Traditional use

The aerial parts of Sigesbeckia have been used traditionally to treat rheumatic conditions such as arthritis, pain in the joints and muscles, sciatica, as well as to treat hypertension and some forms of paralysis. It has been used in the traditional medicines of many countries across the world and was first referenced in China in 659 AD. Its Chinese Pinyin name is Xi Xian Cao.  In traditional Chinese medicine, Sigesbeckia is used to “dispel wind-dampness and strengthening the sinews: for wind-heat-damp painful obstructions”.  In Europe, the plant is commonly known as St Paul’s Wort.

Put into Western medical parlance, Sigesbeckia is prescribed in traditional medicine to relieve rheumatic conditions and improve the mobility of joints. When used traditionally, patients would be given the dried herb to brew into a decoction, either on its own or in combination with herbs such as Prunella vulgaris (commonly known as heal-all) or Clematis chinensis (Chinese Clematis), herbs that have complimentary activity. In China, Sigesbeckia was often prescribed on its own as a large honey pill (Xi Xian Cao). To make this honey pill, the dried Sigesbeckia plant was decocted twice with water, each time for two hours.  The decoctions (liquid extract) was then concentrated.  Further dried plant was then infused with rice wine and heated until the wine was completely absorbed.  The concentrated decoction and the wine infused material was dried, pulverized and mixed with honey to make large honey pills, with each honey pill weighing 20-30g and containing 9g of the Sigesbeckia extract.

In modern medicine, such production methods are very imprecise and there is risk of contamination, using the wrong plant, or using plant material of inferior grade.  In Europe, traditional herbal medicines are now regulated under the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Product Directive (Directive 2004/24/EC) under which there are stringent quality and safety requirements that manufacturers must meet and maintain in order to gain a licence to sell the product. The traditional dosage forms are also not appropriate for the Western market and licenced Sigesbeckia medicines are available in tablet form, containing pharmaceutical grade Sigesbeckia extract.


Traditional honey pills