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Chinese Herb Name Translations

Lauren Laks, licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, is a graduate of the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco.

Traditional Chinese medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine

Chinese Medicinal Herbs

Traditional Chinese herb names have been compiled over thousands of years, beginning with the famous Shen Nong (神农), mythical father of agriculture and author of the earliest major writings on Chinese herbalism contained in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (神农本草经).

Originally the book covered 365 substances, including plants, minerals and animals. Subsequent generations of Chinese doctors and herbalists have added their input to the Chinese pharmacopia, bringing the number of medicinal substances into the thousands.

Li Shi Zhen (李时珍), considered one of the greatest doctors and herbalists in the history of Chinese medicine, wrote the Grand Materia Medica or Ben Cao Gang Mu (本草纲目) during the Ming Dynasty, which remains the most comprehensive collection of work on Chinese herbalism. Altogether there are 53 volumes covering close to 1,900 distinct herbs (374 of which were not previously recorded), around 11,000 prescriptions (8,000 of which were not previously known), and around 1,100 hand-drawn illustrations. Each entry is categorized by its various names, appearance, odor, nature, use/preparation, growing region, function, and effects, with extensive commentary on misinterpretations by previous physicians. Li was said to have spent nearly 30 years compiling the information, having read and studied over 800 other medical texts which are cited in the bibliography!

Needless to say, Chinese herb names have a long and rich history. Just as Chinese characters have evolved, so have Chinese naming conventions. For each herb, there are layers of meaning behind each character. Some herbs are named by color (i.e., huang lian) and others by type or appearance (i.e., root, leaf, vine, flower, etc.). Some are named after certain regions (i.e., Sichuan), others by the local folklore surrounding its use or discovery (i.e., he shou wu). Herbs that were brought to China from other areas of Asia, Europe, or Africa may also be identified as foreign (i.e., hu jiao). Many are simply proper names reflecting the genus and species of the plant (i.e., pu gong ying). Whatever the translation, a lot of information can be gleaned about the herb based on its name, which can then be used for future recall when memorizing Chinese herbs.

The following is a helpful chart for TCM students, herbalists and practitioners that want a quick reference for the direct translation of Chinese herb names. This list reflects around 360 herbs, many of which are commonly used in practice or should be known in order to study and learn traditional formulas (方剂). They are organized by the pinyin name (most often used in TCM), its literal translation into English (open to interpretation), the simplified characters, and its common name translated to English. Some entries are left blank because the character meaning was difficult to locate, and others may be inaccurate because there are multiple possible meanings. They are organized by functional categories per the Materia Medica.

Release the Exterior: Acrid, Warm (15)

Pinyin • Translation • Characters • Common

Ma Huang • “Hemp Yellow” • 麻黃 • EPHEDRA

Gui Zhi • “Cassia/Cinnamon Branches” • 桂枝 • CINNAMON

Zi Su Ye “Purple Thyme Leaf” 紫苏叶 PERILLA LEAF

Zi Su Geng (*Reg. Qi) “Purple Thyme Stem” 紫苏梗 PERILLA STEM

Jing Jie “Thorns Mustard” 荊芥 SCHIZONEPETA

Fang Feng “Prevent Wind” 防风 SAPOSHNIKOVIA

Qiang Huo “Qiang-surname Live/Exist” 羌活 NOTOPTERYGIUM

Gao Ben “_____ Root/Stem” __本 LIGUSTICUM ROOT

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Bai Zhi “White Angelica” 白芷 ANGELICA ROOT

Xi Xin “Tiny/Thin Bitter/Acrid” 细辛 CHINESE WILD GINGER / ASARUM

Sheng Jiang “Fresh Ginger” 生姜 FRESH GINGER

Cong Bai “Scallions White” 葱白 GREEN ONION

Xiang Ru “Fragrant _____” 香__ AROMATIC MADDER / MOSLA

Cang Er Zi “Blue/Green Ear Seed/Fruit” 苍耳子 COCKLEBURR FRUIT

Xin Yi Hua “Bitter Barbarian/Foreign Flower” 辛夷花 MAGNOLIA FLOWER

Release the Exterior: Acrid, Cool (12)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Bo He “Field Mint” 薄荷 FIELD MINT

Niu Bang Zi “Ox Burdock Fruit” 牛蒡子 BURDOCK FRUIT

Chan Tui “Cicada Shedding” 蟬蛻 CICADA MOLTING

Sang Ye “Mulberry Leaf” 桑叶 WHITE MULBERRY LEAF

Ju Hua “Chrysanthemum Flower” 菊花 CHRYSANTHEMUM

Man Jing Zi “Creeping/Vine Thorns Fruit” 蔓荊子 VITEX FRUIT

Dan Dou Chi “Bland Bean Fermented” 淡豆豉 PREPARED SOYBEAN

Fu Ping “Floating Duckweed” 浮萍 SPIRODELA

Mu Zei “Tree/Wood Thief” 木贼 SHAVE GRASS / EQUISETUM

Ge Gen “Edible-Bean Root” 葛根 KUDZU ROOT

Chai Hu “Firewood Wildly or Barbarian Kindling” 柴胡 BUPLEURUM

Sheng Ma “Arising Hemp” 升麻 BLACK COHOSH

Clear Heat, Drain Fire (11)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Shi Gao “Plaster or Rock/Stone Paste/Ointment” 石膏 GYPSUM


