Botanical name: Typha angustifolia
Common name: Cattail pollen, Typha pollen, Bulrush
Family: Typhaceae, cattail family
Part used in Chinese medicine: pollen
Major Chinese medicine actions:
Stops bleeding, invigorates the blood, promotes urination
Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Typha angustifolia; 7/2007; author Petr Filippov; permission under GFDL
Photo 2: Typha latifolia; 8/2005; author JoJan; permission under GFDL
Photo 3: Typha latifolia; 1/2006; author AutoCCD; permission under GFDL
Typha is a marginal aquatic perennial plant that can be found growing in temperate and tropical regions around the world. It forms dense clumps around lakes and large ponds, spreading by thick rhizomes in shallow water and can become very invasive unless the water is quite deep. The characteristic fuzzy cylindrical flower spikes of the plant give rise to its vernacular name, “Water Candle”.
The top photo is of Typha angustifolia, the most common species of Pu Huang used in Chinese medicine. The middle and lower photos are of Typha latifolia, which is an acceptable species variation.
Growing and Propagation
Typha angustifolia grows with long strap-like leaves reaching 6 feet high. Large brown poker-like flowers stalks bloom in May and June and contain both male and female flowers on the same spike. Male flowers are lighter brown while female flowers are often green during the bloom season, turning dark brown during seed maturation.
Propagation naturally occurs by rhizome runners and by seed. Seed production is prolific with each flower spike containing 100,000 – 250,000 tiny seeds. At maturity, the spike bursts under dry conditions, releasing the seeds in the wind. In this way, cattails can spread quickly over a large area, easily becoming invasive. Plants may also be cultivated by division. When planting in small areas, growing in a large bottomless container will help control its growth and spread.
The plants grow quickly, do well in full sun, and are intolerant of shade. Narrow Leaf Cattail (Typha angustifolia) grows in water up to 24 inches deep, while Common Cattail (Typha latifolia) grows along shallow water edges in about 12-16 inches of water. For both varieties, fertilization is unnecessary but will improve growth. The plants are adaptable and grow in a wide range of USDA zones, from 3 to 12.
Harvesting and Preparation
For medicinal use, good quality Pu Huang is dry, yellow and fresh pollen, free of foreign matter.