Common Names

Rehmania root , Chinese Foxglove, Shu Di Huang
Botanical Name
Rehmania glutinosa

Our Pages

- Herbal Medicine
- The Clinic
- Richard Whelan

- Alphabetically

- By Group
- Alphabetical

- Clinic Hours
Clinic Location

- Ancient wisdom in the modern world


What is it?

In herbal medicine we use the thick, initially orange, tuberous roots. Rehmania comes from a small perennial herb that produces large flowers reminiscent of Foxglove and it has sometimes been called Chinese Foxglove. Rehmania is very highly regarded in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) where it is seen as one of the 50 fundamental herbs.

In TCM it is thought that Rehmania has very different uses according to whether it is taken fresh, simply dried or, as we in our own clinic use it, ‘cured’ where it has been steeped and mulled in wine made from millet!




How has it been used?

It is difficult to pin Rehmania down to a few key uses, which is a happy problem that is common to the tonic class of herbal medicines. It has many traditional recommendations for conditions where there is some degree of fever or inflammation, for example arthritis, hives and asthma. It has also had widespread use for women’s health problems such as heavy bleeding or spotting between periods.

However, the main historical uses of Rehmania would appear to be with regard to its nutritive and tonic properties. This is where the Rehmania is seen to excel. In modern terminology we might use terms like stress, adrenal exhaustion, nervous system burn-out etc.

Herbs that noticeably improve and support energy are given the highest level of regard in the old ways of medicine. The slower, and more surely, they worked the better they were understood to be able to make a lasting difference to health and longevity. Herbs that merely worked to take away symptoms were given a much lower ranking in the scheme of things. In other words, it is a way of thinking that is totally opposite to that of pharmaceutical medicine today!


Science on Rehmania

~Clinical trials using Rehmania produced positive therapeutic effects in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and urticaria i.e. hives (Hu CS. Chin Med J 1965;51:290)

~ Taking Rehmania along with Astragalus produced positive therapeutic effects in patients with chronic nephritis (kidney disease) and the same preparation also demonstrated anti-allergy effects and the promotion of immune function (Su ZZ, He YY, Chen G. Chung Kuo Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih 1993;13(5):259-260, 269-272)

~ Experimental tests with Rehmania in the laboratory showed that it was able to abolish the suppressive effects of cyclophosphamide and dexamethasone on immune function and it showed protective effects on disturbances in heart, liver and kidney functions during chemotherapy (Li P, Shi XH, Wang FL. Chin J Immunol 1987;3(5):296-298,320)

~ Further laboratory studies with Rehmania showed some intriguing effects on the pituitary and adrenal cortex, appearing to prevent or even reverse tissue damage from the administration of steroidal drugs (Cha LL, Shen ZY, Zhang XF et al. Chin J Integr Trad West Med 1988;8(2):95-97)

~ The authors, titles and the 'where-and-when' published of over 40 further studies and articles on Rehmania are listed in a PDF found here

Safety of Rehmania

Rehmania is a very safe herb that is not known to cause any adverse effects when taken in normal therapeutic amounts. Excessive doses may cause temporary bowel looseness. Rehmania is considered safe to take during pregnancy and whilst breast-feeding and it may be used with safety by the young and old.

General safety note on herbs

Therapeutic substances, and this certainly all includes all medicinal herbs, can do good and, therefore, also have the potential to do harm. The maxim that 'the poison is in the dose' precisely describes how too much of anything can be bad for us and the ancient rule to 'firstly, do no harm is, to this day, held as the core directive by all practitioners of traditional herbal medicine. So, not only are we careful to do our best to use the right herbs but, equally, we take care to not give too much of them or use them overlong.

For some years now, against this old, proven and safe way of herbalism, there has been a rising tide of excessive caution and scare-mongering in many parts of the world. The same authorities and medical publications that no so long ago decried herbal medicines as ineffectual have now taken up a different kind of adversarial position. That they are dangerous substances that should not be taken for a long list of reasons and really should only be prescribed by Doctors, who of course have zero training in them.

Lists of '10 popular herbs and why you should avoid them' include things like Garlic and Ginger that might 'thin your blood'. It is absurd to the point of the ridiculous, but fear is a universal driver, and fear has also been long proven to be effective when used to manipulate and control others.

I realise that the reader who comes to a page like this is unlikely to be swayed by such misinformation, but I nevertheless want to remind you that the reason that herbs cannot be patented or owned by any individual or corporation is that they are the people's medicine. They belong to us all and it is my great hope that you will learn how to use them safely and wisely for yourself and the people you care for. Be safe but do not be afraid.


Personal experiences

I have used a great deal of the cured Rehmania for many years now. You only have to get hold of some of the jet-black, sticky root of this herb and start playing with it to start to understand why it has such a high reputation as a tonic.

If you who are reading this are studying herbal medicine or just have your own reasons to want to get to know this herb at a much deeper level, then I warmly encourage you to get hold of some to have a play with it too! Take some with a quiet and attentive mind and observe for yourself how it makes you feel. Whether you slowly boil it into a tea (in which case it swells up like a weird little black sponge) or simply chew and swallow some, or take some good quality tincture made from it, I think you will quite certainly be able to feel how nourishing and wholesome it is. Rehmania is a herb that gets in at a deep level and helps nurture the body’s self-repairing capacity. I think it can be safely used by anyone who has been experiencing excessive tiredness and fatigue with an expectation that they should get some improvement from it.

Further to this, if you would like to learn more about the ancient art of pulse testing, a simple but powerful way to ask the intuitive intelligence of the body for its responses to a herb by feeling the pulse whilst giving a tiny dose by mouth, read here

The reason I might choose Rehmania over another tonic is when I think adrenal exhaustion is a particular issue for that patient. There have only been some preliminary studies in this area and I hope to see more but my hunch is that this herb is what we call a 'trophrestorative' for the adrenals; that means it is an organ tonic, something that can nourish health back even after long-lasting illness.

I personally think that the decoction is the best way to use Rehmania as it really requires a substantial dose to make a deep impact on exhaustion or adrenal fatigue. Perhaps in the order of a good 5 grams a day, maybe even up to 10 grams in a bigger person or to get the ball rolling in a bad case. These are big doses that would require levels of tinctures that were just too high to sustain for long. Of course, these are only general indicators; for someone with a sensitive constitution you might be better off with a half or less of those doses -- much of the true art of herbal medicine lies in getting the right dose for the person, let alone the right herb!

Rehmania does combines rather perfectly with Panax Ginseng, Astragalus, Licorice root for tiredness and adrenal exhaustion. I have also often used it with Hawthorn for deep acting restorative tonic effects to the heart and general spirits.


Constitutional note

Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Rehmania is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with plant B. There is value in this approach, especially in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another, but it falls short in one vital area; and that is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Something that works brilliantly for one person may do less for another -- why is this?

Part of the reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are either hotter or cooler and, at the same time, either dryer or damper. This useful and rather fascinating subject is introduced further here

Another big part of using the right herb when it is most needed comes from understanding the need to treat what is going wrong for the person that had led up to their getting a health condition. In this light, Rehmania can particularly offer its benefits when a nourishing action is needed in the 'cycle of healing', more about this here

Please understand that I cannot advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in person in my clinic but for ideas on how you might find a good herbalist in your area read here

This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!




© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd