Chinese herbalists wishing to ensure the purity of the plant parts they use in their formulas can rely on the backyard garden for some easy to grow plants with a wide variety of uses in traditional health care.
The buds of the magnolia (Magnolia liliflora), are harvested in the spring before the flowers fully open. The Chinese herbal tea made from them is used to help open the sinuses, especially in cases where the patient feels cold.
These are harvested at the height of the blooming season and the chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) flowers, are made into a tea for headaches, sinus congestion and red, itchy eyes. In this case, there is a perception of heat rather than cold.
The gardenia or cape jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides) fruit is used in Traditional Chinese Medical formulas, allowing full enjoyment of the flower. The fruit is harvested in the late fall and used in cases of damp heat that manifest as sores in the mouth, urinary tract infections or some types of jaundice. It is also used topically to reduce swelling due to trauma or to stop nosebleeds.
The buddleia (Buddleia officinalis) or butterfly bush is also used at the budding stage by Chinese herbalists. Light sensitive and red, swollen eyes benefit from its use.
In this case, the phellodendron (Phellodendron amurense) bark is not harvested until the plant is ten years or older. Huang bai, as it is known, is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for diarrhea or dysentery and well as topically on sores and lesions where there is heat present.
Another heat clearing herb, honeysuckle (Lonicerae Japonicae) is a common ingredient in Traditional Chinese herbal formulas for the early stages of a cold or flu as well as for urinary tract infections. The bud, just before it blooms, is used.
Combined with honeysuckle for those TCM cold and flu formulas, the fruit of the forsythia (Forsythia suspensae) is harvested in the autumn after the flowers are long past.
The roots of the purple aster (Astar tataricus) are harvested in either spring or fall and used by Chinese herbalists to treat coughs of a cold nature where it acts as an expectorant.
TCM practitioners use red peony (Paeoniae rubrae) root for a variety of gynecological problems as well as for abscesses and boils. It is considered a Blood invigorating herb in Chinese Medicine
The white peony (Paeonia lactiflora) root is more of a Blood tonifying herb to Traditional Chinese herbalists but the two types of peony are often used together as they address women’s issues from slightly different angles.
There are many more common flowers used in Traditional Chinese medicine. Each has its specific use and each has its unique beauty allowing the herbalist-gardener to create a pleasing flowerbed with a secondary purpose.