What is Cao Su?
(scientific name: Phlomis umbrosa Turcz.
)，belonging to Lamiaceae and the genus Phlox，is also called Da Ye Cao Su, San Suzi [Inner Mongolia], Duan Xu [Ningxia], Shan Zima and etc.. It is a perennial herb with a height of 20~70 cm.
Morphology of Cao Su
Thick roots, fleshy fibrous roots, up to 30 cms’ long and 1 cm’s thick.
The stem is of 50-150 cms’ high, multi-branched, quadrangular, with shallow grooves, sparsely covered with downward short bristles. Sometimesstellate pubescence can be seen on its upper part, often purple-red shaded.
Leaves are sort of round, ovate or ovate-oblong, 5.2-12 cms’ long, 2.5-12 cms’ wide, apex acute, sparsely acuminate, base shallowly cordate or round, margin serrate with callus teeth, or irregular crenate, olive green above, with sparse pubescence and stellate ones, lighter-shaded below, with the same pubescence on the leaves as the above, but denser. Petioles, 1-12 cms’ long, densely covered with short bristles; bracts are usually ovate, 1-3.5 cms’ long, 0.6-2 cms’ wide, with coarsely serrated teeth on the edges, the same pubescence as that on the stems and leaves. Petiole, 2-3 mms’ long.
Flowers and fruits
Cao Su’s Verticillaster are usually accompanied with 4-8 flowers, most of which are scattered on the main stem and branches; bracts are linear subulate, relatively hard, 8-14mms’ long, 1-2mms’ wide, often purple-red, stellately puberulent, or bordered with echinid. Calyx tubular, about 10 mms’ long, 3.5 mms’ wide, stellately puberulent outside, sometimes sparsely covered with setae on the veins, tufted at margin. The corolla is often pink, purplish red, white, about 1.7 cms’ long, and the corolla tube is about 1 cm’s long. Except for the upper part of the back being covered with pubescence, the rest of the corolla tube is glabrous . Stamens inbuilt, filaments glabrous, no appendages. Nutlets glabrous. The flowering period is from June to September, and the fruiting period is in September.
Types of Cao Su
(1)Nanfang Caosu (Phlomis umbrosa Turcz. var. australis Hemsl.)
Leaves are thin, with long stalks, crenate serrates. The teeth at the top are sometimes quite long. The bracts are herbaceous, linear-lanceolate, slightly shorter than the calyx. Distributed in Hubei, western Hunan, southeastern Gansu, southern Shaanxi, Anhui, Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan in China. It grows on hillsides, shrubs, grasslands and ditches at an altitude of 1600-3200 meters. Chinese folks use the whole herb as medicine to treat gastroenteritis, pneumonia, cough and cold, and the roots are used as medicine to treat tuberculosis and cough, and lung abscess in cattle and horses as well.
(2)Xiae Caosu（Phlomis umbrosa Turcz. var. stenocalyx (Diels) C. Y. Wu）
Leaves are thin, and the cymes are obviously pedunculate, relatively loose. The bracts are very slender. The flowers are stalked, with calyx being about 8 mms’ long, 3 mms’ wide, usually purple-brown when dried. This type of Cao Su is normally distributed in Gansu and Shaanxi, China. It grows in forest , or on hillsides, grasslands and damp ground at an altitude of 770-1460 meters.
(3)Kuan Bao Caosu（Phlomis umbrosa Turcz. var. latibracteata Sun ex C. H. Hu）
Bracts, linear-oblong or obovate-oblong, shorter than calyx, 5-7 mms’ long, 1.8-2.5 mms’ wide, smooth and flat, with hard apex. Mainly distributed in southern Henan, China. It grows on hillsides, roadsides or in forests at an altitude of 700 to 2000 meters.
(4)Luan Ye Caosu（Phlomis umbrosa Turcz. var. ovalifolia C. Y. Wu）
Leaves ovate, base sort of cuneate to shallow cordate, often with stellate pubescence below. The calyx is densely covered with stellate pubescence as well, and the calyx is often quite long. Mainly distributed in Anhui and Jiangsu province, China. It often grows on hillsides or in forests.