Zhi Zi “Gardenia Fruit” 栀子 GARDENIA / CAPE JASMINE FRUIT

Dan Zhu Ye “Bland Bamboo Leaf” 淡竹叶 LOPHATHERUM STEM & LEAVES

Xia Ku Cao “Summer Withered Grass/Herb” 夏枯草 PRUNELLA / SELFHEAL SPIKE

Lu Gen “Reed Root” 芦根 REED RHIZOME

Tian Hua Fen “Heavenly Flower Powder” 天花粉 TRICHOSANTHES ROOT

Jue Ming Zi “Decide Bright-Clear Seed” or “Unhampered Clarity Seeds” 決明子 CASSIA SEEDS

Qing Xiang Zi “Green-Blue-Black Celosia Seed” 青葙子 CELOSIA SEEDS

Mi Meng Hua “Dense/Thick Cover Flower” 密蒙花 BUDDLEIA FLOWER BUD

Gu Jing Cao “Grain Essence Grass/Herb” 谷精草 PIPEWORT SCAPUS & INFLORESCENCE

Clear Heat, Cool Blood (10)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Shui Niu Jiao “Water Ox Horn” 水牛角 WATER BUFFALO HORN

Sheng Di Huang “Unprepared Earth Yellow” 生地黃 REHMANNIA ROOT

Xuan Shen “Dark Root” 玄参 SCROPHULARIA

Mu Dan Pi “Male Vermillion Skin” 牡丹皮 MOUTAN / TREE PEONY ROOT BARK

Zi Cao “Purple Herb” 紫草 LITHOSPERMUM

Di Gu Pi (*Clear Def. Heat) “Earth Bone Bark” 地骨皮 LYCIUM / WOLFBERRY BARK

Bai Wei (*Clear Def. Heat)“White Fern” 白薇 SWALLOWWORT ROOT

Yin Chai Hu (*Clear Def. Heat)“Silver Barbarian/Foreign Kindling 银柴胡 STELLARIA ROOT

Chi Shao (*Reg. Bld) “Red Peony” 赤芍 RED PEONY ROOT

Xi Jiao (*Obs. Sub.) “Rhinoceros Horn” 犀角 RHINOCEROS HORN

Clear Heat, Dry Damp (8)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Huang Qin “Yellow Salt-Marsh-Plant” 黃芩 SCUTELLARIA / BAICAL SKULLCAP ROOT

Huang Lian “Yellow Links” 黃连 COPTIS RHIZOME

Huang Bai “Yellow Fir” 黃柏 PHELLODENDRON BARK

Long Dan Cao “Dragon Gallbladder Herb” 龍胆草 GENTIAN ROOT

Ku Shen “Bitter Root” 苦参 SOPHORA ROOT

Qin Pi Qin-surname Bark” 秦皮 KOREAN ASH BARK

Hu Huang Lian (*Clear Def. Heat)“Barbarian/Foreign Yellow Links” 胡黃连 PICRORHIZA RHIZOME

Bai Xian Pi (*Clear Heat, Resolve Tox.) “White Fresh Bark” 白鲜皮 DICTAMNUS / DITTANY ROOT BARK

Clear Heat, Resolve Toxicity (27)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Jin Yin Hua “Gold Silver Flower” 金银花 HONEYSUCKLE / LONICERA FLOWER

Ren Dong Teng “Winter Resisting Vine” or “Endure Winter Rattan/Cane” 忍冬藤 HONEYSUCKLE / LONICERA VINE

Lian Qiao “Forsythia” or “Links Outstanding” 连翘 FORSYTHIA FRUIT

Da Qing Ye “Big Green Leaf” 大青叶 ISATIS LEAF

Ban Lan Gen “Boss Blue Root” or “Plank/Board Blue/Indigo Plant Root” 板蓝根 ISATIS ROOT

Qing Dai “Blue-Green Dark Eyebrow Pigment” 青黛 INDIGO

Pu Gong Ying “Calamus-Sweetflag Common English-surname” 蒲公英 DANDELION

Zi Hua Di Ding “Purple Flower Earth Spike” 紫花地丁 VIOLET / VIOLA

Bai Jiang Cao “Spoiled Bean-Paste Herb” or “Defeated Thick-Sauce Herb” 败酱草 PATRINIA

Yu Xing Cao “Fishy-Smelling Herb” 鱼腥草 HOUTTUYNIA

Chuan Xin Lian “Pierce/Penetrate Heart Lotus” 穿心莲 ANDROGRAPHIS

Bai Hua She She Cao “White-Patterned Snake’s Tongue Herb” 白花蛇舌草 HEYDYOTIS

Bai Tou Weng “White-Headed Geezer” 白头翁 PULSATILLA / ANEMONE

Ya Dan Zi “Crow Gallbladder Seed” 鸦胆子 BRUCEA FRUIT

Ma Chi Xian “Horse’s Teeth Amaranth” 马齿苋 PURSLANE

Lu Dou “Clear-Water or Green Bean” 渌豆 MUNG BEAN

Hong Teng “Red Vine or Rattan/Cane” 红藤 SARGENTODOXA VINE

Tu Fu Ling “Earth Local/China Root Poria” or “Earth Medicinal Fungus/Tuber” 土茯苓 SMOOTH GREENBRIER RHIZOME / SMILAX

