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Bai Zhu

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Sep 09, 2020


Bai zhu (Atractylodes macrocephala) is an herb that is part of the family Asteraceae, or the daisy and sunflower family. It is widely cultivated and used in China. The root tastes bitter-sweet and is mainly used as an ingredient for medicines and tonics to improve digestive health.

The traditional Chinese medicine approach to treating illnesses is holistic, focusing on restoring balance to a person’s mind, body, and spirit than simply treating symptoms. Traditionally, bai zhu and other Chinese herbs are used in conjunction with “qi” or “chi” manipulation such as acupuncture, tai chi, or qigong.

The root of the bai zhu plant contains essential oils, sesquiterpenoids, phytosterols, inulin, and many other compounds. These active constituents have antibacterial, diuretic, sedative, and blood sugar-lowering effects. It is also used as an appetite stimulant, antidiarrheal, and to prevent miscarriage.

Recent studies have shown that bai zhu possesses antiviral, antitumor, and anti-inflammatory effects.

Bai zhu has the following uses:

  • Stomach tonic
  • Support spleen health
  • Appetite stimulant
  • Diuretic
  • Antibacterial and antiviral
  • Antihyperglycemic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antidiarrheal
  • Anti-cancer

How does it work?

The essential oils in bai zhu partially inhibit influenza virus (H3N2). Atractylone and essential oils can inhibit nitric oxide production in macrophages, resulting in decreased inflammation. Inulin is a soluble dietary fiber that improves bowel health and restores the normal flora of the gut.

Consult your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Precautions & Warnings

Herbal supplements are generally safe to take in moderate amounts as directed by a health professional. However, because most herb and food supplements are not approved by the FDA for treating and preventing specific diseases, recommended daily values are not always established.

Despite being advertised as “all-natural” or “safe,”  natural or food supplements must be treated as conventional medication. Certain herbal preparations can interact with other medications you are taking, increasing the risk of adverse drug reactions and toxicity.

Before using this medication, inform your doctor if:

  • You have ever had an allergic reaction to bai zhu or other supplements.
  • You have a history of allergy to other medications, food, or other substances.
  • You are taking other medications.
  • You have underlying health conditions.

Is it safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding?

There is insufficient data regarding the use and safety of this supplement during pregnancy. This supplement should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus, as determined by your doctor.

This supplement is not likely excreted in breast milk. This supplement should be used while breastfeeding only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the child, as determined by your doctor.

Side Effects

All supplements have the potential to elicit side effects even with normal use. Many side effects are dose-related and will resolve when it is adjusted or at the end of therapy.

Potential side effects while using this supplement include:

  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Unpleasant taste

You may experience some, none, or other side effects not mentioned above. If you have any concerns about a side effect or it becomes bothersome, consult your doctor or pharmacist.


To avoid any potential drug interactions, you should keep a list of all the drugs you are using (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products) and inform your doctor and pharmacist.

Avoid using other diuretics while taking this supplement, as it may cause excessive urination and eventually dehydration.

The liquid extract preparation of this medication may contain alcohol. Avoid taking the following together with this preparation:

  • Antihistamines
  • Sedatives
  • CNS depressants

If you experience an adverse drug interaction, stop taking this drug and continue taking your other medication. Inform your doctor immediately to reevaluate your treatment plan. Your dose may need to be adjusted, substituted with another drug, or discontinue using the drug.

Does food or alcohol interact with bai zhu?

This medication may be taken with or without food. If you experience any gastrointestinal discomfort, taking this medication with meals may prevent this symptom. It is important to drink enough water while taking this medication.

The liquid extract preparation of this medication may contain alcohol thus alcohol consumption should be limited to prevent intoxication, especially in children or adults who need to drive or operate machinery.

Inform your doctor or pharmacist if you have any concerns regarding food-drug interactions.

What health conditions may interact with bai zhu?

This supplement should be taken with caution if you have any of the following conditions or risk factors:

  • Allergy to any of the ingredients

Inform your doctor or pharmacist if you have any concerns regarding specific health conditions.


The information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should ALWAYS consult your doctor or pharmacist before using bai zhu.

What is the dose of bai zhu for an adult?

The recommended dosage of this drug has not been established for treating any specific disease or condition. Consult with a doctor for the appropriate indication and dosage.

What is the dose of bai zhu for a child?

This supplement is not recommended for use in children and the recommended dose has not been established. Consult with a doctor or pharmacist for alternatives and more information.

How is bai zhu available?

This supplement is available in the following dosage forms:

  • Liquid extract
  • Dried powder
  • Capsule

What should I do in case of an emergency or overdose?

In case of an emergency or an overdose, call your local emergency services or go to your nearest emergency room.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of this supplement, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your regular dose as scheduled. Do not take a double dose.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Sep 09, 2020

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