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Zhi Mu

Category: Medicines - plant based



Introduction and description


Anemarrhena asphodeloides is a plant species in family Asparagaceae, subfamily Agavoideae, native to China, Korea, and Mongolia. It is the only species in the genus, and some authors have placed it in its own family, Anemarrhenaceae.

Anemarrhena asphodeloides is found growing naturally  in 'dank places of mountains'. However it is also widely cultivated.  It is distributed in Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Shaanxi, Gansu amongst many other places. 

The plant name in China is zhi mu (知母, zhī mǔ) and its rhizome is used in traditional medicine.  The medicinal materials are mainly produced in Hebei and Shanxi, as well as in Henan, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Shaanxi and Northeast China.  According to TCM its properties and actions are:

Bitter, cold. Nourishing Yin and reducing fire, moistening dryness and lubricating intestine.... Do not use if deficient cold of spleen and stomach or loose stool



Zhi mu is a perennial herb. Whole plant glabrous. Rhizomes horizontal growing, stout, below numerous fleshy fibrous roots.

Leaves basal, linear, 20-70cm long, 3-7cm wide, above green, glabrous, leaves base expanded and wrapping rhizomes. Scapes erect, none branched, up to 50-120cm, lower part with degenerative leaves, upper part with bracteoles.

Flowers 2-6 –clustered, long racemes, 20-40cm long; flowers yellow-white, most flower at night, with short stalk; tepals 6, base slightly joint, arranged in 2 layers, 5-8cm long, 1-1.5cm wide; upon maturation stamens 3, anthers yellow, degenerative stamens 3, no anthers; pistils 1, ovary 3-chambered, style short, stigma 1.

Capsules ovate, 1-15mm long, diameter 5-7mm. Seeds long-ovate, ends acute, 8-12mm long, black.

Flowering: May to August, fruiting: July to September.

Medicinal uses


Zhi mu is cited in the Japanese Kampo herb list and is an ingredient in the Dabuyin Wan, Qingfei Yihuo Wan and Biyan Pian pills. It is used as an antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and antidepressant in Traditional Chinese medicine.

It is a plant being intensively researched currently to establish all its other activities.  The observations show what has so far been established.




References and further reading

  • Banu, Jameela, Erika Varela, and Gabriel Fernandes. "Alternative Therapies For The Prevention And Treatment Of Osteoporosis." Nutrition Reviews 70.1 (2012): 22-40. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
  • Ya, Wang, Feng Fang, and Wang Zhe. "Determination Of Selected Elements In Aqueous Extractions Of A Traditional Chinese Medicine Formula By ICP-MS And FAAS: Evaluation Of Formula Rationality." Analytical Letters 43.6 (2010): 983-992. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
  • Xie, W., and L. Du. "Diabetes Is An Inflammatory Disease: Evidence From Traditional Chinese Medicines." Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism 13.4 (2011): 289-301. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
  • Ren LX. Luo YF. Li X. Zuo DY. Wu YL Antidepressant-like effects of sarsasapogenin from Anemarrhena asphodeloides BUNGE (Liliaceae). Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin. 29(11):2304-6, 2006 No


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