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Snake Needle Grass

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Names of Snake Needle Grass, past and present

Chinese: baihua sheshecao / bai hua she she cao / she she cao (lit. 'white flower snake tongue grass')
English: Snake needle grass
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Oldenlandia diffusa / Hedyotis diffusa

Background and History

The snake needle grass is a relatively obscure medicinal plant that has been used as a medicinal tonic and beverage in China since the early Zhou Dynasty. While ancient medicinal texts on Chinese medicine do not mention snake needle grass as being of any significant medicinal use, its popularity reached its zenith sometime in the early 1940s. Prior to this time, snake needle grass was employed by traditional herbalists as a remedy for snakebites (hence the name). Later on, this practice was somewhat abandoned, and its use as a general cooling and nourishing tonic began.

Snake needle grass is typified by its somewhat vine-like appearance and the unique forked leaves that resemble the tongue of a snake. It can be used fresh, but is typically dried and powdered, usually alongside other herbs like Scutellaria barbata. [1]



Nowadays, snake needle grass is typically prepared into an instant drink, usually combined with other herbs. It is typically powdered and shaped into very small pellets and mixed with sugar. Served as either a hot or cold beverage, it is sold as a medicinal drink, but is drunk more as a soothing beverage than as a medicine. It is quite popular outside of China as a soothing drink, although its primary enthusiasts are chiefly those of Chinese or Asiatic descent.

General Uses

Prior to the creation the instant snake needle grass beverage commonly found today, snake needle grass was chiefly employed as a remedy for snakebite, either by pounding the fresh leaves and making it into a poultice which is then applied to the open bites to help counteract the poison, or otherwise drunk regularly after extracting the snake venom through bleeding, as it was believed to flush out and / or neutralise the snake venom. A very strong decoction of snake needle grass may even be used as a topical wash for snakebites. [2]

When employed for medicinal purposes other than as an antidote for snakebite, snake needle grass is believed to be a cooling and soothing drink, typically imbibed as a means to get rid of excessive heat believed to be produced by the excessive production of yang properties in the body. The most commonly available forms of snake needle grass available in the market today are pre-prepared forms, usually combined with other traditional Chinese medicinal herbs, expressly prepared as to be easily diluted in water and drunk either warm or cold. These products are typically pre-sweetened and packaged in cans or plastic jars.



Whole herbs can be bought either fresh or dried (the latter being the most common). Snake needle grass is usually brewed into a tisane by either creating a decoction from fresh leaves, or by making an infusion of the dried leaves. While it can be used by itself, it is more often mixed with other herbs and drunk as a before and after-meal tea. Snake needle grass is helpful for relieving fevers and for detoxifying the body. Both raw and prepared products are said to help nourish the body and flush out toxins brought about by excessive smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as boost one's general well-being. [3]

Recent studies have shown that regulated consumption of snake needle grass may help fight against certain types of cancer by allaying cell mutations, although excessive intake of either raw or prepared forms of this herb may impair male fertility and libido, as it has the tendency to deplete sperm count. [4] Some specialised preparations of snake needle grass are also made into capsules, meant to be taken as a cancer-preventative medicine. These are typically sold in Chinese drugstores and are composed of a combination of different herbs. Due to the myriad purposes of snake needle grass, an entire range of specified pre-prepared remedies have been made available, with herbal concoctions specifically made to counter stress, aid in digestion, prevent or treat cancer, or to simply soothe and nourish the body.

References & Further Reading

[1] http://healingpastures.com/2010/06/22/oldenlandia-cancer-killer/
[2] http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/oldenlandia-diffusa
[3] http://www.livestrong.com/article/495691-oldenlandia-diffusa-side-effects/
[4] http://www.itmonline.org/arts/oldenlandia.htm

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt, © herbs-info.com 2013

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