Anemarrhena (Rhizoma Anemarrhenae; Zhi Mu)

TCM Herbal Story


Anemarrhena (Rhizoma Anemarrhenae; Zhi Mu)


Long time ago, there was an old lady who had no children.  She made a living by picking wild herbs on the hilltop every day.  She was very generous to others, so she didn't save much money for herself.  When she grew too old to pick herbs in the mountains, she had no choice but to sit by the roadside and beg.


The old lady was worried about her knowledge of herb recognition and utilization would be lost when she faded away.  Therefore, she decided to find someone trustworthy and pass on her knowledge to him.  She said: “Whoever is willing to be my son, I will teach him how to recognize herbs.”


A businessman heard her criteria and thought: “That's not a bad idea!  If I pretend to be her son, I could make a lot of money by selling medicinal herbs.”  Thus, he told the old lady: “I'm willing to be your son.”  In this way, the old lady came to live with the businessman.  The businessman took good care of the old lady and treated her well for nearly a month, then he finally became impatient to the old lady and said to her: “I've already waited for a long time.  Can you teach me how to recognize herbs right now?”  The old lady replied: “Just wait a little longer”.  She wanted to test the businessman to see if he is really trustworthy.  Unexpectedly, the businessman screamed to her: “You old bag!  How dare you cheat me like this?  Get out of my place right away!”


The old lady returned to the street corner and begged for a living.  She could not find someone she can trust for a long time.  One day in winter, she stumbled and fell to the ground.  A lumberjack saw her and asked: “Are you injured?”  The old lady replied: “I'm fine, but ¡K very hungry!”  The lumberjack brought a bowl of hot soup to her and said: “I'm sorry we don't have anything better to offer you.  Please have this hot soup before it gets cold.” “Where are you going on such a cold day?”  The old lady replied: “I don't have any relatives.  What can I do if I don't beg?”  The lumberjack heard and said kindly: “You have had hard times for years.  It's difficult for you to beg on the street on such a cold wintry day.  My family is very poor. But if you don't mind, you're welcome to stay with us.”


In this way, the old lady lived in the lumberjack's house.  Winter passed, and spring arrived.  The flowers began to blossom.  The old lady gratefully said to the lumberjack: “I'm truly a burden to live in your house for such a long time.  I really thank you for your kindness.  The weather has already turned warm, and I should leave.”  The lumberjack replied: ”You have no children, and I have no parents.  That would be nice if we three can live together?  Please do stay here with us!”  The old lady was moved and thought she finally found someone she could trust.  Then, she said to him: “To be frank with you, I was a gatherer of medicinal herbs.  I've saved many people's lives in the past.  I wanted to hand down my knowledge, but I couldn't meet a suitable person.  My memory is getting weaker and weaker.  Pretty soon, I'll forget all I know about medicinal herbs.  You've taken care of me without any ulterior motives.  I really don't know how to thank you¡K”  The lumberjack answered: ” We don't take care of your for any repayment.  As long as this household has anything to eat, we certainly won't let you get hungry.  So please stay with us!”  The old lady felt touched and said: “Thank you so much,  I will regard you as my son and I live in my son's house.”  As a result, the old lady started to spend her rest of life with the lumberjack's family.


Three happy years passed.  One day, the old lady asked the lumberjack to carry her up into the mountains.  She started to teach the lumberjack how to recognize all the medicinal herbs.  She pointed a plant with white, purple-striped petals near a big rock.  She asked the lumberjack to uproot the plant, and told to him: “This is the  herb that can cure cough and fatigue caused by overheat of the lungs.  Do you know why I've waited till today to teach you about herbs?  For so many years, I never met a hard-working and good-hearted person until I found you.  You truly understand my heart and mind, so I will name this plant “Zhi Mu” (knowing-the-mother).”  From then on, the old lady taught the lumberjack many skills to distinguish medicinal herbs.  The lumberjack didn't chop wood any more but concentrated on studying herbs.  He always obeyed the old lady's instruction to healing people and save lives.


Anemarrhena (Zhi Mu) is the dried rhizome of Anemarrhena asphodeloides Bge.  (Liliaceae family).  It has bitter and cold properties and with slight aromatic scent and is in slightly sweetish and bitterish taste.  It enters through the lung, stomach, and kidney channels.

Gallery of Anemarrhena


Actions & Indications:

  • Clear heat and drain fire
  • Enrich Yin and moisten dry conditions
  • Generate fluids and clear heat

Caution & Contraindications:

  • Contraindicated in cases of diarrhea due to Spleen deficiency.


The original story is from “Stories About Chinese Herbal Medicine” published by Taiwan Panorama magazine in both Chinese and English

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