Introduction of San Ke Zhen:Barberry Root or Radix Berberidis.

TCM Herbalism:Medicinals and Classifications. ✵The article gives records of the herb Barberry Root, its English name, Latin name, property and flavor, its botanical source five plant species, ①.Berberis poiretii Schneid., ②.Berberis sargentiana Schneid., ③.Berberis veitchii Schneid, ④.Berberis soulieana Schneid., ⑤.Berberis vernae Schneid., with a detailed introduction to the botanical features of these five plant species, the growth characteristics, and ecological environment of these five plant species, the features of the herb Barberry Root, its pharmacological actions, medicinal efficacy, and administration guide.

Radix Berberidis(Barberry Root).

Barberry Root:herb photo Pin Yin Name: Sān Kē Zhēn.
 English Name: Barberry Root.
 Latin Name: Radix Berberidis.
 Property and flavor: cold, bitter.

 Brief introduction: The Herb Radix Berberidis is the dried root of Berberis soulieana Schneid, Berberis wilsonae Hemsl., Berberis poiretii Schneid. Or Berberis vernae Schneid., used a similar way to golden thread. It is commonly known as Barberry Root, Root of Chinese Barberry, Sān Kē Zhēn.

 Botanical source: Common herbal classics defined the herb Radix Berberidis (Barberry Root) as the dry root, stem, cortex or tree bark of the Berberis Linn. Genus, the Berberidaceae family (barberry family) and the Ranales order plant species (1). Berberis poiretii Schneid., or (2). Berberis sargentiana Schneid., or (3). Berberis veithii Schneid, or (4). Berberis soulieana Schneid., or (5). Berberis vernae Schneid. These 5 commonly used species are introduced:

(1).Berberis poiretii Schneid.


 Berberis poiretii Schneid.:flowering tree Botanical description: Berberis poiretii Schneid is commonly known as Xi Ye Xiao Bo, Thin-leaf Berberis, or Zhen Que. A deciduous shrub, the plant grows up to 1~2 meters tall. Old branches are taupe (dust-color), glossy, young branches are puce (purple brown), densely grow black verrucous protrusions, spines are short and small, usually simple, spines at the lower end of old or main branch sometimes are trifurcated, 4~9 mm long. Leaves are tufted, sessile, and chartaceous (papery); leaf blades are narrow-oblanceolate or lanceolate-cochleariform, 1.5~4 cm long, 5~10 mm wide, the apex is sharply pointed, the base is cuneate, entire, the upper surface is emerald green (bright green), the undersurface is pea green (pale green) or celadon (grayish-green), pinnately veined.

 Racemes are pendulous, 3~6 cm long, has 6~20 flowers; 6 sepals, petaloid (petal shaped), arranged in 2 whorls, oblong or obovate. Flowers are yellow, the outside is reddish, 6 mm in diameter, 6 petals, obovate, slightly shorter than sepals; 6 stamens, about 1.5 mm long; the ovary is cylindrical, containing 2 ovules, style is absent, stigma is capitate and flattened.

 Berries are oblong, about 9 mm long, and red at maturity. Seeds are obovate, the seed surface is smooth, and atropurpureus (purple black). Its flowering period is from May to June, and the fruiting period is from July to August.

 Berberis poiretii Schneid.:flowering branch Ecological environment: The shrub grows on sunny sandy hills, hillsides or mountain slopes, roadsides or streams facing the sun. It is mainly distributed in the northern, and northwest areas, and the lower reaches of the Yellow River, in China.

 Characters of herbs: The root of Berberis poiretii Schneid is cylindrical, branched, and slightly twisted, 0.3~1.2 cm in diameter. The surface is yellowish-brown and coarse, has longitudinal wrinkles and rootlet marks, and part of the bark is scaly and revolute (rolled outward) or peeled off. The texture of the herb is hard and firm, the fracture surface is fibrous; the cortex of the cross-section is narrow, yellow-brown, and the xylem (wood part) is canary-yellow (bright yellow). The herb has no smell and tastes bitter. The herb of a better grade is yellow and has a strong bitter taste.

 Pharmacological actions: ①.antihypertensive effect; ②.antibacterial effect; ③.increase the white blood cells; ④.anti-arrhythmia, etc.

 Medicinal efficacy: Clear heat, drying dampness, discharge fire and detoxify. It is indicated for damp heat dysentery, diarrhea, jaundice, eczema, ulcers and sores, canker sores, red eyes, sore throat, etc.

