Xia Ku Cao (Spica Prunellae)

What Is Xia Ku Cao

Xia Ku Cao commonly known as Spica Prunellae is the spike of Prunella vulgaris, which is a perennial herb belonging to the family Lamiaceae. 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).

There are 15 species of Prunella, which are widely distributed in temperate regions and tropical mountains in Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa. Some of them can be made into medicine.

Prunella vulgaris is commonly known as Self-heal or Heal-all and is a common lawn weed. They like a warm and humid environment and can grow well in sunny, well-drained sandy loam.

This plant often grows on hillsides, grasslands, roadsides, fields, and shrubs. They are native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, and have been introduced to some countries in Oceania and South America for transplantation.

Prunella vulgaris

In summer each year, people pick the brown-red spikes of Prunella vulgaris, remove their impurities, dry them in the sun, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Xia Ku Cao contains oleanic acid, methyl oleanolate, methyl maslinate, methyl 3-epimaslinate, β-amyrin, prunelloside A, vulgarsaponin A, vulgarsaponin B, methyl ursolate, ursolic acid, pruvuloside A, pruvuloside B, kaempferol, quercetin, rstinoside, luteolin, cinaroside, homoorientin, hesperidin, wogonin, stigmasterol, β-sitosterol, α-spinasterol, daucosteol, organic acids, anthraquinones, coumarins, volatile oils, alkaloids, vitamins, resins, fatty oils, tannins, amino acids, cytidine, and some trace elements.

Generally, the purple-brown and large Xia Ku Cao is preferred.

According to <Compendium of Materia Medica>, the medicinal nature of Xia Ku Cao is relatively cold, with a pungent and bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the liver and gallbladder meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is often used to clear heat and purge fire, improve eyesight, alleviate swelling and dissipate nodulation, and treat hypertension, lymphatic tuberculosis, infiltrating tuberculosis, simple goiter, mumps, mastitis, acute jaundice infectious hepatitis, Chronic hepatitis B, rhagades of hand and foot.

There are about 200 kinds of traditional Chinese medicine prescriptions containing it, such as Xia Sang Ju, Rupi Sanjie capsule, and Lu Bu Ma Jiang Ya Pian.


  • Anti-inflammation, inhibiting the swelling of the toes of rats and reducing the content of tumor necrosis factor-α.
  • Anti-oxidation, scavenging hydroxyl radicals, ABTS free radicals, and superoxide anion free radicals.
  • Inhibiting HSV-1 and HSV-2 viruses.
  • Reducing systolic and diastolic blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats.
  • Stimulating the release of insulin, inhibiting the activity of α-amylase and α-glycosidase, and reducing postprandial blood glucose levels.
  • Reducing the content of serum total cholesterol, triacylglycerol, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and increasing the content of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
  • Reducing CCL4-induced liver cell damage and protecting the liver.
  • Purging liver fire, treating redness, swelling, and pain of the eyes caused by flaming-up of liver fire.
  • Nourishing liver yin and treating eye pain at night caused by deficiency of the liver-yin.
  • Treating lymphatic tuberculosis caused by stagnant liver qi turning into fire or the coagulation of phlegm-fire.
  • Dissipating nodulation, treating goiter, lymphadenopathy, and breast hyperplasia.
  • Removing heat toxins, treating skin ulcers and abscesses.
  • Its alcohol extract and water extract can inhibit the activity of HIV-1.
  • Its alcohol extract cooperates with pentobarbital sodium to extend the sleep time of experimental mice.
  • Inhibiting the proliferation of liver cancer HepG2 cells and lung cancer A549 cells, and inducing apoptosis of colon cancer HT-29 cells and breast cancer MCF-5 cells.
  • Inhibiting Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Shigella, Typhoid, Bacillus cholera, Proteus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
  • Studies have shown that its polysaccharide can increase the organ index of mice with immunocompromised function, enhance the phagocytic function of macrophages, promote the level of hemolysin, and the formation of hemolytic plaques.


Side Effects

  • At present, there are no reports in the literature that Xia Ku Cao has toxic effects, and there are no reports of serious adverse reactions when taken in accordance with the prescribed dose.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Xia Ku Cao should be controlled at 9-15g.
  • It can be made into decoctions, pills, ointments, teas, or ground into powder for external use.
  • People who are allergic to Xia Ku Cao should not take it.
  • Patients with weakness of the spleen and stomach should not take it.
  • Pregnant women and breastfeeding women need to take it under the guidance of a doctor.