavor transforms phlegm and drains the lung of repletion heat, while diffusing the lung qì. Its cold nature strongly clears heat.

Circulates the qì of the chest, relieves pain, and harmonizes the upper jiāo. This herb is very effective for major chest bind (da jie xiong) caused by chronic heat and phlegm where the heat is predominate with a tight, rapid pulse. Pleurisy root has an acrid and bitter flavor. Acridity outthrusts while bitter downbears. This combination of flavors creates a harmonizing action in the chest where this medicinal has an affinity. Owing to its acridity and cold nature, pleurisy root circulates the in the chest, transforms phlegm, and clears heat, thus relieving pain and treating this condition very effectively. This medicinal is also used for hot asthma with chest pain and/or difficult breathing. This herb is effective for any type of heat in the chest but because of its cold nature should be used with warming medicinals in extremely deficient patients.

Resolves the exterior and expels wind for external wind-heat invasion with sweating, cough, fever, sore throat, and a floating and rapid pulse. Acridity outthrusts and cold clears heat. Because pleurisy root is acrid and cold, it outthrusts wind and heat. This is a major way this medicinal is used and when considering the history of the use of this medicinal, this occupies a significant portion of the literature.

Clears heat and cools the blood for fever with dry skin, a red tongue, and a rapid and replete pulse. When heat enters the blood at the blood aspect there is serious illness and pleurisy root is an important medicinal for this pattern. Pleurisy root has a bitter flavor and is cold in nature. This bitter/cold combination is essential for the treatment of heat at the blood aspect. Furthermore, this medicinal is acrid in nature, which activates the and quickens the blood secondarily. This secondary action is beneficial to the overall action of this medicinal as stasis and stagnation are common confounding factors when heat enters the blood aspect. Also helpful for skin rashes where blood heat is part of the pattern.

Pleurisy root is cold in nature and should be used with caution by those with spleen qì vacuity or internal cold. Pleurisy rooì root should be avoided during pregnancy.

Dosage and Preparation

Use 2-6g in strong infusion or decoction, 2.5–5ml in tincture. The fresh plant tincture of pleurisy root is superior to the dry preparation.

Pleurisy root is gathered in the autumn after the plant has withered or in the early spring. The root is either prepared fresh or sliced and dried for storage. Good quality root is grayish-white and firm. It is quite fibrous, so if it is cut and sifted it will have significant fibrous material included.

Major Combinations

• Combine with American ginseng and sweet flag for phlegm-heat in the lung. Change the dosages of the medicinals to fit the clinical picture.

• Combine with lobelia for hot spasmodic cough with difficult expectoration.

• Combine with black cohosh for acute rheumatic fever with arthritic pain that is worsened on motion, abdominal pain, and high fever.

• Combine with bugleweed for chest pain due to heat stagnation with or without cough with blood-streaked sputum.


Pleurisy root is exceptional in the treatment of lung heat, especially when phlegm is a confounding factor. Further, pleurisy root is a very effective medicinal for major chest bind (da jie xiong).

The genus name Asclepias comes from the ancient Greek god of medicine Asklepios, and “tuberosa” arose due to its enlarged root system. The genus is endemic to America. The Cherokee used this plant for pain in the breast, stomach, and intestines. Most Native American Peoples within its range used it for lung diseases. It is often combined with Zingiber to enhance its effectiveness. Pleurisy root was official in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1820–1905 and the National Formulary from 1916-1936.

About The Author

Thomas Avery Garran, MTOM, L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist with a master’s degree in Oriental medicine. He has practiced and taught herbal medicine since 1992. He has been chair of the Department of Herbal Medicine at the Institute of Clinical Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, and has served on the faculty of the John A. Burns School of Medicine in the Department of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. He is currently on leave of absence from teaching while pursuing a degree in Chinese language and ethnobotany at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa in Honolulu, where he maintains a private practice in Oriental medicine.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Healing Arts Press (January 22, 2008)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781594771910

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Raves and Reviews

“Each continent has unique herbs that have no equivalent elsewhere. I know of no Western herb equal to the Chinese herb tian ma (Gastrodia) for treating dizziness and epileptic seizures. Likewise, I find few herbs in the Chinese materia medica to rival saw palmetto, milk thistle, or fresh oat. Adding to one’s “toolbox” of active medicines enhances any practitioner’s abilities to more effectively treat patients. Thomas Avery Garran has written the first truly authoritative work on understanding and using Western herbs based on the TCM model. This book is a major achievement, allowing anyone trained in Chinese medicine to effectively and safely add Western herbs to their daily practice.”

– David Winston, RH(AHG), author of Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief and Win

"This is a valuable book to have for a practitioner as well as a student or individual using it for self-help."

– Making Scents, Vol. 13, Issue 1, Summer/Fall 2008

"Any herbal medicine collection must have this in-depth index of Chinese formulas applied to Western herbs."

– The Midwest Book Review, June 2008

"This is an unusual book, full of information and ideas for helping oneself and others. Garran is to be congratulated on a fine book about herbs, a book that is accurate and highly useable. Enjoyable reading. One of the best herb books to be published."

– Lee Prosser,, July 2008

"I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a serious interest in bringing the energy of East and West into their herbal practice. . . . Garran was a student of mine for many years and went on to study with outstanding Chinese herbalists in the U.S. and China. He took the direction I pointed out in Planetary Herbology a few steps further with a book that gives extensive descriptions of 58 important North American herbs so that their use will be practically available to TCM [traditional Chinese medicine] clinical practice."

– Michael Tierra, Instructor of East West Herb course, author of Planetary Herbology, and founder of t

"While the book has usefulness for the Chinese medical practitioner who is interested in Western herbs, the Western herbalist who is interested in Chinese theory as a method of clinical thinking will also find this book useful. As the world becomes more globalized, creolized, and cosmopolitan, so does the cultural application of the herbal agents of healing. This book is a strong step in that direction."

– Will Morris, Ph.D., DAOM, The Academy of Oriental Medicine, HerbalGram, No. 83, Aug-Oct 2009

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