Ma Bo “Horse Inflation” 马勃 PUFFBALL FRUITING BODY

Shan Dou Gen “Mountain Bean Root” 山豆根 BUSHY SOPHORA

She Gan “Arrow Shaft” or “Shoot Invade” 射干 BELAMCANDA RHIZOME

Lou Lu “Leaking Reed” 漏芦 RHAPONTICUM ROOT

Qing Hao “Blue-Green Artemesia” 青蒿 SWEET WORMWOOD

Niu Huang (*Aromatic Open Orifices) “Cattle Yellow” 牛黃 BOVINE GALLSTONE

Chang Shan (*Expel Parasites) “Constant Mountain” 常山 DICHROA ROOT

Xiong Dan (*Ob. Sub.) “Bear Gallbladder” 熊胆 BEAR GALLBLADDER

Drain Downward (12)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Da Huang (Purg.) “Big Yellow” 大黃 RHUBARB ROOT

Mang Xiao (Purg.)“Miscanthus (Perennial Grass) Saltpeter / Niter” 芒硝 SODIUM SULFATE DECAHYDRATE

Fan Xie Ye (Purg.)“Purgative Leaf of the Foreigners” or “Foreign Laxative Leaf” 番泻叶 SENNA LEAF

Lu Hui (Purg.)“Reed Flourish” 芦荟 DRIED ALOE VERA JUICE

Huo Ma Ren (Moist. Lax.) “Fire Hemp Kernel” 火麻仁 HEMP SEEDS

Yu Li Ren (Moist. Lax.)”Constrained Plum Kernel” 郁李仁 BUSH CHERRY PIT

Qian Niu Zi (Harsh Ex.) “Cowherd/Altair (Star) Seeds” 牵牛子 MORNING GLORY SEEDS

Gan Sui (Harsh Ex.)“Sweet Process/Forthwith” 甘遂 KAN-SUI ROOT

(Jing) Da Ji (Harsh Ex.)“Capital Big Lance” 京大戟 EUPHORBIA ROOT

Yuan Hua (Harsh Ex.)“Lilac Flower” 芫花 GENKWA FLOWER

Ba Dou (Harsh Ex.)“Clinging Bean” 巴豆 CROTON SEED

Shang Lu (Harsh Ex.)“Commerce Continent” 商陆 POKE ROOT

Expel/Dispel Wind-Damp (19)

Pinyin • Translation • Characters • Common

Du Huo • “Self-Reliant Existence” • 独活 • PUBESCENTIS ANGELICA ROOT

Wei Ling Xian • “Awesome Spiritual Immortal” • 威灵仙 • CLEMATIS ROOT

Hai Tong Pi • “Ocean Wood-Oil Tree Bark” • 海桐皮 • ERYTHRINA BARK

Mu Gua • “Wood Melon” • 木瓜 • CHINESE QUINCE FRUIT

Can Sha • “Silkworm Sand” • 蚕沙 • SILKWORM FECES

Sang Ji Sheng • “Mulberry Parasite” or “Mulberry To Live-In Grow” • 桑寄生 • MULBERRY MISTLETOE STEMS

Wu Jia Pi • “Bark of Five Additions” or “Five Add Bark” • 五加皮 • ELEUTHEROCOCCUS ROOT BARK

Hai Feng Teng • “Sea Wind Vine” • 海风藤 • KADSURA PEPPER STEM

Qian Nian Jian • “Thousand Years of Health” • 千年健 • HOMALOMENA RHIZOME

Qin Jiao • “Qin-Surname ____” • 秦艽 • LARGE GENTIAN ROOT

Sang Zhi • “Mulberry Branch” • 桑枝 • MULBERRY TWIG

Xi Xian Cao • “Sparse _____ Herb” • 稀__草 • SIEGESBECKIA

Luo Shi Teng • “Collateral Stone Vine” • 络石藤 • STAR JASMINE STEM

Bai Hua She • “White Patterned Snake” • 白花蛇 • AGKISTRODON SNAKE

Wu Shao She “Black-Striped / Tip Snake” 乌梢蛇 ZAOCYS / BLACK-STRIPED SNAKE

She Tui “Snake Shedding” 蛇蛻 SNAKESKIN SLOUGH

Song Jie “Knotty Pine” or “Pine Point” 松节 KNOTTY PINE WOOD

Han Fang Ji (Drain Damp) “Han[zhong] Protect Yin-Earth (6th Heavenly Stem)” 汉防己 STEPHANIA ROOT

Hu Gu (Obs. Sub.) “Tiger Bone” 虎骨 TIGER BONE

Aromatic Transform Damp (8)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Cang Zhu “Dark-Blue Asteraceae” 苍朮 ATRACTYLODIS RHIZOME

