COMMON NAME (Chinese Name)
Prunella (Xia Ku Cao)
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.
PREPARATION & ADMINISTRATION
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.
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