 Administration of Radix Berberidis (Sān Kē Zhēn): 
 
Reference: Administration Guide of Radix Berberidis (Sān Kē Zhēn)
TCM Books: ①.Internally:9~15 grams; ②.Internally:water decoction, 0.5~1 liang (about 15~30 grams, fresh herb 2~4 liang, about 60~120 grams), or prepare to powder, infusing in wine.Externally:prepare to ground herb powder and apply; ③.Internally:water decoction, 0.5~30 grams, or infusing in wine,Externally:proper amount, prepare to finely ground herb powder and apply stick.
 Contraindications, Precautions and Adverse Reactions: the herb Radix Berberidis should be used cautiously in conditions deficiency cold of spleen and stomach.

(2).Berberis sargentiana Schneid.


 Berberis sargentiana Schneid.:drawing Botanical description: Berberis sargentiana Schneid is commonly known as Ci Hei Zhu, or Thorn Black-Pearl, Huang Jing Ci (means thorn of Solomon's seal), or Hei Shi Zhu (means black stone bead). An evergreen shrub, the plant grows up to 1~3 meters tall. The stem is cylindrical, internodes are 3~6 cm long, young branches are reddish, old branches are sallow (grayish yellow) or tan (chocolate brown), sometimes has sparse and distinct wart spots. The plant is prickly and thorns are firm and hard, trifurcated, 1~3 cm long. Simple leaves are alternate, or 3 leaves grow in cluster; subsessile; leaves are coriaceous; leaf blades are oblong-elliptic or oblong-lanceolate, 4~10 cm long, 1~3 cm wide, the apex is sharp-pointed, with small spines, the base is cuneate, the upper surface is dark green, the undersurface is pea green (pale green) or flavovirens (yellow-green), the margin has 15~25 spiny small serrates, the serrate pitch is 2.5~4 mm, leaf veins are reticulated and dense.

 3~10 Flowers grow in clusters, pedicels are 1~2 cm long; bracteoles are lanceolate; 6 sepals, oblong or oval (egg-shaped); flowers are primrose yellow (pale yellow), about 1 cm in diameter, 6 petals, the apex is slightly concave, the base has 2 nectary glands; 6 stamens, about 4.5 mm long, opposite to flower petals; the ovary is cylindrical, with 2~3 ovules, stigma is capitate and flattened.

 Berry is oval (egg-shaped) to globular shape, picine (blue-black), 6~7 mm long, 4~6 mm in diameter, stigma is persistent, style is absent, no pollination or slightly with pollen. Its flowering period is from April to May, and the fruiting period is from June to July.

 Berberis sargentiana Schneid.:growing tree Ecological environment: The shrub grows in sunny hillsides and mountain slopes, wastelands, roadsides, and mountain bushes, in areas at altitudes of 1,000~2,000 meters above sea level. It is mainly distributed in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, the southwest area, and other areas of China.

 Characters of herbs: The root of Berberis sargentiana Schneid is cylindrical, slightly twisted, and branched, 0.3~0.7 cm in diameter. The surface is taupe brown (gray-brown), has longitudinal wrinkles and rootlet marks, and the grayish-yellow xylem (wood part) is exposed at the part where the cortex is peeled off. The texture of the herb is hard, the fracture surface is fibrous; the cortex of the cross-sectional is thin and brown, and the xylem (wood part) is yellow. The herb has no smell and tastes bitter. The herb of a better grade is yellow and has a strong bitter taste.

(3).Berberis veitchii Schneid.


 Berberis veithii Schneid.:drawing Botanical description: Berberis veitchii Schneid is commonly known as Lan Guo Xiao Bo or Blue-Berry Berberis. Deciduous shrubs. The young branch is reddish, the old branch is primrose yellow (pale yellow), with small wart spots; thorns are trifurcated, thick, 1.5~3.5 cm long. Leaves are lanceolate, 5~11 cm long, 1~2 cm wide, the apex is acuminate, the margin has 10~24 thorn serrates, the upper surface is dark green, and the undersurface is pale green, glossy.

 2~10 flowers grow in clusters; pedicels are 1.6~3.5 cm long; bracteoles are oval (egg-shaped), 2 mm long; external sepal is oblong-ovate, slightly reddish-brown, the middle sepals and inner sepals are obovate; petals are obovate, the apex is rounded and obtuse, the base has claws; stamens are 4 mm long; ovary has 4~5 ovules.

 Berries are ovoid to elliptic, covered with bluish powder (glaucous), without persistent style.

 Ecological environment: The shrub grows in mountain bushes, and it is distributed in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, and southwest areas of China.

 Characters of herbs: The root of Berberis veitchii Schneid is cylindrical, obviously twisted, and branched, 0.15~0.6 cm in diameter. The surface is brown, has conspicuous longitudinal wrinkles and rootlet marks. The texture of the root is hard, the fracture surface is fibrous, the cortex is narrow and brown, and the xylem (wood part) is canary-yellow (bright yellow). The herb has no smell, and it tastes bitter. The herb of a better grade is yellow and has a strong bitter taste.