Hou Po “Thick Tree” 厚朴 MAGNOLIA BARK

Huo Xiang “Betony/Beans Fragrant” 藿香 PATCHOULI / POGOSTEMON

Pei Lan “Ornamental Orchid” 佩兰 EUPATORIUM


Bai Dou Kou “White Cardamon” 白荳蔻 ROUND CARDAMON

Cao Dou Kou “Grass Cardamon” 草荳蔻 KATSUMADA’S GALANGAL SEEDS

Cao Guo “Grass Fruit” 草果 TSAOKO FRUIT

Drain Damp (19)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Fu Ling “China-Root Fungus” 茯苓 PORIA / HOELEN

Zhu Ling “Pig’s Fungus” 猪苓 POLYPORUS


Yi Yi Ren “Job’s-Tears Barley Seeds” 薏苡仁 COIX SEEDS / JOB’S TEARS

Che Qian Zi “Before the Cart Seeds” 車前子 PLANTAGO SEEDS

Hua Shi “Slippery Rock” 滑石 TALCUM POWDER

Mu Tong “Wood Unblocking” 木通 AKEBIA CAULIS

Tong Cao “Unblocking Herb” 通草 RICE PAPER PITH PLANT / TETRAPANAX

Deng Xin Cao “Lamp Wick Herb” 灯心草 JUNCUS / RUSH PITH

Qu Mai “Qu-Surname Grain” 瞿麦 DIANTHUS / FRINGED PINK

Bian Xu “_______ Store” __蓄 KNOTGRASS / POLYGONUM

Shi Wei “Stone Leather” or “Rock Reed/Rush” 石苇 PYRROSIA LEAF

Di Fu Zi “Earth Skin Seeds” 地肤子 KOCHIA FRUIT / BROOM CYPRUS

Dong Gua Ren “Winter Melon Seeds” 冬瓜仁 WINTER MELON SEED

Dong Kui Guo “Winter Sunflower Fruit” 冬葵果 MALLOW FRUIT

Bi Xie “Castor-Seed Xie-surname” 萆解 TOKORO / FISH POISON YAM RHIZOME

Jin Qian Cao “Gold Money Herb” 金钱草 LYSMACHIA

Chi Xiao Dou “Dark-Red Little Bean” 赤小豆 ADZUKI BEAN

Yin Chen Hao “Skimmia (Evergreen Rue Family) Chen-surname Wormwood” 茵陈蒿 VIRGATE WORMWOOD

Warm Interior, Expel Cold (11)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

(Zhi) Fu Zi “[Prepared] Appendage” 制附子 PROCESSED ACONITE ACCESSORY ROOT

Gan Jiang “Dried Ginger” 干姜 DRIED GINGER RHIZOME

Rou Gui “Flesh/Meat of Cinnamon” 肉桂 CINNAMON BARK

Wu Zhu Yu “Wu-surname Dogwood” 吴茱萸 EVODIA FRUIT

Hua Jiao “Sichuan Pepper” 花椒 SICHUAN PEPPER

Gao Liang Jiang “Ginger from Gao Liang (in GuangdongProvince) 高良姜 LESSER GALANGAL RHIZOME

Ding Xiang “Spike Fragrance” 丁香 CLOVE

Xiao Hui Xiang “Little Fennel Fragrance” or “Small Return Fragrance” 小茴香 FENNEL FRUIT

Bi Cheng Qie “End of Purified Eggplant” 毕澄茄 CUBEB FRUIT

Bi Ba “Wicker/Bamboo Grass/Thatch” 筚茇 LONG PEPPER FRUIT

Hu Jiao “Beard-Barbarian Pepper” 胡椒 PEPPER

Regulate Qi (16)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Chen Pi “Aged Peel” or “Mandarin Orange” 陈皮 AGED TANGERINE PEEL

Ju Hong “Tangerine Red” 橘红 RED TANGERINE PEEL

Ju Luo “Tangerine Net” 橘絡 TANGERINE PITH

Ju He “Tangerine Stone” 橘核 TANGERINE PIP / SEEDS


Zhi Shi “Orange True” 枳实 UNRIPE BITTER ORANGE

Zhi Ke “Orange Shell” 枳壳 BITTER ORANGE

Xiang Fu “Aromatic Appendage” 香附 CYPERUS / NUT-GRASS RHIZOME

Mu Xiang “Wood Fragrance” 木香 AUCKLANDIA / SAUSSUREA

Wu Yao “Raven-Black Medicine” 乌药 LINDERA ROOT

Chen Xiang “Sinking Fragrance” 药香 AQUILARIA WOOD / ALOESWOOD

Tan Xiang “Sandalwood Fragrance” 檀香 SANDALWOOD

Xie Bai “Scallion/Allium White” 薤白 CHINESE GARLIC / GARLIC CHIVES


Chuan Lian Zi “Sichuan Melia-genus (Deciduous Chinaberry) Seeds” 川楝子 TOOSENDAN FRUIT / SICHUAN PAGODA TREE / CHINABERRY

