As we deepen our relationships
with the places we inhabit,
we have only to be present
with openness, wonder, and curiosity
Tracks to a Full Stomach
Permaculture Activist, Summer 2013
*Bidens bipinnata is listed in Oriental Materia Medica among the herbs that are cooling and resolve the surface. It is reported to have the functions of removing wind-dampness, dispersing stagnant blood, and invigorating blood. This categorization of this herb-along with those usually indicated for resolving the surface-appears to be in error, as there is a different section of the Materia Medica reserved for herbs that have the properties listed for this species of bidens, namely the herbs for removing wind-dampness (anti-rheumatics). Applications of the herb in Oriental Materia Medica include rheumatoid arthritis, sprain, insect and scorpion sting, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis, acute nephritis, stomach ache, and sore throat. In sum, it has the same uses as Bidens pilosa. The substitute Desmodium species are similar to the standard herb known either as huluchaor longshehuang (Desmodium triquetri), which is applied to treat common cold, sore throat, enteritis, dysentery, jaundice, rheumatic arthralgia, and other disorders; the overlap in applications between bidens and desmodium is evident.
A review of uses of Bidens bipinnata (the only species mentioned) in Anticancer Medicinal Herbs (9), includes:
- Internal Medicine: "It is recorded in Handbook of Chinese Medicinal Herbs that: The decoction of the drug cures dysentery, laryngalgia, dysphagia, vomiting, cardiac spasm and esophageal dilatation, and is effective in removing toxic materials, stopping diarrhea, and clearing away heat. The drug has been used to treat cecitis [inflammation in the large intestine] in the recent years." For cancer therapy, 15-30 grams per day is decocted and taken orally for esophageal cancer; for gastric cancer, 15 grams of bidens is combined with a complex formula for daily administration.
- External Medicine: "It is said in Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold that 'External application of bidens with arctium and blended with pig fat can cure finger cut.' It is recorded in Dictionary of Chinese Materia Medica that 'The drug, bitter in taste, mild in nature, and non-toxic mainly cures spider and fly bites through internal and external application.' It is reported in Materia Medica that 'Scorpion sting can be cured by external application of the drug.'"
In Chinese-English Manual of Common-Used Herbs (14), under guizhencao, three species are all listed as source materials: Bidens bipinnata, B. pilosa, and B. biternata. The applications are:
1. clear away the superficial heat: for common cold of wind-heat type and prevention of influenza;
2. clear away heat and toxic materials: for sore throat, appendicitis, snake bite, and centipede bite; and
3. clear away dampness and heat from the gastrointestines [gastro-intestinal tract]: for diarrhea, dysentery and stomach ache of heat type.
According to A New Compendium of Materia Medica (12), the Bidens species have the following properties (with B. pilosa listed as the main species and B. bipinnata and B. tripartita listed as having the same uses):
Good for diminishing inflammation to cure common cold, bronchitis, hepatitis, tonsillitis, pneumonia, appendicitis, and child-fever, eliminating sputum and relieving cough and asthma; also for curing snake bite or for external applications.