Growth environment of Cao Su
Caosu is mostly distributed in Liaoning, Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Shandong, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Gansu, Sichuan, Hubei, Guizhou and Guangdong of China. Phlomis umbrosa is a kind of shade-requiring planat and grows under sparse forests or on grass slopes at an altitude of 200-3200 meters.
How to reproduce Cao Su?
It is easy to reproduce by seeds, and rooting of cutting also works. Those with hypertrophic rhizomes can propagate by roots. There are only some attempts to artificially plant Cao su, and the results of preliminary planting experiments show that it is feasible to collect seeds in autumn and store them dry, and then scatter the seeds on the open land of the hillside before Grain Rain in spring.
Harvest and processing of Cao Su
Harvest the parts of Cao Su above the ground in summer and autumn. Dig out the roots in autumn. Remove the soil and impurities, and dry in the sun.
Cao Su TCM
Belong to Lamiaceae and the genus Phlox. The whole herb parts above the ground and the roots are used as medicine.
Acrid, puckery, warm in nature, bland
Chinese folks use the roots as medicine. It is bitter and acrid, slightly warm in nature. It helps to reduce swelling, promote muscle growth, rejuvenate tendons, and set bones. It also nourishes the liver and kidney, strengthens the waist and knees, and has the effect of preventing miscarriage.
Dispel wind and activate collaterals, strengthen muscles and bones, clear away inner heat and reduce swelling. Cao Su is used on colds, rheumatoid arthritis, lumbago, bruises, sores, furuncles and swollen toxins.
Oral administration, decoction, 3-10g
Cao Su is non-toxic but should be used in moderation following the doctor’s advice.
"Spicy, cold, and greasy food, as well as alcohol and tea are warned against the
Cao Su contains shanzhiside methylester, succinic acid, betonicine, flavonoid glycosides, amino acids, steroids, volatile oils, sugars, tannins and etc.. Oil content of the seeds is around 20.34%.
Treatment of swollen toxins: 15g of Caosu, decocted in water, oral administration.
Cao Su benefits
Medically, it has the effects of dispelling wind and activating collaterals, strengthening muscles and bones, clearing away inner heat and reducing swelling. It also nourishes the liver and kidney, strengthens the waist and knees, and has the effect of preventing miscarriage.
Cao Su side effects
Cao Su is generally used to clear away inner heat and toxic material. As a result, it is warned against those who are weak and cold-natured. There may exist some side effects concerning the digestive tract, like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, so take this medicion under the doctor’s advice.
How to take Cao Su?
(1)Treating on Cold
Orally take the alcoholic extract tablet made of the whole herb of Cao Su, take 1.2-2.0g each time, 3 times a day, or make it into dissolved medicines, take 7.5g each time, twice a day. Reduce the dosage as appropriate for children under the age of 12.
75 out of 100 cases observed showed symptoms, like fever, headache, body aches, nasal congestion, sore throat, disappeared or improved within 48 hours. Generally speaking, the symptoms will be gradually alleviated within 4 to 8 hours after taking the medicine, and within 2-3 days healing is expected.
But for patients with much worse symptoms, like with a body temperature above 38.5 ℃, the antipyretic effect is not that good. It is believed that this product has inner heat clearing and detoxifying effects, so if it is combined withthe recommended Eclipta chinensis (Hunan Forsythia) as a compound treatment, the curative effect can be largely improved.
(2)Treating on Swollen toxins, Sores, furuncle
External use, 15~20g, freshly ground and applied to the affected area.
Decocted in water, 15g, oral administration.
How to choose Cao Su?
Cao Su root is thick, and its fibrous root fleshy. The stem is square-cylinder shaped, 50-150cms’ long, multi-branched, greenish-brown surface with shallow grooves, sparsely covered with bristles, hard and brittle, with pith inside the fractured section.
Leaves opposite, crimp, nearly round, ovate or ovate-oblong when being flattened, 5.2-12cms’ long, apex acute, base shallowly cordate or round, margin serrated, both sides sparsely being covered with pubescence.
The petiole is 1-12cms’ long, sparsely furry. Inflorescences densely covered with white hairs; bracts linear subulate, purple-red. Calyx in crest shape, slightly fragrant, and tasted puckery.
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