Other Species Of Artemisia Used In Traditional Chinese Medicine

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There are 184 artemisia species and 44 varieties found in China. Most of them are distributed in the north, northeast and north west of China, with some in eastern, central and southern areas. Most species of Artemisia contain polyacetylenes, flavonoids and terpenoids but some species also contain other types of constituents such as cyanogenic glycosides and coumarins.

According to a national survey of the medicinal plants of China, more than sixty Artemisia species are used in different areas for certain ailments such as inflammation, liver and stomach disorders and gynaecological problems (Table 1). The leaves of more than ten species are used for the preparation of moxas (see below). A number of Artemisia species are used as choleretic, anti-inflammatory and diuretic agents in the treatment of hepatitis. Two of these are A. scoparia and A. capillaris and are known by the same Chinese name as Yin Chen. Both species contain essential oils, flavones and coumarins. A flavone, capillarisin, the major constituent of A. capillaris, together with two new stereoisomeric constituents, capillartemisin A and B, showed choleretic effects in experiment studies. The coumarin derivative sco-parone isolated from both species had a preventative effect on carbon tetrachloride or galactosamine-induced hepatotoxicity in hepatocyte cell cultures, (Hikino, 1985, Kiso et al., 1984), and also had anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects (Yamahara et al., 1982). Decoctions of Yin Chen have been used in many clinical studies for icteric hepatitis with good success. In one study, 32 patients with icteric hepatitis were treated with 30-45 g of Yin Chen to be made into a decoction taken daily. In all cases, fever subsided quickly, jaundice disappeared, and the liver returned to normal size. The mean length of treatment was seven days (Huang, 1959). Other species used locally for the same purpose include A. anethifolia, A. anethoides and A. demissa.

More than ten Artemisia species are used in TCM for certain gynaecological problems. According to the theory of TCM, a number of conditions, such as amenorrhea, menstrual pain and prolonged menstrual bleeding, are usually related to Qi (vital energy) and blood deficiency, Qi stagnation or blood stasis due to cold. Thus those herbs with the acrid and warm property can be used to treat such ailments with a good clinical response and various species of Artemisia which have the same property are often the principal ingredients of TCM formulae for the illnesses mentioned above (Table 1).

Along with acupuncture, the application of moxibution is used in TCM. It is carried out by applying an ignited moxa cone or moxa stick on the acu-points to elicit heat stimulation. It exerts an effect by warming and regulating the channels, promoting the circulation of Qi and blood. Moxibustion is often combined with acupuncture for the treatment and prevention of many diseases including pain relief and injury management.

There are number of herbal materials used to make moxa cones or sticks but the dried leaves of mugwort, (Artemisia vulgaris leaf) is the most common one. The dried leaves are pounded into fine pieces (moxa wool), which can then be easily

Table 1 Sixty Artemisia species used in traditional chinese medicine.

Medicinal use

Botanical name

Parts used

Stomachic

A. absinthium

whole herb

(aids digestion)

A. adamsii

whole herb

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