(4).Berberis soulieana Schneid.


 Berberis soulieana Schneid.:growing leaves Botanical description: Berberis soulieana Schneid is commonly known as Mao Ci Xiao Bo (means Cat-Thorn Berberis), or Jia Hao Zhu Ci, Ni Hao Zhu Ci (means false porcupine quill). Evergreen shrubs, the plant grows up to 2 meters high. The stem is upright, many-branched, young branches are primrose yellow (pale yellow), with a few wart spots, spiny, trifurcated, 1~2.5 cm long. Leaves grow in a cluster and are coriaceous; leaf blades are oblong-lanceolate, rarely oblong-obovate, 3~6 cm long, 6~9 mm wide, the apex is sharp-pointed, the base is quickly narrowing and form an extremely short stalk, the upper surface is green, glossy, the undersurface is flavovirens (yellow-green), the margin has 5~18 spine serrates, 1.5~2.5 mm long, serrate pitch is 3~7 mm, lateral veins are almost perpendicular to the middle veins, veinlets are inconspicuous.

 Berberis soulieana Schneid.:flowering shrub 8~20 flowers grow in a cluster, pedicels are 5~15 mm long, 2 bracteoles, ovate-oblong, about 2 mm long; 6 sepals, arranged in 2 whorls; flowers are yellow, 6 petals, ovate to obovate; 6 stamens, separated; the ovary is elliptic, containing 2~3 seeds, rarely 3, persistent style is 0.5 mm long.

 Berries are of elliptical shape, red at maturity, and glaucous (covered with white powder). Its flowering period is from March to April, and the fruiting period is from August to October.

 Ecological environment: The shrub grows on hillsides and mountain slopes, roadsides and forest margins, in areas at altitudes of 600~2,000 meters above sea level. It is mainly distributed in the northwest, the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze River, and other areas of China.

 Characters of herbs: The root of Berberis soulieana Schneid is cylindrical, slightly twisted, has a few branches (rootlets), 10~15 cm long, and 1~3 cm in diameter. The root head (root apex) is thick and big, and tapering downward. The out bark is taupe brown (grayish brown), has fine wrinkles, and easy to peel off. The texture of the herb is firm and hard, not easy to break, the fracture surface is uneven and canary-yellow (bright yellow). The slices are orbicular or oblong, with a slightly radial texture, and the pith is brown. The herb has a slight smell, and it tastes bitter. The herb of a better grade is yellow and has a strong bitter taste.

(5).Berberis vernae Schneid.


 Berberis vernae Schneid.:flowering branch Botanical description: Berberis vernae Schneid is commonly known as Shi Ye Xiao Bo, or Teaspoon-Leaf Berberis. Deciduous shrubs, the plant grows up to 0.5~1.5 meters tall. Branches are thin, with a ridge, young branches gradually turn prunus (violet red) in late stage, and old branches are dark gray, scattered with black wart spots. Spines are usually unbranched, firm and hard, 1~3 cm long. 3-8 Leaves and grow in a cluster; often spatulate (spoons-shaped) or spatulate oblanceolate, 1~5 cm long, 0.3~1 cm wide, apex is almost sharp-pointed, sometimes has a small pointed tip, the base is narrowing to a petiole, usually entire, sparsely with a few fine serrate.

 Simple racemes, 2~4 cm long, flowers grow densely, 15~35 flowers, pedicels are 1.5~4 mm long; bracts are oblong, slightly shorter or as long as pedicels. Bracteoles are usually red, about 1 mm long; 6 petals, oval (egg-shaped) or obovate; flowers are yellow, 3~4 mm in diameter, flower petals are ellipsoid obovoid, the apex is slightly sharp-pointed, base has 2 nectary glands; 6 stamens, about 1.5 mm long; ovary contains 1~2 ovules.

 Berries are in globular shape, faint red and purplish, glaucous (covered with powder), 3.5~4.5 mm in length and diameter, stigma is persistent, style is absent. Its flowering period is from May to June, and the fruiting period is from August to September.

 Ecological environment: The shrub grows in riverbanks, gobi desert, or bushes on hillsides and mountain slopes, in areas at altitudes of 300~800 meters above sea level. It is distributed in the northwest, mainly in the western end of the Qinling mountains to southern and western Gansu, eastern Qinghai, Xinjiang, and other areas of China.

 Characters of herbs: The root of Berberis vernae Schneid has similar features as the root of Berberis soulieana Schneid. The herb of a better grade is yellow and has a strong bitter taste.
 

 
  

 

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References:
  • 1.Introduction of San Ke Zhen:Barberry Root or Radix Berberidis.

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