Yin Yang Huo
Botanical name: Epimedium grandiflorum
Common name: Epimedium, Barrenwort
Literal name translation: licentious goat wort
Family: Berberidaceae, barberry family
Part used in Chinese medicine: leaf
Major Chinese medicine actions:
Tonifies kidney yang, disperses wind cold damp
Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Epimedium grandiflorum; 04/2008; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Photo 2: Epimedium grandiflorum; 04/2008; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Photo 3: Epimedium grandiflorum; 04/2008; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Photo 4: Epimedium wushanense; 04/2008; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
There are 30-40 species of the genus Epimedium. In their native habitat, these plants tend to grow in woodlands, scrub, and shady, rocky places. They are also popular perennials easily found in garden nurseries, grown for both their foliage and flowers. In mid to late spring, they flower in a variety of colors, from pink and red, to white, yellow and purple, and many varieties have foliage that becomes bronze tinged in the spring and a deeper bronze color in the fall.
There are several plants of correct species used in Chinese medicine including: Epimedium brevicornum, Epimedium sagittatum, Epimedium pubescens, Epimedium wushanense, Epimedium koreanum, Epimedium acuminatum, Epimedium davidii, Epimedium hunanense, Epimedium grandiflorum, and Epimedium acuminatum.
There are many cultivars of the species Epimedium grandiflorum including the first three plants pictured above, Epimedium gradiflorum “Crimson Beauty” (pink flowers) and Epimedium grandiflorum “White Queen” (white flowers). The last photo is of Epimedium wushanense (bronze leaves).
Growing and Propagation
Epimediums are evergreen, growing in clumps to about 8-12 inches high, with blooms appearing on stems growing just above the leaves. Plants are hardy and easily cultivated, growing best in fertile, humus-rich, moist but well drained soil. They prefer part shade and protection from cold, dry wind in the winter. The plant is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8. Propagation should be done by seed, in containers or cold frames, and plants may be divided in the fall or after flowering.
Harvesting and Preparation
For medicinal use, the best quality herb consists of yellowish green, unfragmented leaves, with few stem pieces.