Shi Di “Persimmon Stem” 柿蒂 PERSIMMON CALYX

Relieve Food Stagnation (6)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Shan Zha “Mountain Hawthorn/Quince” 山楂 HAWTHORN FRUIT

Mai Ya “Barley Sprouts” 麦芽 BARLEY SPROUTS / MALT

Gu Ya “Grain Sprouts” 谷芽 GRAIN SPROUTS

Shen Qu “Spirit’s Leaven” or “Miracle Bent/Curve” 神曲 MEDICATED LEAVEN

Ji Nei Jin “Chicken Inner Gold” 鸡內金 GIZZARD LINING

Lai Fu Zi “Weed Quiver Seeds” 萊箙子 RADISH SEED

Expel Parasites (9)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Shi Jun Zi “Respected Envoy Seed” 使君子 RANGOON CREEPER FRUIT

Ku Lian Pi “Bitter Melia Bark” 苦楝皮 CHINABERRY / MELIA BARK

Fei Zi “Torreya Seeds” 榧子 TORREYA SEEDS

He Shi “Crane’s Louse” 鹤虱 CARPESIUM FRUIT


Wu Yi “Overgrown Weeds” or “Fruit of Elm” 芜荑 STINKING ELM FRUIT PASTE

Bing Lang “Areca Tree” 槟榔 BETEL NUT / AREACA

Nan Gua Zi “Southern Melon Seeds” 南瓜子 PUMPKIN SEEDS & HUSKS

Da Fu Pi (* Reg. Qi) “Big Belly Peel” 大腹皮 ARECA HUSK / PEEL

Stop Bleeding (12)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common


Pu Huang “Calamus (Common Sweet Flag) Yellow” 蒲黃 CATTAIL POLLEN

Qian Cao (Gen) “Rubia Herb (Root)” 茜草根 MADDER / RUBIA ROOT

Da Ji “Large Thistle” 大蓟 JAPANESE / LARGE THISTLE

Di Yu “Earth/Ground Elm” 地榆 SANGUISORBA ROOT

Huai (Hua) Mi “Sophora (Locust Tree) Flower Rice” 槐花米 SOPHORA BUD / PAGODA TREE BUD

Ce Bai Ye “Lateral/Slanted Fir Leaves” 側柏葉 ORIENTAL ARBORVITAE LEAFY TWIG

Bai Mao Gen “White Grass Root” 白茅根 IMPERATA RHIZOME / WHITE GRASS

Xian He Cao • “Immortal Crane Herb” • 仙鹤草 • AGRIMONY

Bai Ji • “White Reach” • 白及 • BLETILLA RHIZOME

Ou Jie • “Lotus Root Node” • 藕节 • LOTUS RHIZOME NODE

Ai Ye • “Mugwort Leaf” • 艾叶 • MUGWORT LEAF / ARTEMESIA

Invigorate Blood (23)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Chuan Xiong “Szechuan Herb” 川芎 SZECHUAN LOVAGE ROOT

Dan Shen “Cinnabar Root/Ginseng” 丹参 SALVIA ROOT

Ji Xue Teng “Chicken Blood Vine”鸡血籐 SPATHOLOBUS ROOT & VINE

Yan Hu Suo “Extended Barbarian Rope” 延胡索 CORYDALIS RHIZOME

Yu Jin “Constrained Gold” or “Sweet-Smelling Gold” 郁金 CURCUMA TUBER

Jiang Huang “Ginger Yellow” 姜黃 TURMERIC RHIZOME

Yi Mu Cao “Benefit Mother Herb” 益母草 LEONURUS / CHINESE MOTHERWORT

Ze Lan “Marsh Orchid” 泽兰 LYCOPOS / BUGLEWEED

Chi Shao • “Red Peony” • 赤芍 • RED PEONY ROOT

Tao Ren • “Peach Kernel” • 桃仁 • PEACH KERNEL

Hong Hua • “Red Flower” • 红花 • SAFFLOWER / CARTHAMUS

E Zhu • “Zedoary (White Tumeric) Atracylodis (Genus)” • 莪朮 • CURCUMA RHIZOME

San Leng • “Three Edges/Squared Timber” • 三棱 • SPARGANIUM / BURR REED RHIZOME

Ru Xiang • “Milk Fragrance” • 乳香 • FRANKINCENSE / MASTIC / GUM OLIBANUM

Mo Yao • “Not Medicine” or “Drown-Sink Medicine” • 没药 • MYRRH

Niu Xi • “Ox Knee” • 牛膝 • ACHYRANTHES ROOT

Wang Bu Liu Xing • “King Cannot Stay Its Movement” • 王不留行 • VACCARIA SEEDS

Zi Ran Tong • “Natural Copper” • 自然铜 • PYRITE

Su Mu • “Su[matra]-Island Wood” • 苏木 • SAPPEN WOOD

Wu Ling Zhi • “Fat of the Five Spirits” or “Five Spirit Fat” • 五灵脂 • FLYING SQUIRREL FECES / PTEROPUS

