Bupleurum (Bupleurum falciform)


Bupleurum Summary

Bupleurum is a popular herb in traditional Chinese medicine for its ability to improve the general health of the liver. In Western herbal medicine, bupleurum is a popular antiviral, for which there has been a lot of recent scientific investigation.

Bupleurum has been found to effectively inhibit Herpes simplex, HIV, parainfluenza, poliovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus.


+ Indications:

Hepatobiliary System

  • Autoimmune conditions affecting the liver
  • Bitter
  • Gout
  • Hepatitis
  • Liver damage
  • Weak liver function

Digestive System

  • Bitter
  • Dyspepsia
  • Poor digestion

Respiratory System

  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Asthma


  • Adjunctive cancer treatment
  • Arthritis
  • Bacterial infection
  • Cold/Flu
  • For its bitter actions
  • For its diaphoretic actions
  • Gout
  • Inflammation
  • Kidney disorders
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Rheuatoid Arthritis
  • To protect the kidneys
  • Viral Hepatitis
  • Viral infection

+ Contraindications:

None reported.

Herbal Actions:

  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Bitter
  • Hepatoprotective
  • Kidney protective
  • Diaphoretic
  • Antiviral
  • Antimicrobial

What Is Bupleurum Used For?

Bupleurum is mainly used as an antiviral in western herbal medicine, as well as for its bitter principles. Traditional Chinese medicine has a wide range of uses for bupleurum, mainly involving its interaction with the liver. it is a common addition to many herbal formulas for a wide range of conditions.


Traditional Uses

+ Western Herbal Medicine

It has been used for colds and flu, and inflammation throughout Europe in the form of a herbal tea or decoction [3]. Some of its less common traditional uses include hepatitis, cancer, microbial infections, and fever associated with malaria [2, 7, 8].

+ Traditional Chinese Medicine

Bupleurum root is one of the most important herbs used in Chinese herbalism. It is used to relieve liver tension and digestive disturbances. It is detoxificating and antimicrobial as well. [5].

Bupleurum is often combined with other herbs to clear stagnation anywhere in the body. It is used to relieve muscle spasms, lumps, and bleeding due to heat, and menstrual irregularities. [5].

The essential oil of Bupleurum root is used to relieve surface heat. [5].

This herb is rarely used alone, but is very common in combinations. It is usually added to improve the detoxification of a target organ, and regulate the flow of Qi through the body. [5].

Bupleurum is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine to detoxify various target organs (depending on the other herbs in combination), relieve liver tension, and regulate the flow of Qi throughout the body [5].


Cháí Hú


Cold [18, 19] (Some list asslightly warm [7]).


Bitter [18, 19] (Some list this as sweet and pungent [7]).


Gallbladder, liver, pericardium, triple burner [7].


Resolves lesser yang disorders to reduce fever, spreads liver Qi to relieve stagnation, raises center Qi, regulates gastrointestinal and liver functions [18, 19]


Liver tension, digestive disturbances, stagnation, muscle spasms, bleeding due to heat, menstrual irregularities, common cold, alternating chills and fever, malaria, chest and rib-side descending pain, sinking of clear Qi (lack of strength, chronic diarrhea) [5, 19].


May cause rapid detoxification, with symptoms such as headaches, and anger. In situations of severe toxicity skin sores may result [5]. Avoid using with tinnitusdeafness, dizziness, or headache caused by fire from yin deficiency and/or hyperactive liver yang [7, 18].


Herb Details: Bupleurum

Weekly Dose

Part Used


Family Name



Sotheast Asia
United States

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Constituents of Interest

  • Quercetin
  • Rutin

Common Names

  • Bupleurum
  • Chai Hu (China)


  • Bitter, Salty

Duration of Use

  • Long term use acceptable in smaller doses.

Bupleurum Information

Bupleurum is a member of the Apiaceae or "carrot family" of plants. This family contains roughly 3700 species and 434 genera. It is, in fact, the 16th largest family of plants and contains other medicinal species including Angelica, chervil, coriander, lovage, and the poisonous herb hemlock.

The Bupleurum genus contains about 190 different species. However, Bupleurum falciform is by far the most common medicinal species in this group.


Harvesting Collection, and Preparation

Mainly cultivated in Hebei, Henan, Liaoning, Shananxi, and Gansu provinces of China, and collected in the spring or autumn [7].

The root is generally sun-dried and sliced. It can be used raw this way, or fried in wine or vinegar. [7].


Pharmacology & Medical Research

+ Antimicrobial

Bupleurum marginatum extracts were shown to be active against gram-positive bacteria, and less active against fungi and gram-negative bacteria [3].

+ Antiviral

Bupleurum marginatum extracts were found to possess antiviral activity which has been suggested to be due mainly to the saikosaponin content [3]. This action has been confirmed in studies investigating the effects of saikosaponins on various virus' which suggest this action in other species of Bupleurum as well [13-15]. The lignans and flavonoid aglycones are also suggested to provide some antiviral support [3].

