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Herb Profile: Cang Er Zi San ("Xanthium Powder")

By Clara Wetmore
Cang Er Zi San

Photo by Dr. Shen's, a TCM resource

Springtime instills dread in many New Mexicans who suffer from seasonal pollen - especially juniper allergies. Although it is best to treat allergies while symptoms are in latency, there is hope. Many Chinese herbs can treat the various manifestations of seasonal allergies, and Cang Er Zi San is one formula that can alleviate sinus congestion.

In TCM terms, Cang Er Zi San releases Wind-Heat, alleviates pain, and unblocks the nose. It is indicated for sinusitis or allergic rhinitis, with symptoms of nasal obstruction, copious, purulent nasal discharge, frontal headache, dizziness, post-nasal drip, inflamed mucus membranes, sneezing, red itchy eyes, thirst, maxillary pain, floating rapid pulse, and a thin or greasy yellow or white tongue coat. It contains Cang Er Zi (Xanthii Fructus), Xin Yi Hua (Magnolia Flos), Bai Zhi (Angelica Dahuricae Radix), and Bo He (Mentha Haplocalycis Herba).

This formula should not be taken long-term, as the chief herb Cang Er Zi is slightly toxic (too much can cause headache or mild nausea) and it can be very drying. It should also be avoided in patients with Yin deficiency, and is contraindicated in pregnancy. This formula is used to alleviate acute symptoms and will not address underlying deficiencies that lead to allergies, but it can be modified to address individual needs.