Rice Paper Pith

Rice Paper Pith | Tong Cao
COMMON NAME (Chinese Name)

Rice Paper Pith (Tong Cao)


Tetrapanax Papyrifer


Rice paper pith supplements have a long history of use as lactation-promoters for women struggling to successfully breastfeed. Additionally, they have empirically-proven anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombin, and anti-hepatotoxic properties, while other reports indicate they may also function as a diuretic, helping to increase urine output and decrease edema.

Specifically, these remarkable hepatoprotective properties (protecting the liver from damage) come from the oleanolic acid in rice paper pith extracts. Though there is little research on the modern applications of these properties, some studies suggest that oleanolic acid may help protect the liver from the effects of alcohol use, meaning that rice paper pith supplements could be a helpful addition to at-home hangover prevention kits. What’s more, oleanolic acid is also a potent antimicrobial, suggesting that rice paper pith may have the potential to fight (or help fight) common human illnesses like pneumonia, strep throat, and even antibiotic-resistant staph infections.

In traditional Chinese medicine Tong cao is classified as an herb that drains dampness.  It is classified as sweet, bland and cool and primarily affects the Lung and Stomach meridians.


Rice paper pith supplements almost-exclusively make use of the dried, peeled stem piths of rice paper plants. These are indicated for oral use, which requires decocting the shredded stem piths in boiling water. The result is often called “lactation tea.” It’s also possible to use the pollen and stems of the plant for medicinal purposes, though there is very limited information on these supplements.


There is little research about the potential side-effects of rice paper pith supplements. Given its effect on the liver, people with liver disease should talk to their doctor before using rice paper pith supplements, as should people who are already taking or are sensitive to diuretic medications. Additionally, its uses during pregnancy and breastfeeding are unproven and inconsistently recommended, with some sources explicitly stating that pregnant women should not take it. Consequently, you should definitely talk to your obstetrician before use.

You should consult with a certified herbalist, physician or other qualified healthcare professional before taking rice paper pith.



Cho, Namki, et al. “Inhibition of Nitric Oxide Production in BV2 Microglial Cells by Triterpenes from Tetrapanax Papyriferus.” Molecules, vol. 21, no. 4, July 2016, p. 459., doi:10.3390/molecules21040459.

Jesus, Jéssica A., et al. “Antimicrobial Activity of Oleanolic and Ursolic Acids: An Update.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2015, 2015, pp. 1–14., doi:10.1155/2015/620472.

Jung, Suhan & Lee, Sanghoon & Ko, Kwang. (2016). Effects of Oleanolic Acid and Hederagenin on Acute Alcohol-Induced Hepatotoxicity in Mice. Journal of the Korean Society of Food Science and Nutrition. 45. 307-312. 10.3746/jkfn.2016.45.3.307.

“Tetrapanax Papyiferum (Hook.) Koch.” Harvard University Herbaria – Botany Libraries Archives Asa Gray Bicentennial 1810,

Wang, Shuaishuai, et al. “Efficacy of Chinese Herbal Medicine Zengru Gao to Promote Breastfeeding: a Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 18, no. 1, June 2018, doi:10.1186/s12906-018-2121-0.

Xi, Sheng-yan, and Yuewen Gong. Essentials of Chinese Materia Medica and Medical Formulas: New Century Traditional Chinese Medicine. Elsevier/ Academic Press, 2017.


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