Shui Zhi • “Water Leech” • 水蛭 • LEECH

Tu Bie Chong • “Earth Soft-Shelled-Turtle Bug” • 土鳖虫 • GROUND BEETLE / EUPOLYPHAGA

Chuan Shan Zha (*Obs. Sub.) • “Penetrate Mountain Scales” • 穿山甲 • PANGOLIN SCALES

Herbs That Cool and Transform Phlegm-Heat (15)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Qian Hu “Before Barbarians” 前胡 PEUCEDANUM ROOT / HOGFENNEL ROOT

Chuan Bei Mu “Shell Mother from Sichuan” or “Sichuan Shell Mother” 川贝母 SICHUAN / TENDRILLED FRITILLARIA BULB

Zhe Bei Mu “Shell Mother from Zhe[jiang]” 浙贝母 ZHEJIANG / THUNBERG FRITILLARIA BULB

Gua Lou “Melon Artemesia” or “Round-Fruit Long-Fruit” 瓜蒌 TRICHOSANTHES FRUIT

Gua Lou Pi “Gua Lou Peel” 瓜蒌皮 TRICHOSANTHES PEEL

Gua Lou Ren “Gua Lou Seed” 瓜蒌仁 TRICHOSANTHES SEED

Tian Hua Fen (*Clear Heat, Drain Fire) “Heavenly Flower Powder” 天花粉 TRICHOSANTHES ROOT

Tian Zhu Huang “Heavenly Bamboo Yellow” 天竺黄 BAMBOO SUGAR / SILICEOUS SECRETIONS OF BAMBOO

Zhu Li “Bamboo Drip” 竹沥 BAMBOO SAP (DRIED)

Zhu Ru “Bamboo Root/Vegetables” 竹茹 BAMBOO SHAVINGS

Fu Hai Shi “Floating Ocean Stone” 浮海石 PUMICE or CONSTAZIAE SKELETON

Hai Ge Ke (/Qiao) “Ocean Clam Shell” 海蛤壳 CLAM SHELL

Kun Bu “Elder-Brother Linen” 昆布 KELP

Hai Zao “Seaweed” or “Ocean Aquatic-Grass” 海藻 SEAWEED / SARGASSUM

Pang Da Hai “Fat Big Sea” 胖大海 STERCULIA SEED

Huang Yao Zi “Yellow Medicine Seed” 黃药子 DIOSCOREA BULBIFERA TUBER

Warm Herbs That Transform Cold-Phlegm (9)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

(Zhi) Ban Xia “Prepared Half Summer” 制半夏 PINELLIA RHIZOME

(Zhi) Tian Nan Xing “Prepared Star of the Southern Heavens” or “Heavenly Southern Star” 制天南星 PREPARED ARISAEMA RHIZOME / JACK-IN-THE-PULPIT

Dan Nan Xing “Gallbladder Southern Star” 膽南星 BILE-PREPARED ARISAEMA

(Zhi) Bai Fu Zi “Processed White Appendage” 制白附子 PREPARED TYPHONIUM RHIZOME

Xuan Fu Hua “Rotated Upturned Flower” 旋覆花 INULA FLOWER

Bai Qian “White Before” 白前 CYNANCHUM ROOT & RHIZOME

Bai Jie Zi “White Mustard Seed” 白芥子 WHITE MUSTARD SEED

Jie Geng “Chinese Bellflower” or “Platycodon Stem” 桔梗 PLATYCODON ROOT / BALLOON FLOWER ROOT


Herbs That Relieve Coughing & Wheezing (10)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Xing Ren “Apricot Seed” 杏仁 APRICOT SEED / KERNEL

Zi Wan “Purple Luxuriance-of-Growth” 紫菀 ASTER ROOT / PURPLE ASTER

Kuan Dong Hua “Section Winter Flower” 款冬花 TUSSILAGO FLOWER / COLTSFOOT

(Zi) Su Zi “Purple Thyme Seed” 紫苏子 PERILLA FRUIT

Pi Pa Ye “Loquat Leaf” 枇杷叶 LOQUAT LEAF / ERIOBOTRYA

Bai Bu “Hundred Parts” 百部 STEMONA ROOT

Sang Bai Pi “Mulberry White Bark” 桑白皮 MULBERRY ROOT BARK

Ting Li Zi “Ting Li-Plant Seed” 葶苈子 DESCURAINIA / LEPIDIUM SEED

Ma Dou Ling (*Obs. Sub.) “Bell of a Horse’s Hat” or “Horse Pouch Bell” 馬兜鈴 BIRTHWORT FRUIT / ARISTOLOCHIA FRUIT

Bai Guo (*Stab. & Bind) “White Fruit” 白果 GINGKO NUT

Substances That Calm the Spirit (9)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common


Long Chi “Dragon Teeth” 龙齿 FOSSILIZED TEETH

Ci Shi “Magnetic Stone” 磁石 MAGNETITE

Zhu Sha (*Obs. Sub.) “Vermillion Sand” 朱砂 CINNABAR

Hu Po “Amber” 琥珀” AMBER

Suan Zao Ren “Sour Date Seed” 酸枣仁 SOUR JUJUBE / ZIZYPHUS SEEDS

Bai Zi Ren “Cyprus Seed” 柏子仁 CHINESE ARBORVITAE SEED


He Huan Pi “Conjoined Happiness Bark” 合欢皮 ALBIZZIA / SILKTREE BARK

Aromatic Substances the Open the Orifices (4)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

