By Zhihui Zou 3:18 pm PST

The Earth is the most compassionate land that allows a gigantic list of species, plants and landscapes to flourish. They have enriched human lives for thousands upon thousands of years. We have survived countless plagues and pandemics throughout history, and we did not accomplish this without support. Plants have been well-documented in their effectiveness in supporting our body and health when applied in traditional Chinese medicine. Since the times of ancient China, plants have sat at the top of the pyramid of Chinese medicine. However, with the introduction of modern medicine a century or so ago, society is losing one of the most important knowledge areas surrounding keeping fit and treating diseases.

If we further divide plants used in Chinese medicine into another hierarchy, wild chrysanthemums would probably be in the higher levels. Chrysanthemum earns its place through its wide-range of usages and benefits that it can provide. A “magician” in traditional Chinese medicine, as some people call chrysanthemum.

Wild chrysanthemum is a type of herbaceous plant that is native to East Asia and Northeastern Europe. Blades of flower petals surround a head. Although chrysanthemums can come in a variety of colors, traditional Chinese medicine most often uses yellow chrysanthemums. It tastes slightly bitter and usually grows on hill slopes, near farmlands, or simply along roads.

A popular use of wild chrysanthemum is to relieve inflammation, infection, swelling, or typical illnesses like the common cold. In addition, traditional Chinese medicine also views wild chrysanthemum as effective toward treating respiratory and skin issues such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Chrysanthemum surely is a unique type of broad-spectrum antibiotic.

Misunderstanding of Wild Chrysanthemum in History

Wild chrysanthemum was not always regarded as a versatile component in Chinese medicine. Chrysanthemum does have a long and well-documented history. It is believed that the earliest Chinese record of chrysanthemum’s medical functions is the Shennong Bencaojing (or Classic of the Materia Medica), a collection of works on agriculture and medicinal plants compiled during the Qing and Han Dynasties.

In the Yuan Dynasty, a medical collection on common herbs described wild chrysanthemum as “a small flower emitting aggressive spirits.” Zhu Zhenheng (1281-1358), a Yuan Dynasty physician, said that consuming wild chrysanthemum “harms inner organs profoundly.” Similar beliefs continued on into the Ming Dynasty. A Ming Dynasty medical collection separates wild chrysanthemum from chamomile, emphasizing chrysanthemum’s harm toward organs after long-term consumption.

Not everyone in ancient China held a defensive view toward chrysanthemums. The Tang Dynasty featured a wave of public support toward chrysanthemums. People usually agreed that chrysanthemums could treat headaches or common inflammations. It was also during the Tang Dynasty that the wild chrysanthemum received its official name in Chinese medicine.

The famous Ming physician Li Shizhen (1518-1593) also advocated for wild chrysanthemums. Honored by posterity as a saint in medical science, Li Shizhen recorded wild chrysanthemums in detail in his famous pharmaceutical book Compendium of Materia Medica. Li wrote that chrysanthemums help to maintain body homeostasis and balance, cure inner bleeding, treat common skin blisters and herpes.

Wild Chrysanthemum’s Place in Medical Practices

From the outside, a wild chrysanthemum looks not much different from a roadside weed. But looks can be deceiving. In fact, wild chrysanthemum contains seventeen types of amino acids, such as glutamic acid and proline. Furthermore, chrysanthemum is also a rich source of potassium and selenium.

Wild chrysanthemum is also believed to assist in cancer treatments. It is shown that with a selenium-rich diet, people are less likely to experience cancer, and as a storehouse for selenium, chrysanthemum is excellent in cancer prevention and treatment.

A common way to consume chrysanthemum is through brewed chrysanthemum or chrysanthemum beverages like tea. Many people in East Asia and China partake in the tradition of drinking chrysanthemum tea daily. Some say it can even be used as a replacement for coffee in keeping up a person’s spirit for the day.

Wild chrysanthemum has also been seen to be effective in preventing heart diseases. Because of its content of amino acids and other microelements, chrysanthemum can increase heart function and oxygen level in blood. Cardio vessels are among chrysanthemum’s beneficiaries as well.

With the rich amino acid content, not only is the heart protected, a person’s vision can also see improvements from consuming chrysanthemum, as it is proven that amino acid intake and improvement of vision are positively correlated.

In addition, wild chrysanthemum tea also relieves constipation. Constipation is something that many people suffer from and is difficult to resolve when medicine is not available. Chrysanthemum helps to detoxify and clear away heat in intestines.

In the beginning, it might sound unrealistic for wild chrysanthemum to single handedly have this many benefits. However, without its variety of functions, wild chrysanthemum would not be referred to as a magician in traditional Chinese medicine.