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Jeannie Randall
Chinese herbal medicine
Herbs for Chinese medicine

Atractylodes is an ancient Chinese herb that has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. It is also being used more frequently in the Western world as a naturopathic supplement. There is some good research supporting the role of atractylodes in supporting health and fighting disease.


Atractylodes comes from the perennial herbal plant, atractylodis macrocephala Koidz, a type of sunflower. It has long been used in Chinese herbal medicine. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the rhizome of this plant contains oils, polysaccharides, amino acids, and vitamins that account for the medicinal qualities of the plant. The herb grows in the mountainsides in Manchuria, Korea, China, and Japan. Actractylodes goes by other names including Bai Zhu, Cang Zhu, Paekch'ul, and so-Jutsu.


Atractylodes has been used for stomach problems including diarrhea, indigestion, bloating, edema, and stomach pain. It has been used as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Atractylodes has been investigated for its use in cancer treatments and preventing weight loss in cancer patients.

Digestive Uses

Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director at The Institute for Traditional Medicine in Portland, Oregon states that aractylodes has long been used in Chinese medicine as a tonic for its ability to promote digestion, reduce stomach ache and bloating, treat diarrhea, and regulate fluid retention. Chemicals found in actractylodes have been found to improve the overall function of the digestive tract and alleviate symptoms of discomfort.

Morning Sickness

The Chinese Herb Dictionary indicates atractylodes has been used to help prevent morning sickness. If you are pregnant, you do want to consult with your physician before taking any herb or medicine.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

The August 2005 edition of Archives of Pharmacal Research included a study showing a main component of atractylodes as being an effective preventative treatment for arthritic inflammation. Oral administration of this component produced a marked decrease in processes that lead to inflammation and edema in arthritis. The researchers conclude this compound could be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Cancer Treatment

Atractylodes has gotten attention as a potential cancer treatment. A study published in the Sept. 2008 issue of Evidenced Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine shows atractylodes having a positive influence on appetite and functional ability in cancer patients. The study included 22 cancer patients divided into two groups. The group that was given an atractylodes supplement demonstrated a positive body weight gain and improvement in appetite.

Another study published in the October, 2013 edition of Molecules demonstrates how the use of actractylodes effectively suppressed the growth of cancerous tumors of the lungs in mice subjects. More research is needed, but there is evidence that this herb could have some potential use in the treatment of cancer.

Dosage and Side Effects

According to WebMD, taking atractenolide, a chemical found in actractylodes, in moderate amounts of 1.32 grams per day for up to seven weeks is considered safe. There is not enough research on the use of atractylodes during pregnancy, and pregnant women are cautioned to avoid this herb. Side effects could include dry mouth, nausea, and a poor taste in the mouth. People allergic to ragweed could experience similar allergic reactions to actractylodes.

How it Is Taken and Where to Buy

Atractylodes is available through many herbal remedy shops or online. It may be taken as a pill or capsule. It may also be part of a holistic supplement in combination with other vitamins and minerals. You can also find atractylodes root available for purchase.

  • offers 90 capsules of 900mg atractylodes. The manufacturer's recommendation is to take two capsules a day.
  • Chi Machine International offers an organic nutritional supplement featuring atractylodes and several other nutrients in a mixable powder.
  • The Herbal Shop offers one pound of organic rhizome, or root.

Consult Your Primary Care Provider

Although the side effects to atractylodes seem to be mild, it is always best to consult with your primary care provider prior to adding any nutritional supplement to your diet. Be sure to discuss any underlying conditions you may have, as well as any other medications or supplements you are currently taking before beginning use of atractylodes.