| (Ku shen)
An important Chinese medicinal herb for skin infections and inflammation, and to treat allergic reactions. It is applied as a topical wash prepared as a decoction of the root and bark or as an extract made with vinegar. It is antibacterial, astringent and anti-inflammatory. Traditionally used for "damp heat" conditions. Internally, it is used to treat arrhythmia and insomnia. Contains two interesting mildly sedative alkaloids, matrine and oxymatrine, that are said to produce few side effects or adverse reactions. The plant is a slow growing evergreen subshrub reaching 1.5m/5ft high. Seeds need to be soaked in hot but not boiling water for 12 hours. Seedlings are slow to establish, so grow indoors until strong enough to plant outdoors in the third year. Requires protection from damaging winds, snow and ice.