Home > Herbal Glossary > Chinese Herb List > Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae
>>Where Does It Grow?
>>Nature and Flavor
>>Identified Active Components / Major Chemical Constituents
>>Drug actions in TCM
>>Traditional Use in TCM
>>Pharmacological Actions
>>Administration and Dosage
>>Adverse Effect, Side Effects and Cautions
Largehead atractylodes rhizome
Latin Name: Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae
Common Name: Largehead atractylodes rhizome
Scientific Name: Atractylodes macrocephala Koidz
Chinese Name: ¥Õ¥º
Pinyin Name: bai zhu
The drug is the tuber of Atractylodes macrocephala Koidz, a perennial herbal plant of the Compositae family. The medicinal part is used in raw or fried form.[1]
Where Does It Grow?
Largehead atractylodes rhizome is mainly produced in provinces like Zhejiang, Anhui, Hubei, Hunan, and Jiangxi. Nowadays, it is provided by cultivation.[1]
Nature and Flavor
Largehead atractylodes rhizome is warm in nature, sweet and bitter in flavor, and mainly manifests its therapeutic actions in the spleen and stomach meridians.[2]
Identified Active Components/ Major Chemical Constituents 
Largehead atractylodes rhizome contains volatile oils, such as £\-humulene, £]-humulene, £\-curcumene, £]-elemol, atractlone, 3£]-acetoxyatractylone, selina-4(14),7(11)-dien-8-one, hinesol, and atractylodin. It also contains lactone compounds such as atractylenolides I-IV, atractylenolactam, beishulenolide A, peroxiatractylenolide III, and biepiasterolide. Others are immune active polysaccharides, essential amino acids and vitamins.[5]
Drug actions in TCM
Largehead atractylodes rhizome can invigorate spleen, replenish qi (vital energy), induce urination, dry the body, control sweating and prevent abortion.[2]
Traditional Use in TCM
Largehead atractylodes rhizome is often used to strengthen the body, boost immune functioning, regulate stomach and digestive functions, promote absorption, induce urination and relieve edema.[3]' [4]

  • Largehead atractylodes rhizome is an important herb for invigoration the spleen and replenishing qi.
  • Largehead atractylodes rhizome helps relieve indigestion, poor appetite, gastro and abdominal distention, limbs weakness and chronic diarrhea. For symptoms like poor appetite, spiritual fatigue and weakness that due to spleen weakness, it can be used with pilose asiabell root, poria and liquorice root to enhance the spleen as well as qi activities. When there is excessive coldness that leads to abdominal colic, it can be used with dried ginger and aconite root to warm the meridians and promote circulation. A disturbance of intestinal qi that leads to gastro and abdominal distention, it can be used with tangerine peel and immature bitter orange; when there is diarrhea or loose bowels, Chinese yam and hyacinth bean are selected additionally. Persistent diarrhea may be a sign of spleen deficiency that fails to control the bowel movements, the herb can be used with astragalus root, bupleurum root and bugbane rhizome to enhance the spleen functioning.

  • Largehead atractylodes rhizome promotes body fluids metabolism, and prevents the excessive dampness further transferring into pathological phlegm.
  • Excessive dampness and phlegm will cause symptoms like chest stuffiness, coughing, breath shortness, dizziness and palpitations. The herb can be used with cassia twig, poria and liquorice root to relieve the symptoms. When the dampness pathogens accumulate in the head region and block the orifices, there may be serious dizziness or vertigo, the herb is usually used with oriental water-plantain rhizome to expel the dampness out of the body.

  • Largehead atractylodes rhizome for general swelling.
  • Spleen weakness that fails to regulate the distribution of body fluids will lead to general swelling. Largehead atractylodes rhizome can be used with cassia twig, poria, polyporus and oriental water-plantain rhizome to relieve the condition. When general swelling is duo to yang deficiency of spleen and kidney, then other herbs like aconite root, ginger and poria are selected along with the herb.

