Xiang Jia Pi (Bei Wu Jia Pi or Cortex Periplocae)

What Is Xiang Jia Pi

Xiang Jia Pi commonly known as Bei Wu Jia Pi or Cortex Periplocae is the root bark of Periploca sepium, which is a deciduous shrub belonging to the family Asclepiadaceae. It is a relatively practical Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Zhong Yao Zhi> (China Journal of Chinese Materia Medica) in 1,959 AD.

There are about 17 species of Periploca, which are mainly distributed in temperate Asia, southern Europe, and tropical Africa. Many species of this genus have been historically used as folk medicines in China, especially Periploca sepium and Periploca forrestii.

Periploca sepium is light-loving, cold-resistant, drought-resistant, infertile, and shade-tolerant. They are highly adaptable to soil and often grow on forest edges, ditch slopes, riverside sandy textures, or field edges in plains and low hills. They are distributed in northern, central, and southeastern China, and Russia.

Periploca sepium

In spring and autumn, people gather the roots of Periploca sepium, peel their root bark, remove impurities, water them with water, moisten them, cut them into thick slices, dry them, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Xiang Jia Pi contains periplocoside A~F, periplocoside J, periplocoside K, periplocoside M, periplocoside N, periplocoside O, glycoside K, glycoside H1, and glycoside H2, plocoside A, plocoside B, Δ5-pregnene-3β,16α,20α-triol, Δ5-pregnene-3β,17α,20α-triol, 12β-hydroxypregna-4,6,16-triene-3,20-dion, 21-O-methyl-Δ5-pregnene-3β,14β,17β,21-tetraol-20-one, 21-O-methyl-5-pregnene-3β,14β,17β,20,21-pentaol, 21-O-methyl-5,14-pregndlene-3β,l7β,20,21-tetraol, periseosides A~E, periplocin, periplogenin, periplocymarin, xysmalogenin, ursolic acid, α-amyrin, α-amyrin acetate, oleanic acid, β-amyrin, β-amyrin acetate, lupeol, lupane acetate, cycloeucalenol, 4-methyl benzene formaldehyde, 4-methoxy salicylaldehyde, vanillin, isovanillin, β-sitosterol, oligosaccharides, sucrose, 4-methylsalicylic acid, 4-methoxysalicylic acid, daucosterol, tortoside B, organic acids and volatile oils.

Generally, the thick and grayish brown or yellowish brown Xiang Jia Pi with a strong fragrance is preferred.

According to the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, the medicinal nature of Xiang Jia Pi is relatively warm, with toxicity and a pungent and bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the liver, kidney, and heart meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is often used to induce diuresis and remove swelling, expel wind and dampness, strengthen tendons and bones, and treat edema of lower limbs, palpitation, short breath, soreness and weakness of waist and knees, numbness of hands and feet, rheumatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, degenerative osteoarthropathy, closed injury of soft tissue, and chronic congestive heart failure.


  • Anti-inflammation and inhibiting histamine release from mast cells cultured in vitro and from mast cells of sensitized rats [1].
  • Inhibiting cholinesterase activity and increasing sensitivity to acetylcholine in guinea pigs, rats, and cats.
  • Restoring cyclophosphamide-induced leukopenia [2].
  • Inducing diuresis and removing swelling, treating edema of lower limbs, palpitation, and short breath.
  • Expelling wind and dampness, strengthening tendons and bones, and treating soreness and weakness of waist and knees, arthralgia, flaccid tendons and bones, and retardation of walking.
  • Its methanol extract has cell differentiation-inducing activity, and the inducing activity of C21 steroidal glycosides is stronger than that of cardiac glycosides [2].
  • Its ethanol extract has a significant repellent effect against the oviposition of imported cabbage worms. Additionally, the benzene fraction from that ethanol extract showed strong antifeeding and poisoning effects on Plutella xylostella larvae [3].
  • Its crude extract can inhibit the proliferation of T lymphocytes, and prevent and treat experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.
  • Periplocin has inhibitory effects on the proliferation of breast cancer BT-549 cells, esophageal cancer TE-13 cells, Eca-109 cells, TE-1 cells, TE-10 cells, liver cancer SMMC-7721 cells, and colon cancer SW480 cells.
  • The study found that glycosides K, H1, and H2 from Cortex Periplocae showed the potentiation of NGF-mediated nerve fiber outgrowth in organ cultures of chicken embryonic dorsal roots and sympathetic ganglia, and glycoside H2 had the best effect [4].
  • Periplocin has a cardiotonic ability similar to that of digitalis. It enhances the tonus and the contractility of the cardiac muscle, as well as the tonus of the arterial muscle, whereas it led to cardiac irregularity and systolic arrest of the rat heart at excessive doses. Additionally, a 10% infusion gave rise to a decrease of the frequency of the heartbeat and an increase of the tonus, arterial pressure, and diuresis [3].


  • It can be used in combination with Ting Li Zi (Semen Lepidii), Huang Qi (Radix Astragali), etc. to treat edema of lower limbs, palpitation, and short breath.
  • It can be used in combination with Dang Gui (Radix Angelicae Sinensis), Du Huo (Radix Angelicae Pubescentis), Yin Yang Huo (Horny Goat Weed), etc. to treat soreness and weakness of the waist and knees, arthralgia caused by wind-cold-damp.
  • It can be used in combination with Niu Xi (Radix Achyranthis Bidentatae), Mu Gua (Fructus Chaenomelis), Ba Ji Tian (Radix Morindae Officinalis), etc. to treat flaccid tendons and bones, and retardation of walking.
  • It can be used in combination with Dang Gui (Radix Angelicae Sinensis), Du Huo (Radix Angelicae Pubescentis), Fang Ji (Radix Stephaniae Tetrandrae), Qiang Huo (Rhizoma et Radix Notopterygii), Wei Ling Xian (Radix Clematidis), Yi Yi Ren (Semen Coicis), etc. to treat numbness of hands and feet, rheumatic arthralgia.
  • It can be used in combination with Ma Qian Zi (Semen Strychni), Shen Jin Cao (Lycopodium Japonicum), Ru Xiang (Frankincense), Mo Yao (Myrrh), Hong Hua (Flos Carthami), Di Long (Earthworm), Gu Sui Bu (Rhizoma Drynariae), Fang Ji (Radix Stephaniae Tetrandrae), and Niu Xi (Radix Achyranthis Bidentatae) to treat lividity, swelling and pain in the affected area caused by trauma or fracture.

Side Effects

  • Xiang Jia Pi is poisonous, and its main toxic component is periplocin [5].
  • Animal experiments have confirmed that small doses of Xiang Jia Pi injection can cause the death of toads and mice. After intravenous injection of it in rabbits and dogs, blood pressure will first rise and then fall, respiratory paralysis, and death.
  • Overdose of it may cause nausea, vomiting, or severe heart arrhythmia.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Xiang Jia Pi should be controlled at 3-6g.
  • It can be made into decoctions, pills, or powders.
  • People who are allergic to Xiang Jia Pi should not take it.
  • When it is used in combination with cardiac glycosides, attention should be paid to its dosage.
  • Pregnant women should use it with caution.
  • Breastfeeding women should take it under the guidance of a doctor.