Botanical name: Pinellia ternata
Common name: Pinellia rhizome
Literal name translation: half summer
Family: Araceae, arum family
Part used in Chinese medicine: prepared rhizome
Major Chinese medicine actions:
Dries dampness, transforms phlegm, directs rebellious qi downward,
stops vomiting, dissipates nodules and clumps
Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Pinellia ternata; 06/2008; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
The Pinellia rhizome is toxic and should not be used in its raw form. As a medicinal herb, it is only used in prepared form, in which case the toxicity is reduced considerably, rendering it safe to ingest. Prepared Pinellia is called Zhi Ban Xia, though any herbal prescription containing the name “Ban Xia” refers to the prepared form, even if not specifically noted as “zhi”, meaning prepared. Raw pinellia is specifically referred to as Sheng Ban Xia.
Growing and Propagation
Pinellia is a vigorously spreading, sometimes highly invasive perennial, reaching about 8 inches high. It is native to China, Korea and Japan, growing easily in woodlands, deciduous forest, and along roadsides. It grows well in fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Propagation is by seed or by re-planting the small bulb-like root tubercles. It is hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9.
Harvesting and Preparation
According to the Chinese Herbal Materia Medica by Bensky, Clavey, and Stoger, Fa Ban Xia, or prepared Ban Xia, is the medicinal form of pinellia most commonly used. It is prepared by soaking and rinsing the herb until it has only a slightly spicy, numbing taste. It is then mixed with a decoction of Gan Cao (licorice) and lime, and soaked until the center becomes yellow without any remaining white color. The originally powdery herb should take on a horn-like texture and become semi-transparent. Pinellia may also be processed by boiling with fresh ginger and alum. In this form it is known as Jiang Ban Xia, or ginger pinellia.