She Xiang “Musk Deer Fragrance” 麝香 NAVEL GLAND SECRETIONS OF MUSK DEER

Su He Xiang “Revive[-Plant] and Join Fragrance ” 苏合香 RESIN OF ROSE MALOES / STYRAX

Bing Pian “Ice Slice” 冰片 BORNEOL

Shi Chang Pu “Flourishing Reeds” or “Rock Calamus-Species 石菖蒲 GRASSLEAF SWEETFLAG RHIZOME / ACORUS

Extinguish Wind and Stop Tremors (11)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Ling Yang Jiao “Antelope Sheep Horn” 羚羊角 ANTELOPE HORN

Gou Teng “Hook Vine” 钩藤 UNCARIA VINE / GAMBIR

Tian Ma “Heavenly Hemp 天麻 GASTRODIA RHIZOME

Dai Zhe Shi “Red Stone from DaiCounty” or “Dai Ocher Stone” 代赭石 HEMATITE

Mu Li (*Calm Spirit) “Male Oyster” or “Oyster” 牡蛎 OYSTER SHELL

Bai/Ci Ji Li “Puncture-Tribulus Chenopodium-album ” 刺蒺藜 CALTROP FRUIT / TRIBULUS

Shi Jue Ming “Stone Unhampered Clarity” 石決明 ABALONE SHELL

Di Long “Earth Dragon” 地龙 EARTHWORM / LUMBRICUS

Quan Xie “Whole Scorpion” 全蝎 SCORPION / BUTHUS

Wu Gong “Centipede Scolopendra ” 蜈蚣 CENTIPEDE / SCOLOPENDRA

(Bai) Jiang Can “White Mummified-Stiff[corpse] Silkworm” 白僵蚕 BODY OF SICK SILKWORM

Herbs That Tonify the Qi (11)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Ren Shen “Man Root” or “Person Ginseng” 人参 GINSENG ROOT

Dang Shen “Group Root-Ginseng” 党参 CODONOPSIS ROOT

Tai Zi Shen “Prince Root” or “Highest Son Ginseng” 太子参 PSEUDOSTELLARIA ROOT

Huang Qi “Yellow _________” 黄___ ASTRAGALUS ROOT/ MILK-VETCH ROOT

Bai Zhu “White Atractylis” 白朮 WHITE ATRACTYLODES RHIZOME

Gan Cao “Sweet Herb” 甘草 LICORICE ROOT

Da Zao “Big Date-Jujube” 大枣 JUJUBE / CHINESE DATE

Shan Yao “Mountain Herb-Medicine” 山药 DIOSCOREA RHIZOME / CHINESE YAM

Yi Tang “Syrup Sugar” 饴糖 MALT SUGAR / MALTOSE

Xi Yang Shen (*Tonify Yin) “Western Foreign Root-Ginseng” 西洋参 AMERICAN GINSENG ROOT

Bai Bian Dou “White Flat Bean” 白扁豆 HYACINTH BEAN / LABLAB

Herbs That Tonify the Yang (20)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Lu Rong (Lu Jiao) “Deer Downy/ Sprouts” 鹿茸 DEER VELVET

Ge Jie “Clam Lizard” 蛤蚧 GECKO

Dong Chong Xia Cao “Winter Bug Summer Herb” 冬虫夏草 CORDYCEPS / CHINESE CATERPILLAR FUNGUS

Rou Cong Rong “Flesh Herb Lotus/Hibiscus” 肉苁蓉 CISTANCHE / FLESHY STEM OF BROOMRAPE


Yin Yang Huo / Xian Ling Pi “Licentious Goat Wort” 淫羊藿 AERIAL PARTS OF EPIMEDIUM

Ba Ji Tian “Desired Lance-with-two points Heaven” 巴戟天 MORINDA ROOT


He Tao Ren “Kernal of Peach Seed” 核桃仁 WALNUT

Bu Gu Zhi “Tonify Bone Resin” or “Mend Bone Fat” 补骨脂 PSORALEA FRUIT

Yi Zhi Ren “Benefit Intelligence Nut” 益智仁 ALPINIA FRUIT / BLACK CARDAMOM

Xian Mao “Immortal Grass/Thatch” 仙茅 CURCULIGO / GOLDEN EYE-GRASS RHIZOME

Du Zhong “Prevent Middle Brother-Mediator” 杜仲 EUCOMMIA BARK


Xu Duan “Reconnect What is Broken” or “Continue Interrupt” 续断 DIPSACUS / JAPANESE TEASEL ROOT

Gu Sui Bu “Mender of Shattered Bones” or “Bone Shattered Mend” 骨碎补 DRYNARIA RHIZOME

Tu Si Zi “Dodder Silk/Thread Seeds” 菟丝子 CHINESE DODDER SEEDS / CUSCUTA

Sha Yuan Zi (Ji Li) “Shayuan Seeds” or “Sand Yuan-surname Seeds” 沙苑子 FLATTENED MILKVETCH / ASTRAGALUS SEED

