Mu Xiang (Radix Aucklandiae or Costus Root)

What Is Mu Xiang

Mu Xiang commonly known as Radix Aucklandiae or Costus Root is the dried root of Aucklandia lappa Dence, which is a perennial herb belonging to the family Compositae. It is a relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Shennong Ben Cao Jing> in the late Western Han Dynasty (around 100 BCE).

Aucklandia lappa Dence commonly known as Aucklandia costus Falc, Saussurea costus (Falc.) Lipsch, Theodorea costus (Falc.) Kuntze, Aplotaxis lappa Decne, Saussurea lappa (Decne.) Sch.Bip, Costus, Indian Costus, Kuth, or Putchuk is a rare medicinal plant. According to the Phytotaxa journal, it was renamed as Dolomiaea costus (Falc.) Kasana & A.K.Pandey in 2020 [1].

This plant is typically cultivated and prefers cold, moist climates. They are suitable for planting in well-drained, fertile, and loose soil layers at an altitude of 2,500 to 3,000 meters. They are mainly distributed in the Himalayan regions of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and southwestern China. Their roots are widely used in Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

In autumn and winter, people gather the roots of Aucklandia lappa Dence, remove the mud and their fibrous roots, cut them into sections, dry them, grind away their rough outer layer, cut them into thick slices, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Mu Xiang contains β-costic acid, isocostic acid, 4β-hydroxy-11(13)-eudesmene-12-al, 13-sulfo-dihydro-reynosin, arbusculin A, selinene, alantolactone, isoalantolactone, dihydrocostunolide, dihydro-α-cyclocostunolide, α-cyclocostunolide, ilicic alcohol, costol, santamarine, β-cyclocostunolide, eudesmol, isocritonilide, magnolialide, saussureamines A-C, costuslactone, dehydrocostus lactone, isodehydrocostus lactone, costunolide, parthenolide, curcumene, humulene, elemol, L-4-terpineol, phellandrene, carvacrol, pinene, α-thujene, camphene, camphor, betulin, betulinic acid, squalene, glycosides, anthraquinones, flavonoids, organic acids, sterols, and amino acids.

Generally, the oily Mu Xiang with a strong aroma are preferred. In China, the type of Mu Xiang imported from Guangzhou is called Guang Mu Xiang, while the type grown in Yunnan and Guizhou is called Yun Mu Xiang.

According to the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, the medicinal nature of Mu Xiang is relatively warm, with a pungent and bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the spleen, stomach, large intestine, tri-jiao, and gallbladder meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is often used to promote qi circulation and relieve pain, invigorate the spleen to promote digestion, and treat abdominal distention and pain, nausea, belching, poor appetite, indigestion, diarrhea, dysentery, tenesmus, intestinal bloating, peptic ulcer, acute enteritis, chronic ulcerative colitis, chronic gastritis, chronic atrophic gastritis, intestinal dysmotility, irritable bowel syndrome, cholelithiasis, biliary colic, cholecystitis, chronic hepatitis B, liver cirrhosis, jaundice, distending pain in the hypochondrium, periumbilical colic due to cold, and unilateral sagging of the testicle.

There are about 145 traditional Chinese medicine prescriptions that contain it, such as Xiang Lian Wan, Mu Xiang Shun Qi Wan, and Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang.


