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Wu Chia Pi

Category: Medicines - plant based



Introduction and description


Eleutherococcus gracilistylus, also known as Acanthopanax gracilistylus, is a plant in the family Araliaceae.

It is widely distributed in China and the east of Asia and is used in Traditional Chinese medicine, where it is known as Wu Chia Pi or Wu Jia Pi.  According to Wikipedia it is found wild at altitudes up to 3000m and is one species found in Gaoligonshan Nature Reserve.  It is also cultivated commercially for use in TCM, where the root bark is used.

In China Acanthopanax gracilistylus is mainly produced in Hubei, Henan, and Anhui. The herb is usually dug out in summer and autumn. After it is peeled, it is dried in the sun and cut into thick slices before use.



Acanthopanax gracilistylus is a deciduous shrub covered with thorns , the name Acanthopanax, means “thorny ginseng” since trees in this genus are characterized by their thorns.  It produces a mass of dark blue berries.


From Chinese Herbs - Wu Jia Pi – Eleutherococcus gracilistylus root bark (formerly known as Acanthopanax) – “Bark of Five Additions”

The genera Acanthopanax and Eleutherococcus are one and the same (with the latter now being the preferred name), as authoritatively confirmed at the taxonomic symposium Biological Nomenclature in the 21st Century (University of MD, 1996). While Wu jia pi and Ci wu jia come from different species – E. gracilistylus and E. senticosus, respectively – E. gracilistylus seems to possess some (if not all) of the tonic properties attributed to E. senticosus (“Siberian Ginseng”). However, since it is the bark of the root that is used from the former (Wu jia pi) as opposed to the whole root, which is used in the case of Ci wu jia, Wu jia pi’s action is focused more on the surface (on dispersion of wind-dampness), than the interior (on tonification).

Medicinal uses

The plant is used extensively in TCM.  And “has been used as a life-saving medicine against severe cases of paralysis, arthritis and liver disease.

…. the cortex is analgesic, cardiotonic, diuretic, and tonic to the musculoskeletal system; it is used for arthritis, cramps, impotence, low back pain, pruritus and rheumatic complaints.


Eleutherococcus bark, also known as Acanthopanax bark or Wu Jia Pi in Pinyin, is traditionally used as a Chinese herb to “expel wind-damp, tonify liver and kidney, and strengthen muscles and bones”. Its medicinal properties are described in some detail in the “Compendium of Materia Medica”.

The most common use of it is preserved alone in alcohol, or combined with other herbs in a decoction. Medicinal Eleutherococcus liquor, the Eleutherococcus bark soaked wine, is a very popular tonic. Medicinal liquor occupies an important position in Chinese culture and according to the TCM theories different medicated wines are allocated to various seasons.  Eleutherococcus wine, is used in cold winters.

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