WHAT IT IS: Eclipta alba Hassk is an annual herb with white flower heads that inhabits tropical and subtropical regions of the world such as South America, Asia and Africa.
It is produced mainly in China, where it is collected in summer and autumn, dried in the sun and cut into pieces, said Ms Ho Wai-Fong, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner at Qi Fang Chinese Physician & Acupuncture Centre at The Central.
Known as mohanlian in Chinese, fresh and dried eclipta leaves and stems (right) are used to strengthen the liver and kidneys and, hence, resolve illnesses associated with them, she said.
Good quality herbs are dry, aromatic and not contaminated with foreign matter, the third edition of Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica noted.
Dried eclipta is sold at 60 cents a tael (37.5g) at some medical halls here.
HOW TCM USES IT: This herb, with a sweet-sour taste, is considered "cooling" in nature.
It is used to address yin deficiencies in the liver and kidneys, said Ms Ho.
Yin is the element responsible for moistening and cooling the body. When yin is deficient, it upsets the balance of yin and yang (the element linked to heat) in the body needed for good health, leading to symptoms of "heat".
Yin deficiency in the liver can result from insufficient rest from clocking late nights, cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation, and blood deficiency in the body.
Blood is a major component of the bodily fluids which give rise to yin, so deficiency in the blood can lead to deficiency in yin, Ms Ho said.
In TCM, the liver stores blood and regulates blood circulation. When circulation is poor, blood stagnates and "heat" builds up in the body, causing symptoms such as nosebleeds, blood in the stools or urine and, for women, unusual bleeding between periods, Ms Ho said.
Eclipta is then used to "cool" the blood and arrest these instances of bleeding, she said.
When there is yin deficiency in the liver, a person will also have blurred vision, headaches and a red tongue with little coating, among other symptoms.
TCM practitioners believe that the liver and kidneys are closely related so there is a tendency for a person to have yin deficiency in the liver and kidneys simultaneously, Ms Ho said.
Yin deficiency in the kidneys is apparent through tinnitus (ringing in the ears), premature white hair, and soreness and weakness in the waist and knees.
It is believed that a woman undergoing menopause has yin deficiency in the kidneys, manifested through hot flushes and mood swings, Ms Ho said. Men with this deficiency experience involuntary emission of semen, she added.
WHO IT IS FOR: Eclipta is recommended for those who have a tendency to bleed from the nose, women who complain of abnormal bleeding outside of their periods and young people who are prematurely greying, Ms Ho said.
WHO SHOULD AVOID IT: Eclipta is not suitable for those with weak spleens or stomachs who frequently experience bloatedness and diarrhoea. Anyone who has overeaten and has indigestion should also avoid this "cold" herb, which would aggravate his symptoms, Ms Ho advised.
Newborn babies, children, and pregnant or breast-feeding women should not consume eclipta too. Growing children should not eat this herb because it would over-stimulate their bodies, MsHo said.
WHAT RESEARCH HAS SHOWN: Er Zhi Wan is a TCM herbal formulation containing two herbs - eclipta and glossy privet fruit - that is used for treating menopause symptoms.
A study published in June in the Journal Of Ethnopharmacology by the International Society for Ethnopharmacology, an organisation of international scientists, concluded that Er Zhi Wan "would be an effective and safe replacement" for the female hormone, oestrogen.
The study showed that the formulation could induce the effect of oestrogen without causing abnormal proliferation in a cultured breast cancer cell line. Increased concentrations of circulating oestrogen have been found in studies to be strongly associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women.
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