Xuan Fu Hua
Botanical name: Inula japonica
Common name: Inula flower
Literal name translation: rotated, upturned flower
Family: Asteraceae, aster family
Part used in Chinese medicine: flower
Major Chinese medicine actions:
Transforms phlegm, directs qi downward to stop cough,
promotes dissipation of pathogenic water
Photo 1: Inula japonica; 06/2007; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Photo 2: Inula japonica; 06/2007; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Inula japonica is one of over 90 species in the Inula genus. Several species are popular in Western gardens, such as Inula helenium, commonly called elecampagne, but the Inula used in Chinese medicine is relatively uncommon in the West. Acceptable species for medicinal used are Inula japonica, I. hupehensis, and I. helianthus-aquatica. The root is not used in Chinese medicine but contains up to 44% inulin, hence the genus name. Inulin is a starch that humans are unable to digest therefore consumption can cause digestive distress and gas due to its fermentation.
The photos shown are thought to be of Inula japonica, but there is some question as to their identification. Any information regarding the correct species shown in the photos would be welcome.
Growing and Propagation
Inula japonica is easy to grow in almost any soil and sun conditions but it prefers part shade, good loamy soil and adequate moisture. It will survive with considerable neglect. The plant flowers from July to August and seeds ripen from August to September. Propagation is relatively easy from seed, which can be sown directly into the garden in the spring or in a cold frame in autumn.
Plants may also be divided in the spring or autumn. Large clumps can be immediately replanted in the ground though small clumps should be potted and protected in a cold frame until they are rooted sufficiently, and then planted in the garden in spring. The plant may also be propagated by root cuttings taken in winter. Taking about a 3-inch section of root, it should be planted in a pot, grown in a cold frame, and planted in the garden in spring. The plant is hardy to USDA zone 5.
Harvesting and Preparation
For medicinal use, best quality Xuan Fu Hua flowers are large and yellow with white pappus. Although the stalks and leaves of the plant are sometimes used medicinally (Xuan Fu Geng), Xuan Fu Hua should consist of only the flowers.