  • Anti-inflammation, inhibiting rat leg swelling induced by carrageenan [2].
  • Anti-oxidation, scavenging DPPH free radicals, and reducing ferric ion (Fe3+) to ferrous ion (Fe2+) [3].
  • Reducing liver damage induced by amino galactose and carbon tetrachloride in rats and protecting the liver [4].
  • Promoting qi circulation and relieving pain, treating abdominal distension and pain caused by stagnation of spleen and stomach qi.
  • Invigorating the spleen to promote digestion, treating indigestion and poor appetite caused by retention of food in the middle-jiao, cold retained in the middle-jiao, or qi stagnation due to spleen-deficiency.
  • Regulating qi in the large intestine, treating diarrhea and tenesmus caused by damp-heat.
  • Regulating activities of qi in the liver, gallbladder, and tri-jiao meridian, treating distending pain in the hypochondrium, jaundice, and hernia pain caused by qi stagnation.
  • Enlivening the spleen and whetting appetite, alleviating anorexia and qi stagnation caused by tonic medicines, so that the medicines for invigorating qi and nourishing blood are nourishing but not stagnation.
  • Its methanol and chloroform extracts have anti-hemolytic activity [5].
  • Its ethanol extract has a significant inhibitory effect on infectious stones [2].
  • Its ethanol extract can reduce the renal function deterioration caused by oxaliplatin (a platinum-based antitumor compound) in mice [6].
  • Its ethanol extract improved ethanol-induced gastric ulcers in rats. The mechanisms of action were related to the improvement of gastrointestinal dynamics, maintenance of mucus integrity, and inhibition of apoptosis by downregulating proapoptotic Bax protein and upregulating anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 protein [7].
  • Costunolide could inhibit proliferation, arrest cell cycle, and induces apoptosis of many cancers, such as breast cancer, colon cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer, and hepatocellular carcinoma cells. Also, it inhibited the viability and induced the apoptosis of human gastric adenocarcinoma BGC-823 cells in vitro and in vivo via activating the mitochondrial pathway [8].
  • Its acetic acid extract has certain inhibitory effects on Candida albicans, Bacillus cereus, Salmonella enterica, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa [9].
  • Studies have found that it can treat testosterone-induced benign prostatic hyperplasia in mice by modulating inflammation and apoptosis imbalance [10].
  • In vivo, gastric emptying increased, and intestinal transit decreased after the administration of its extract in normal mice. However, its extract inhibited gastric emptying and intestinal transit throughout the concentrations in neostigmine-induced mice. In vitro, its extract caused an inhibitory effect on the spontaneous contraction of rat-isolated jejunum in a dose-dependent manner ranging from 0.1 to 0.4 mg/mL, and it also relaxed the acetylcholine chloride (Ach, 10(-5) M), 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, 200 μM)-induced, and K(+) (60 mM)-induced contractions [11].


  • It can be used in combination with Sha Ren (Fructus Amomi), Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel), Hou Po (Magnolia Bark), etc. to treat abdominal distension and pain caused by stagnation of the spleen and stomach qi.
  • It can be used in combination with Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel), Ban Xia (Pinellia Rhizome), Zhi Shi (Fructus Aurantii Immaturus), etc. to treat epigastric fullness and pain caused by retention of food in the middle-jiao.
  • It can be used in combination with Gan Jiang (Dried Ginger), Xiao Hui Xiang (Fructus Foeniculi), Zhi Shi (Fructus Aurantii Immaturus), etc. to treat indigestion caused by cold retained in the middle-jiao.
  • It can be used in combination with Ren Shen (Radix et Rhizoma Ginseng), Bai Zhu (Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae), Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel), etc. to treat abdominal fullness and distention, poor appetite, and loose stools caused by qi stagnation due to spleen-deficiency.
  • It can be combined with Huang Lian (Rhizoma Coptidis) to treat diarrhea and tenesmus caused by damp-heat.
  • It can be used in combination with Bing Lang (Semen Arecae), Qing Pi (Citri Reticulatae Pericarpium Viride), Da Huang (Radix et Rhizoma Rhei), etc. to treat dietary stagnation, abdominal fullness and distention, and diarrhea with a sensation of incomplete defecation.
  • It can be used in combination with Yu Jin (Turmeric Tuber), Da Huang (Radix et Rhizoma Rhei), Yin Chen (Herba Artemisiae Scopariae), etc. to treat distending pain in the hypochondrium, jaundice, and bitter taste in mouth caused by stagnation and transpiration due to damp-heat, liver dysfunction, and qi stagnation.
  • It can be used in combination with Chuan Lian Zi (Fructus Meliae Toosendan), Xiao Hui Xiang (Fructus Foeniculi), etc. to treat periumbilical colic due to cold, and unilateral sagging of the testicle.

Side Effects

  • Currently, there is no literature reporting any toxic effects of Mu Xiang, and no studies have shown that it can cause serious adverse reactions when taken in the recommended dosage.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Mu Xiang should be controlled between 3-6g.
  • It can be prepared into decoctions, pills, and powders.
  • When preparing a decoction containing Mu Xiang, it is recommended to first decoct the other herbs and then add it towards the end of the boiling process.
  • People who are allergic to Mu Xiang should not take it.
  • People with hyperactivity of fire due to yin deficiency should not take it.
  • Patients with no syndromes of qi stagnation should not take it.
  • Pregnant and lactating women, children, and elderly individuals with the weak constitution should take it under the guidance of a doctor.
  • The unprocessed Mu Xiang is recommended for promoting Qi circulation and relieving pain, while simmered Mu Xiang has a milder medicinal effect and is recommended for treating diarrhea, loose stools, and abdominal pain caused by spleen deficiency.