Jiu Cai Zi “Leek Vegetable Seeds” 韭菜子 CHINESE LEEK SEEDS / ALLIUM SEEDS

Zi He Che “PurpleRiver Vehicle” 紫河车 HUMAN PLACENTA

Herbs That Tonify the Blood (8)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common



Dang Gui “State of Return” 当归 CHINESE ANGELICA ROOT

Bai Shao “White Peony” 白芍 WHITE PEONY ROOT

E Jiao “Flatter Glue” 阿胶 DONKEY-HIDE GELATIN


Sang Shen “Mulberry Fruit” 桑椹 MULBERRY / MORUS FRUIT

Long Yan Rou “Dragon Eye Flesh ” 龙眼肉 FLESH OF LONGAN FRUIT

Herbs That Tonify the Yin (12)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common


Mai Men Dong “Luxuriant Winter” or “Grain Door Winter” 麦门冬 OPHIOPOGON TUBER

Tian Men Dong “Heavenly Gate Winter” 天门冬 ASPARAGUS TUBER

Shi Hu “Bushel of Stone” or “Stone Bushel” 石斛 DENDROBIUM


Bai He “Hundred Meetings ” 百合 LILY BULB

Mo Han Lian (Cao) “Ink Dry Lotus” 墨旱莲 ECLIPTA

Nu Zhen Zi “Female Chastity Seeds” ___贞子 LIGUSTRUM / PRIVET FRUIT

Hei Zhi Ma “Black Purplish-Mushroom Sesame” 黑芝麻 BLACK SESAME SEEDS




Herbs That Stabilize and Bind (17)

Pinyin Translation Characters Common

Shan Zhu Yu “Mountain Cornelian-Cherry” 山茱萸 ASIATIC CORNELIAN CHERRY FRUIT

Wu Wei Zi “Five-Flavored Seed” 五味子 SCHISANDRA FRUIT

Wu Mei “Darkened-Black Plum” 乌梅 MUME FRUIT

He Zi “Ridicule-Scold Seed” 诃子 CHEBULE / MYROBALAN FRUIT

Rou Dou Kou “Fleshy Cardamom” or “Flesh Bean Reed” 肉豆簆 NUTMEG SEEDS / MYRISTICA

Chi Shi Zhi “Crimson Stone Resin-Grease” 赤石脂 HALLOYSITE / KAOLIN

Qian Shi “Euryale-Ferox Solid” 芡实 EURYALE SEEDS

Jin Ying Zi “Golden-Metal Cherry Fruit” 金樱子 CHEROKEE ROSEHIP / ROSA LAEVIGATA

Fu Pen Zi “Overturned [Bed] Pan Fruit” 复盆子 CHINESE RASPBERRY / RUBUS

Fu Xiao Mai “Floating Little Wheat” 浮小麦 LIGHT WHEAT GRAIN

Ma Huang Gen “Hemp Yellow Root” 麻黃根 EPHEDRA ROOT

Hai Piao Xiao “Ocean Egg-Case Octopus” 海螵蛸 CUTTLEFISH BONE

Wu Bei Zi “Five Multiples Seed” 五倍子 GALLNUT OF CHINESE SUMAC

Li Lu (*Stop Cough) “Chenopodium-Alum Reed" 藜芦 VERATRUM ROOT & RHIZOME

She Chuang Zi (*Top. App.) “Snake’s Bed Seeds” 蛇床子 CNIDIUM SEED

Sang Piao Xiao “Mulberry Nest of Eggs or Egg-Case” 桑螵蛸 MANTIS EGG-CASE

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Johanna on March 16, 2020:

Thank you so much, a wonderful contribution.

Christin on June 14, 2019:

Thank you heaps for this list. Have been searching for exactly this.

Will on July 20, 2018:

Holy cow is this list AMAZING! As an AOM student I have, like most people, struggled to retain the Pinyin names of the herbs from memory. Knowing the literal translation of each herb conveys meaning to it and makes it SO much easier to learn and memorize. You are truly a dedicated and amazing person. Thank you for all your hard work compiling this list!! :-)

Patrick Cunningham, LAc. on February 18, 2018:

Good article!

Maya on September 27, 2016:

This is so helpful. Thanks heaps for posting this up! Rad effort :)

Ya Xiao on April 19, 2013:

Does this exist in mineral used by Chinese Herbologists? It's inhibated by San Leng ... that's all I've been told.

sgphilgoh from Singapore on June 03, 2012:

Thank you for taking the trouble to do the compilation and for sharing.

Anna Lee on May 23, 2012:

Bai He • “Hundred Meetings ” • ?? • LILY BULB

I need to get some ?? • LILY BULB for cooking with pork. Of course, I did not know how it looked lik and when to get them. Thanks.

Dean on April 25, 2012:

Thank you, I am a 2nd year Acupuncture student learning herbs at school. It is difficult when you don't know Chinese, so this is very helpful. It let the Pinyin names be meaningful. Thanks Again.

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