Eucommia (du zhong) is the bark from the hardy rubber tree, which originated in the Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, and Hubei provinces of central China. It is grown as an ornamental and shade tree, and can reach heights of up to 60 feet in temperate climates. To obtain the bark, small patches are peeled away from mature eucommia trees in the late summer and early fall. After extensive drying, the inner bark can be taken on its own or in herbal blends. Most of the trees used for medicinal purposes are cultivated to preserve the wild plant for future generations.
Du Zhong in Chinese Medicine
Practitioners of Chinese medicine use du zhong most commonly to strengthen weak bones and joints, especially in the knees and lower back. It is particularly beneficial for conditions that arise from liver or kidney qi deficiency. As a spicy and sweet herb that is warming in the body, it can dispel many of the cold wind conditions that arise with age, such as arthritis, frequent urination, and generalized pain the lower body. Du zhong is an effective anti-aging herb because it promotes circulation and tonifies the liver and kidneys. From the viewpoint of Chinese medicine, our vital life essence is stored in the kidneys, so it is important to keep this region warm. Du zhong’s capacity to regulate the flow of qi and blood is also helpful for lowering high blood pressure.
In addition to its anti-aging properties, du zhong is beneficial for women experiencing risky, unstable pregnancies. In pregnancy, kidney or liver deficiency can lead to potentially life-threatening complications and miscarriage. When dried and charred, du zhong effectively addresses these deficiencies by directing blood and qi to the region.
Eucommia Bark in Western Medicine
In Western medicine, eucommia bark is used to treat and prevent a variety of metabolic problems. Our metabolisms naturally slow down as we age, but chronic stress, a nutrient deficient diet, and infrequent exercise can all negatively impact our health throughout our lives. To treat metabolic problems like diabetes (and its precursor, insulin resistance), kidney dysfunction, obesity, and cognitive decline, doctors often prescribe supplements that contain eucommia.
Consistent research has shown that eucommia extracts not only combat obesity, but can restore function to the systems that have been affected by it. In two recent animal studies, eucommia both reduced the mass of fat tissue and lowered blood cholesterol levels. Unlike some popular Western treatments for obesity, eucommia spared bone and muscle mass to promote healthy, sustainable fat loss.
In the near future, eucommia may also be used to treat age-related cognitive decline and memory loss. Researchers are currently looking into eucommia bark as a potential intervention for Alzheimer’s disease, which has a number of advantages over the current allopathic treatments. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are not only minimally effective for Alzheimer’s, they also have worrying side effects. These include heart problems, nausea, sleep disturbances, confusion, and dizziness. The drugs often interact with other medications, and so may not be an option for many sufferers. By contrast, eucommia’s side effects are mild and extremely rare, and it is very difficult to overdose on this herb.
In the United States, arthritis, obesity, and other ailments rooted in kidney and liver deficiency are on the rise. Eucommia bark is one of the most effective herbs that practitioners of Chinese medicine use to combat these conditions. It can also help women through difficult pregnancies and prevent miscarriage. If administered by an experienced practitioner, eucommia is well tolerated by most, but those with latex allergies may want to avoid it.
Post updated April 27, 2017