I love chrysanthemums (mums) because they bloom late in the summer and into the cool days of fall, when most other flowers are done for the season. Mums add all kinds of color to the fall landscape—red, white, yellow, orange and purple—and they stay colorful until the first hard frost.
Despite their beauty and hardiness as a flower, chrysanthemums also have therapeutic benefits as a Chinese herb. Called Ju Hua in Chinese, mums are considered to be sweet, bitter (depending on their color) and slightly cooling. They have a number of uses in Chinese herbal medicine, including:
- They help relieve the symptoms of colds and flu, especially headaches. In addition, mum’s cool properties can also help relieve your fever.
- Because Ju Hua is cool, fragrant and light, it can also be used in formulas for addressing heat in the Liver pathway. It’s especially helpful in cooling and moistening dry, red and painful eye conditions. That’s because in Chinese medicine your Liver system is associated with your eyes and vision.
- The cooling and moistening properties of this herb make it a good choice for nourishing the Yin aspects of your Kidney and Liver systems. In addition to painful and red eyes, this herb is also used for treating blurry vision and floaters in your vision.
- Because Ju Hua can help nourish and moisten Yin in your body, it also anchors the warmer and lighter Yang that can rise upward too quickly and cause symptoms. Think about it; moist and cool Yin sinks downward, while light and hot Yang wants to move upward. When Yang rises upward too quickly it creates an imbalance that’s called Liver Yang rising, and can cause vertigo, dizziness, light-headedness, migraines and headaches. Ju Hua is commonly used in herbal formulas to anchor Yang.
- Another manifestation of rising Yang is high blood pressure. Chrysanthemum flower is also helpful in treating hypertension, because again, it anchors or holds Yang downward.
- Finally, your Chinese Liver system is responsible for the smooth movement of everything in your body. As you can see, when your Liver energy rises upward unchecked, it can cause various symptoms. However, your Liver is also tasked with regulating the smooth flow of emotions, especially stress and anger. Ju Hua has the ability to calm your Liver, and as a result help calm your emotions and relieve stress.
Yi Ju Hua, or wild chrysanthemum is also a Chinese herb. It’s used to treat infections and sores. Also, like Ju Hua, it’s useful when you have a cold or the flu. It can be used to treat a sore and swollen throat and relieve painful red eyes.
Chrysanthemums are ancient plants; they’ve been cultivated for over 3,000 years. In Eastern cultures, they’re considered to be a sign of good luck, wealth, longevity and happiness. They are also considered to be a meditation on the end of summer and the upcoming fall and winter. The beautiful petals that radiate from the center of the flower signify the sun and the return of warm weather after the cold and dark days of the coming winter.
While mums come in a variety of colors, white and yellow flowers are used most often in Chinese medicine. White chrysanthemums are considered sweeter and are best used to nourish the Liver system and benefit your eyes in terms of vision—relieving floaters and blurry vision. The yellow flowers of this plant are better for treating headaches associated with a cold or flu and dealing with dry or red eye symptoms.
While most Chinese herbs have to be processed in specific ways to enhance their healing properties and ensure they’re safe to ingest, chrysanthemums are one Chinese herb that you can process yourself. All you need to do is cut the whole plant when the flowers are in full bloom, tie up the stem and hang the plant upside down until the flowers have dried out. Once the flowers are dry, they’re best used in tea. If you’re taking chrysanthemum tea for therapeutic reasons, it will take several weeks or months of drinking it to see results.
So, this fall when you see mums on someone’s doorstep or at the farmer’s market, remember the cooling and nourishing properties of this herb that can calm your emotions, benefits your eyes, anchor Yang and can even help lower your blood pressure. If you want to know more about whether Chinese herbs are right for you, please contact me.
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.