As the old clock ticks away and we are left with aches and pains we never had to deal with in our younger days, we look for complementary approaches to pain relief. Such a search led us recently to a traditional Chinese herb, eucommia, also known as du zhong.
Eucommia has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and though the scientific research on it is fairly limited, what is available that it has properties to build collagen and support joint health. There is also positive research on its role in hypertension and in supporting kidney function. The health-supporting properties of eucommia include:
- Antioxidant: Eucommia leaf and root have antioxidant compounds that help fight the formation of cancer-causing free radicals. A 1998 study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry identified the antioxidant compounds. Another study of mice links the antioxidant activity to care of Type II diabetes.
- Anti-Hypertensive: In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study of people with healthy blood pressure levels or mild hypertension, eucommia had a mild anti-hypertensive affect. The authors suggest it can be a useful tool for those in the high end of normal blood pressure ranges. (A rodent study here also supports this property.)
The collagen angle, however, has our attention. Collagen is an important protein in our body providing structure to tendons, cartilage tissue, bones, and connective tissue. Collagen helps in wound healing, including the healing of injured or over-stressed joints.
Collagen is critical in maintaining youthful-looking skin.
(What started out as a search for joint support may be turning into a vanity project….)
Our joints and skin needs collagen to be healthy. We can actually consume dietary collagen such as gelatinous bone broth, but we can also embrace a lifestyle that supports collagen. Smoking and sun exposure are notorious for their destruction of skin collagen. In contrast, euccommia actually supports collagen production.
Where to Buy Eucommia
It is not actually all that easy to find eucommia. In an Asian market, you may find the bark, leaves, or tea. Try them if you find them. A daily cup of tea is a great health regimen. Online, your best bet may be this powder, a eucommia supplement, which you simply mix into warm water and drink. You can find the root or leaves on some specialty sites and even use it to make your own extract. I tend to take that path once I find an herb I really like.
Homemade Eucommia Extract
You can make eucommia extract as you would any extract — simply place the leaves or root in a jar, filling the jar up to about one-third full. Cover the eucommia completely with vodka or bourbon, adding about an inch of alcohol over the leaves or bark. Cover the jar and leave it in a cool, dark place. Swish it around every few days and in about three months, you can strain the leaves or bark and use your mixture as an extract. The alcohol works to bring out the components of the eucommia so that you are left with a drinkable extract with the beneficial properties of the eucommia. If you use a base alcohol you actually like, you will even have a pleasant treat when you take it. (I am perhaps giving away why I like extracts….)
How Much “To Take”?
You will find little advice on “dosages” for Chinese herbs not commonly used in the United States. If you are trying to treat a serious condition, you need to work with a practitioner of Chinese medicine. A frustration with herbs is that the formulations are not consistent across manufacturers and it is never clear what “dosage” you will be taking. When you make your own homemade extract, that point will become even more clear. A daily cup of tea may be a great place to start.
A Eucommia/Hardy Rubber Tree
Because the quest for
great skin joint health cannot be overemphasized, plant a hardy rubber tree in your yard if you are in planting zones 4-8. They grow to 40-60 feet and are deciduous providing great shade in the summer and no leaves in the winter. Who knows, you could become the most popular kid on the block, especially if your skin is to-die-for. The Missouri Botanical Gardens website provides a primer should you choose to go in this direction. (I am considering it myself actually.)
If you have tried eucommia, leave a note about your experience. We are so far bullish on this ancient herb.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The herbs and products described in this article are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate or prevent any diseases. Women who are pregnant or nursing should consult their physician before using any herbal product.
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