Prunella |Xia Ku Cao
COMMON NAME (Chinese Name)

Prunella (Xia Ku Cao)


Prunella vulgaris


From a historical perspective, prunella is known as a heal-all for its ability to bring down fevers, fight infection, and support rapid wound healing. Test-tube and animal studies largely support these claims (though with some limitations) though there isn’t much human research to verify these uses. Prunella  is categorized in Chinese medicine as an herb that clears heat and drains fire. It is cold, acrid, and bitter and mostly affects the Liver and Gallbladder meridians.

Similarly, animal studies show that taking prunella extract by mouth may strengthen the overall non-specific immune response, potentially making regular supplementation good for vitality. These kinds of hot-water-decoction-created extracts demonstrate significant immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties, suggesting that prunella itself may make a useful functional food supplement for promoting overall good health.

In more specific applications, oral supplementation with prunella extract has a long and well-documented history of use to alleviate the symptoms of a wide variety of inflammation-related digestive conditions. This includes spontaneous colitis (stomach upset) as well as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel disease. Users may find that the same anti-inflammatory properties responsible for these actions also make taking prunella extract by mouth or using dilute prunella extract gargle/rinses is an effective therapy for sore throats and gingivitis.

Topically applying prunella extracts to the skin may noticeably reduce puffiness and inflammation, and may also protect against UVA/UVB-caused skin damage (though it is not a substitute for sunblock). Similarly, topical Prunella application may help prevent the breakdown of collagen in the skin, maintaining the integrity and appearance of healthy skin.


Prunella supplementation almost always calls for making an extract via hot water decoction. Often, these preparations make use of both stems and leaves, though recent research suggests that leaf extracts contain much higher concentrations of major bioactive compounds than stem extracts. This makes hot-water-decoction-based leaf extracts the preferable preparation for both oral and topical administrations.


Because there is so little research focusing on the specific effects of prunella extracts on humans, nobody can say for sure what the potential side-effects and contraindications for its use include. In one study focusing on its potential anti-cancer properties, humans consuming 7ox of prunella extract per day over an extended period of time reported no side-effects. There is some very limited empirical evidence that prunella may impact blood sugar levels and insular uptake. Anyone interested in taking prunella, or any other medicinal herb, should consult with a physician, a certified herbalist, or other qualified healthcare professional. 


Adamkova, Hana, et al. “Macleya Cordata and Prunella Vulgaris in Oral Hygiene Products – Their Efficacy in the Control of Gingivitis.” Biomedical Papers, vol. 148, no. 1, 2004, pp. 103–105., doi:10.5507/bp.2004.019.

Chen, Yuhang, et al. “Variation in Concentrations of Major Bioactive Compounds in Prunella Vulgaris L. Related to Plant Parts and Phenological Stages.” Biological Research, vol. 45, no. 2, 2012, pp. 171–175., doi:10.4067/s0716-97602012000200009.

Haarberg, Kelley Mk. “Orally Administered Extract FromPrunella Vulgarisattenuates Spontaneous Colitis in mdr1a-/-Mice.” World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pharmacology and Therapeutics, vol. 6, no. 4, 2015, p. 223., doi:10.4292/wjgpt.v6.i4.223.

Harikrishnan, Ramasamy, et al. “Prunella Vulgaris Enhances the Non-Specific Immune Response and Disease Resistance of Paralichthys Olivaceus against Uronema Marinum.” Aquaculture, vol. 318, no. 1-2, 2011, pp. 61–66., doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2011.05.020.

Li, Chao, et al. “Characterization, Antioxidant and Immunomodulatory Activities of Polysaccharides from Prunella Vulgaris Linn.” International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, vol. 75, 2015, pp. 298–305., doi:10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2015.01.010.

Rasool, Rafia, and Bashir A. Ganai. “Prunella Vulgaris L. : A Literature Review on Its Therapeutic Potentials.” Pharmacologia, vol. 4, no. 6, Jan. 2013, pp. 441–448., doi:10.5567/pharmacologia.2013.441.448.

Roh, Kyung-Baeg, et al. “Inhibitory Effects of Prunella Vulgaris L. Extract on 11β-HSD1 in Human Skin Cells.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2018, 2018, pp. 1–8., doi:10.1155/2018/1762478.

Vostálová, Jitka, et al. “Prunella Vulgaris Extract and Rosmarinic Acid Prevent UVB-Induced DNA Damage and Oxidative Stress in HaCaT Keratinocytes.” Archives of Dermatological Research, vol. 302, no. 3, 2009, pp. 171–181., doi:10.1007/s00403-009-0999-6.

Zhao, Jixue, et al. “Oral Administration of Prunella Vulgaris L Improves the Effect of Taxane on Preventing the Progression of Breast Cancer and Reduces Its Side Effects.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, vol. 9, 2018, doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00806.


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