Botanical Name: Sophorae flavescentis Radix

Category: Clear Heat, Dry Damp

Ku Shen

Ku Shen

Taste: Bitter
Temperature: Cold

Channels Entered: Large Intestine, Stomach, Heart, Small Intestine, Bladder, Liver

Dosage: 3-9g

Cautions & Contraindications:

  • Contraindicated in cases of cold from deficiency of the Spleen or Stomach. It should not be combined with Veratri nigri radix et rhizoma (li lu)
  • Antagonizes Tu Si Zi and Bei Mu.

Actions & Indications:

  • Clears heat and dries dampness: primarily for damp heat in the lower burner leading to jaundice, dysenteric disorder, vaginal discharge, and sores.
  • Disperses wind, kills parasites, and stops itching: for damp toxin skin lesions or infestations with chronic itching, seepage, and bleeding. Also for genital itching and vaginal discharge. Used both internally and topically.
  • Clears heat and promotes urination: for such disorders as damp heat in the Small Intestines, painful urinary dribbling, and hot edema.


Ku Shen

Ku Shen

  • Mu Xiang: Damp-Heat dysenteric disorder and jaundice.
  • Huang Bai, Bai Zhi, She Chuang Zi: Thick, yellow vaginal discharge with itching
  • She Chuang Zi, Dan Shen: Damp skin lesions such as eczema.
  • Huai Hua, Di Yu: Haemafecia from Intestinal Heat, bleeding hemorrhoids, or hematemesis from Stomach Heat.
  • Chan Tui, Jing Jie: Generalized itching.
  • Shi Wei, Che Qian Zi: Urinary dysfunction with burning, rough, painful urination due to Damp-Heat.
  • Dang Gui, Zhe Bei Mu: Urinary dysfunction during pregnancy.
  • Fu Ling: Edema due to hot painful urinary dysfunction.
  • Zhi Zi, Huang Bai, Long Dan Cao: Jaundice.
  • Mu Xiang, Gan Cao: Diarrhea.
  • Huang Bai, She Chuang Zi: Yellow leucorrhea, or as an herbal wash for general itching or vaginitis due to trichomonas infection.
  • Ku Lian Pi: Hemorrhoid pain.
  • Che Qiang Zi: As an herbal wash for itching.
  • Bai Xian Pi, Chi Shao, Hong Hua, Sang Zhi, Fang Feng, Lian Qiao, Chuan Shan Jia, Zao Jiao Ci, Chan Tui, She Tui: Urticaria.


  • It is often used in pills, powders, tinctures and ointments.
  • It is especially useful for lower body skin ailments.
  • It is a major ingredient in several formulas for hot dysenteric disorders.
  • It clears Heart/Small Intestine Heat.
  • It can be used alone to treat diarrhea.
  • It can be used alone as an External wash to treat general sores.
  • It can be used alone to treat dysuria.
  • It is used primarily when Damp-Heat disrupts the Bladder’s separation function.
  • Ku Shen, Long Dan Cao and Zhi Zi all clear and drain Damp-Heat, promote Gallbladder function and resolve jaundice. Ku Shen also expels Wind and kills parasites and is used for itchy skin and hot dysenteric disorders. Long Dan Cao is especially able to enter and clear Liver/Gallbladder Damp-Heat with swelling and expel Bladder Fire. Zhi Zi also drains Heat through the urine and resolves irritable discomfort in the chest.
  • Both Ku Shen and Bai Xian Pi eliminate Damp-Heat from the Lower Jiao and the skin and both promote urination Ku Shen also Expels Wind and kills parasites and therefore is better at treating itching and vaginal discharge. Bai Xian Pi is better for Wind-Damp-Bi or Damp-Bi with Heat signs.
  • Both Ku Shen and Huang Lian are very bitter and cold. and address problems of the Heart. Ku Shen treats Fire in the Heart channel as well as the Small Intestine. It cools the Fire and drains the Damp-Heat out through the urine. Its drying nature exceeds that of Huang Lian and thus can kill parasites related to Damp-Heat. Huang Lian primarily cools Fire in the Heart organ.
  • Both Ku Shen and She Chuang Zi have an excellent ability to dry Dampness, kill parasites, and stop itching when used externally and are often combined for these purposes. Ku Shen is very bitter and cold, clears Heat, dries Dampness and facilitates urination. It is used for Damp-Heat dysenteric disorders, jaundice and urinary difficulty due to clumping of Damp-Heat. She Chuang Zi is acrid, bitter and warm and strongly warms the Kidneys.
  • Dry-fried Chao Ku Shen is less bitter and cold which helps it enter the Blood Level. It is used for those who have Spleen and Stomach Deficiencies, Heat toxin dysenteric disorders or Intestinal Wind with passage of Blood.