The lignans were found to exert antiviral action through tubulin binding, reverse transcriptase, and topoisomerase inhibition [16, 17].

Some of the flavonoids present in bupleurum metabolise into phenolate ions within the body, where they then inhibit viral polymerase activity, and bind with viral nucleic acid or viral caspid proteins. This leads to an inhibition or reduction in viral replication. [3]. The flavonoids quercetin, and rutin (and likely other flavonoids), have been found to be active against such viruses as HSV-1, HIV-1, HIV-2, poliovirus type 1, parainfluenza virus, and respiratory syncytial virus [3].

+ Cancer

Bupleurum was shown active against several in vitro cancer cell lines, which was suggested to be due mainly to the saikosaponin content [1].

The lignans and flavonoids are also suggested to possess cytotoxic and apoptotic actions in human cancer cell lines [3].


Clinical Applications Of Bupleurum:

Bupleurums quercetin and rutin content are thought to be the main antiviral agents. It has shown some impressive evidence so far to inhibit these, and likely other viruses systemically.

Bupleurum is also useful as a general liver tonic when combined with other herbs in formula.



Avoid if allergies to the apiaceae family.



Traditionally combined with Paeonia and Angelica sinensis for menstrual irregularities, PMS, dysmenorrhea in traditional Chinese medicine.

Combined with astragalus for prolapsed uterus and rectum



Justin Cooke, BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated November 2018)


Recent Blog Posts:


  1. Hsu YL, Kuo PL, Weng TC, Yen MH, Chiang LC, Lin CC. (2004). The antiproliferative activity of saponin-enriched fraction from Bupleurum Kaoi is through Fas-dependent apoptotic pathway in human non-small cell lung cancer A549 cells. Biol Pharm Bull. 27:1112–1115.

  2. Zhou J (2011). Encyclopedia of traditional Chinese medicines vol 1 - molecular structures, pharmacological activities, natural sources and applications. New York: Springer.

  3. Ashour, M. L, El-Readi, M. Z, Hamoud, R., Eid, S. Y, El Ahmady, S. H., Nibret, E, Wink, M. (2014). Anti-infective and cytotoxic properties of Bupleurum marginatum.Chinese Medicine, 9(1), 4. doi:10.1186/1749-8546-9-4

  4. Mabberley DJ. (2008). Mabberley's plant-book: a portable dictionary of plants, their classification and uses. 3rd edn. Cambridge, UK. New York: Cambridge University Press.

  5. Teeguarden, R. (2000). The ancient wisdom of the Chinese tonic herbs. New York, NY: Warner Books. (Pg. 184-185). 

  6. Yaniv Z, Bachrach U. (2005). Handbook of medicinal plants. New York: Food Products Press: Haworth Medical Press.

  7. Wu, J. N. (2005). An illustrated Chinese materia medica. New York: Oxford University Press. (Pg 152-153). 

  8. Fundukian LJ. (2009). The Gale encyclopedia of alternative medicine. 3rd edition. Gale, Cengage Learning: Detroit.

  9. Huang HQ, Zhang X, Lin M, Shen YH, Yan SK, Zhang WD. (2008). Characterization and identification of saikosaponins in crude extracts from three Bupleurum species using LC-ESI-MS. J Sep Sci. 31:3190–3201.

  10. Ashour ML, El-Readi MZ, Tahrani A, Eid SY, Wink M. (2012). A novel cytotoxic aryltetraline lactone from Bupleurum marginatum (Apiaceae). Phytochem Lett, 5:387–392.

  11. Ashour ML, Wink M. (2011). Genus Bupleurum: a review of its phytochemistry, pharmacology and modes of action. J Pharm Pharmacol, 63:305–321.

  12. Zhitao L, Minjian Q, Zhengtao W. (N.D.) Study on the constituent s of the roots of Bupleurum Marginatum. J China Pharmaceut Uni.

  13. Ushio Y, Abe H (1992). Inactivation of measles virus and herpes simplex virus by saikosaponin d. Planta Med, 58:171–173.

  14. Chiang LC, Ng LT, Liu LT, Shieh DE, Lin CC. (2003). Cytotoxicity and anti-hepatitis B virus activities of saikosaponins from Bupleurum species. Planta Med, 69:705–709.

  15. Cheng PW, Chiang LC, Yen MH, Lin CC. (2007). Bupleurum kaoi inhibits Coxsackie B virus type 1 infection of CCFS-1 cells by induction of type I interferons expression. Food Chem Toxicol 2007, 45:24–31.

  16. Charlton JL. (2008). Antiviral activity of lignans. J Nat Prod 1998, 61:1447–1451.

  17. Wink M, Van Wyk B-E: Mind-altering and poisonous plants of the world. Portland: Timber Press.

  18. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a.: Churchill Livingstone. (Pg. 116-117)

  19. Yang, J., Huang, H., Zhu, Li-Jiang, & Chen, Y. (2013). Introduction to chinese materia medica (3rd ed.). (Pg 75-79).