Health on a Shoestring: Isatis Root
With its bitter taste, brittle exterior and boring beige color, there's little surprise that isatis root (banlangen) is classified in some parts of the United States as a "noxious weed." Luckily, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctors classify the wild plant quite differently. "Banlangen is the perfect herb to treat sore, inflamed throats during autumn and winter," says Beijing-based TCM practitioner Stefan Brinkop. Chinese medicine doctors advise banlangen should only be consumed orally for a short time (three times a week) rather than extended periods, which is said to weaken the digestive system.
Cures colds and colors clothes
Along with vinegar, isatis root became a household name during SARS last year due to its supposed toxin-killing capabilities in combating the disease, but its use goes back to the Tang era (618-907). Predominantly used as a cough and cold buster, banlangen was harvested during fall and consumed to cool the body and fight bacteria. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), however, Bai minority pioneers discovered banlangen's other use: its leaves, along with indigo and wormwood can be used to dye cloth.
Respiratory infections such as mild tonsillitis, bronchitis, and sinitis don't stand a chance when confronted with isatis root. Containing tryptanthrim (bacteria killer), banlangen fights inflammation and reduces fever, but its effectiveness depends on timing: "The secret is to use banlangen at the first sign of a tickly throat," says Brinkop.
Prescription: Wash and cut banlangen root and boil for five minutes. Drink the brew three times days a week, 30 minutes after a meal. Add honey to soothe throats and appease bitter aftertaste.
In Chinese medicine, it is believed that banlangen acts as a natural anti-inflammatory and alleviates infections of the intestinal tract, kidney and bladder, says Brinkop. "Herbs such as banlangen, chamomile and dandelion are well known kidney enhancers," he says.
Prescription: Follow the tea prescription above or brew a concoction of banlangen, chamomile and dandelion (found at Tong Ren Tang pharmacy outlets around the country). If conditions haven't improved after one week, consult your doctor.
Beat kiddy bugs
If little tikes have bought more than drawings home from pre-school, banlangen, often found in children's elixirs and lotions, can ease aggravating itches and tickles by expelling heat from the body. "Banlangen is used to relieve children's rashes, allergic reactions, scarlet fever and mumps," says Brinkop.
Prescription: Slice a piece of isatis root and rub it directly onto the skin and leave to dry. After 10 minutes, rinse skin with cool water. Repeat when necessary.
sourse: That‘s China