  • Largehead atractylodes rhizome can consolidate the body surface and prevent excessive sweating.
  • The herb is usually selected along with astragalus root and ledebouriella root, the herbal combination not only can arrest sweating, but also enhance immune functions so as to reduce the episodes of cold and flu. For severe sweating problems, extra herbs like oyster shell (calcined) and shriveled wheat should be used; when the individuals present with night sweats, it is better to add black soybean peeling and American ginseng.

  • Largehead atractylodes rhizome can increase the levels of blood and qi by invigorating the spleen and stomach.
  • In TCM, the spleen and stomach are regarded as the source of blood and qi production, clinically it is commonly used with other blood and qi herbs to treat anemia conditions.

  • Largehead atractylodes rhizome can treat painful joints and limbs (bi-syndrome)
  • Largehead atractylodes rhizome can invigorate spleen and dry the body, it is indicated for limb or joint problems such as rheumatic pain or rheumatoid arthritis. In TCM views, the problems are usually associated with pathologic dampness accumulated in the local meridians. The herb can work with coix seed, flowering quince fruit and fourstamen stephania root for relief. When the joint has cold sign that appears no redness and swelling, aconite root should be added in to warm up the limbs¡¦ meridians.

  • Largehead atractylodes rhizome soothes the uterus and prevent abortion
  • For threaten abortion that due to qi insufficiency accompanying with internal heat, the herb is used with baical skullcap root for the treatment. For qi stagnation cases, it is used with perilla stem and tangerine peel; in blood deficiency cases, it is used with rehmannia root and angelica root; in serious qi deficiency cases, it is used with Asian ginseng and astragalus root. Irritable fetus may be a sign of kidney deficiency, the herb can be used with mulberry mistletoe and eucommia bark for the treatment, when the pregnant woman appears vaginal bleeding, herbs like ramie root and rehmannia root (charred) are added in.

    Generally, largehead atractylodes rhizome is one of the most commonly used herbs in TCM. However, the herb rarely applied as the major ingredient in herbal prescriptions, it usually works with other herbs to achieve a targeted therapeutic effect.

    Pharmacological Actions
    Research shows that largehead atractylodes rhizome helps regulate the functions of gastro-intestine, strengthen the body, boost immunity, protect the liver and gallbladder functions, regulate blood sugar, promote urination, anti-oxidization, anti-blood-clotting, anti-cancer, and release involuntary muscular spasm.[4]
    Largehead atractylodes rhizome decoction injected (i.p.) in mice, the LD50 was found to be 13.3g/kg. When mice were administered by gavage with largehead atractylodes rhizome decoction (0.5g/kg) for 14 consecutive days, white blood cells, in particular the lymph cells, were reduced. After two months, there was mild anemia. Some of them had observed pathological changes in the epithelial cells of kidney tubules.[4]
    Administration and Dosage
    Orally, the usual dose is 10-15g, it can be up to 30g if necessary, for preparations such as decoctions, pills, powders or syrups. The raw herb is usually suggested for drying the body, promote urination, consolidating the body surface and arresting sweating; the fried herb is suggested for invigorating the spleen, harmonizing the stomach, and preventing abortion; the deep roasted herb is suggested for promoting digestion and absorption, stimulating appetite, and arresting diarrhea.[2]
    Adverse Effect, Side Effects and Cautions
    Yin deficiency that leads to hot flushes is not suggested to use the herb alone. Other conditions like body fluid depletion or acute gastro-intestinal infections are not indicated too.[4]
    1. Li Jiashi (editor-in-chief), Chinese Medicine Identification, Shanghai Scientific and Technical Publishers, 2000-2.
    2. Lui Daiquan (editor-in-chief), Chinese Herbal Medicine, Shanghai Scientific and Technical Publishers, 2000-6.
    3. Tao Yufeng, Clinical Herbal Medicine, People¡¦s Medical Publishing House, 2005-5.
    4. Chen Pian, Clinical Application of Tonifying Herbs, Second Military Medical University Press, 2008.
    5. Zhao Zhongzhen & Xiao Peigen (editor-in-chief), Contemporary Medicinal Herbal Glossary, Hong Kong Jockey Club Institute of Chinese Medicine, 2006-8.