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Herb Gallery

Xu Duan (Dipsacus asperoides)

  • Botanical name: Dipsacus asperoides
  • Common name: Dipsacus, Japanese teasel root
  • Literal name translation: reconnect what is broken
  • Family: Dipsacaceae, dipsacus family
  • Part used in Chinese medicine: root
  • Major Chinese medicine actions:
  • Tonifies Liver and Kidneys, strengthens sinews and bones,
    gently invigorates blood, calms fetus in pregnancy, alleviates pain
Dipsacus asperoides
Dipsacus asperoides

Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Dipsacus asperoides; 06/2007; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Photo 2: Dipsacus asperoides; 06/2007; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute

Growing and Propagation

The plants grow best in open sunny locations and will not grow in shade. They do well in almost any soil, though need moisture and prefer deep, rich soil. A single teasel plant can produce over 2,000 small seeds and it self-sows easily in the right conditions, so plants should be deadheaded to control spreading. To propagate, seed may be gathered from the dried flower heads and sown directly into the garden in autumn or the following spring. The seed will remain viable for 2 years and has about a 30-80% germination rate. Plants are quite easy to grow and hardy to USDA zone 5.

Harvesting and Preparation

For medicinal use, the best quality Xu Duan has a dark greenish brown color and is thick and soft. The herb may be dry-fried, charred, salt prepared, or wine-fried, each preparation methods enhancing various aspects of its medicinal qualities.


Plants of this genus are often known as “teasel” and include about 15 species of tall herbaceous plants that are biennial or short-lived perennials. The genus name Dispacus derived from the word for “thirst”, referring to the cup-like form that is created at the juncture of the sessile leaves and the plant stems. Rainwater collects in these small cups and is a feature that easily identifies the plants, along with its characteristic prickly stems and leaves. Flowers bloom from July to August and then the dried head produces small seeds maturing August to October.

The Dispacus asperoides grown in Sichuan province was traditionally regarded as the best quality Xu Duan and called Chuan Xu Duan, or Chuan Duan. Though the herb grown in Hubei province has since been shown to be superior, regardless of where the herb is grown, it is sometimes still called Chuan Duan.