Qu Mai (Dianthi Herba)

What Is Qu Mai

Qu Mai commonly known as Dianthi Herba is the aerial part of Dianthus superbus L. or Dianthus chinensis L, which is a perennial herb belonging to the family Caryophyllaceae. It is a relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Shennong Ben Cao Jing> in the late Western Han Dynasty (about 100 BC).

There are about 344 species of Dianthus, which are widely distributed in Asia, Europe, Africa, and America. Most of these species are perennial, with a small percentage being annual and biennial. Among them, some species can be used as ornamental plants, and only a small number of species can be used medicinally.

Dianthus superbus commonly known as Fringed pink is a popular garden plant. They often grow on hillsides, grasslands, roadsides, and sparse forests at an altitude of 400-3,700 meters. They are widely distributed in Northern Europe, Central Europe, Siberia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, and China.

Dianthus chinensis (China pink)

Dianthus chinensis commonly known as China pink is a common ornamental plant in Eurasia. They like ventilated, cool, and humid climates. They grow well in fertile, loose, well-drained, calcareous loamy or sandy loam soils. They are often found in grasslands and hillsides. They are distributed in China, Japan, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Europe.

In summer and autumn, people gather the aerial part of Dianthus superbus L. or Dianthus chinensis L, remove impurities, wash them with water, moisten them slightly, cut them into pieces, dry them, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Qu Mai contains 3-O-β-d-glucopyranosylolean-9(11),12-diene-23,28-dioicacid28-O-β-d-glucopyranoside, 3-O-β-d-glucopyranosylolean-11,13(18)-diene-23,28-dioicacid28-O-β-d-glucopyranoside, 3-O-β-d-glucopyranosyl gypsogenic acid 28-O-[β-d-6-O-((3S)-3-hydroxyl-3- methylglutaryl)glucopyranosyl(1 → 6)]-β-d-glucopyranoside, 3-O-β-d-glucopyranosyl gypsogenic acid 28-O-[β-d-Glucopyranosyl(1 → 3)][β-d-6-O-((3S)-hydroxyl-3-methylglutaryl)glucopyranosyl(1 → 6)]-β-d-glucopyranoside, 3-O-α-l-Arabinopyranosyl-3β,16α-dihydroxyolean-12-en-23,28-dioic acid 28-O-[β-d-Glucopyranosyl-(1 → 6)]-β-d-glucopyranoside, dianchinenoside A~H, asiatic acid, 3-O-α-l-arabinopyranosyl hederagenin 28-O-β-d-glucopyranosyl(1 → 6)-β-d-glucopyranoside, madecassic acid, sterculin A, β-spinasterol, stigmast-7-en-3β-ol, β-Sitosterol glucoside, hainanenside, quillaic acid, quercetin-3-O-glucoside, quercetin-7-O-glucoside, isoorientin, orientin, luteolin, kaempferol, quercetrin, tricin, diosmetin, dianthin A~I, pseudostellarin A, tyrocidine B, emodin, physcion, Melrubiellin A, Melrubiellin B, phenolic acids, amides, phenylpropanoids, volatile oils, aromatic compounds and aliphatic compounds.

Generally, the pale green Qu Mai with tender stems and many leaves is preferred.

According to <Ri Hua Zi Zhu Jia Ben Cao>, the medicinal property of Qu Mai is relatively cold, with a bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the heart and small intestine meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is often used to induce diuresis and relieve stranguria, promote blood circulation and menstruation, and treat dysuria, edema, gonorrhea, hematuria, amenorrhea, irregular menstruation, polydipsia, skin ulcers, infantile frequent urination, urinary tract infection, ureteral calculi, diabetic nephropathy, gouty nephropathy, renal cyst, pyelonephritis, cystitis, urethritis, chronic prostatitis, prostatic hyperplasia, erectile dysfunction, thyroid cyst, ovarian cyst, ascites due to cirrhosis, ovarian cancer, esophageal cancer, rectal cancer, and postoperative urinary retention.

There are about 100 kinds of Chinese medicine prescriptions containing it, such as Gua Lou Qu Mai Wan, Chen Xiang An Shen San, and Ba Zheng San.


  • Anti-inflammation, inhibiting LPS-induced NO secretion and inflammatory cytokine production in RAW 264.7 cells and mouse peritoneal macrophages [1].
  • Increasing the pain threshold, reducing the number of writhing responses in mice induced by acetic acid.
  • Anti-oxidation, scavenging hydroxyl radicals, and DPPH radicals [2].
  • Inhibiting the activity of influenza A and B viruses[3, 4].
  • Inhibiting the production of IgE in vitro and in vivo in peanut-allergic mice, and reducing the allergic reaction caused by peanuts [5].
  • Inducing diuresis and increasing urine output and Na+ excretion in experimental rabbits [6].
  • Treating stranguria due to heat or hematuria, dysuria, and urolithiasis.
  • Promoting blood circulation, treating amenorrhea and irregular menstruation caused by stasis blocking due to blood heat.
  • The study found that the extract of D. superbus has a neuroprotective effect on glutamate-induced cell death in HT22 cells [7].
  • In one study, a high concentration (100%) of D. superbus alcoholic extract showed slight hemolytic effects and insect-repellent activity at a dose of 2 mg/mL [8].
  • Studies have found that its alcohol extracts had a significant stimulating effect on the isolated rat uterus and the smooth muscle of the rabbit in vivo uterus, and with the increase of the dosage, the uterine contraction was increased. Also, its alcohol extracts excited uterine smooth muscles more when combined with prostaglandin E2 [9].
  • Inhibiting the proliferation of breast cancer MCF-7 cells, breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells, liver cancer SSMC-7721, lung cancer A549, and liver cancer Bel-7402 cells, and inducing apoptosis in liver cancer HepG2 cells, oral cancer SCC-15 cells, and oral cancer YD-15 cells.
  • Its ethanolic extract has a positive inhibitory effect on Escherichia coli, Salmonella paratyphi, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Proteus, Shigella dysenteriae, Bacillus cereus, and Vibrio cholerae. Also, it has an inhibitory effect on urogenital chlamydia trachomatis in vitro [10].


Side Effects

An anti-fertility and genetic toxicology experiment on pregnant mice showed that doses of 10, 15, and 30 g/kg Dianthi herba decoction increased the abortion rate in the implantation period and early pregnancy in mice. 15 and 30 g/kg Dianthi herba decoction had significant effects on miscarriage and stillbirth in mid-pregnancy mice, and the effects were enhanced with the increase of the dose. Furthermore, Dianthi herba decoction has an obvious effect on late pregnancy mice, which can shorten the gestation period and reduce the weight of offspring mice [11].

In addition, animal experiments have shown that it has different degrees of damage of the main organs in mice, especially the kidney is severely damaged [12].

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Qu Mai should be controlled at 9-15g.
  • It can be made into decoctions, pills, powders, lotions, or ground for external use.
  • People who are allergic to Qu Mai should not take it.
  • It should not be taken with medicines containing spironolactone, vitamin C, niacin, glutamate, or Sang Piao Xiao (Ootheca Mantidis).
  • Patients with deficiency-cold in lower jiao should not take it.
  • Patients with a deficiency of spleen qi or kidney qi should not take it.
  • It is forbidden to be taken by pregnant women.
  • Breastfeeding women should take it under medical supervision.