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Common Name: Japanese Yellow Bark | Scientific Name: Phelodendron Amurense

Family Name: Rutaceae


Kihada is native to Japan and where it grows wild in the mountains. It is very similar in action and use to golden seal. Like golden seal, its rich berberine content makes it very useful in acute and chronic infection, and especially when bacteria is at the root of the problem.


Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet

Part Used: Inner bark

Principal Use: Chronic inflammatory diseases of mucous membrane and skin

Principal Actions: Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, alterative

History and Traditional Uses of Kihada

Kihada is native to Japan and where it grows wild in the mountains. A deciduous tree growing up to fifteen meters, it has outer bark of a cork or buff color. In Japanese, Ki means yellow and hada means skin, which indicates one of the interesting features of the tree. If you peel the buff outer bark, a bright yellow inner cortex is revealed. It is this inner cortex that is used for medicinal purposes.

Traditionally, this inner bark is harvested in summer. Contemporary research indicates this is a good thing. At that time of the year, the barks most active constituent, berberine, is in its highest concentration. Once again, science has established the ancients really knew what they were doing!

One very unique and interesting use of this plant has to do with record keeping. Kihada bark is used as source of yellow color dye-with an added feature. It repels insects. As a result, people used Kihada bark to dye important papers- birth, marriage, death certificates and the like! Papers you would not want eaten by insects.

Kihada is one of most important plants in Japanese folk medicine, so important, it is registered in the Japanese Medicines Codex, an honor awarded very few herbs indeed!

Legend goes that a famous Japanese Buddist monk, Kukai, went to China and brought back a formula for a powerfully healing concoction. The concoction was called Daranisuke. The monk brought this prescription back to Japan early in the ninth century AD. The prescription was very simple in composition. Kihada cortex plus two other herbs, the root of Gentiana scabra and the leaves of Aucuba japonica.

Like Kihada, Gentiana scabra is a digestive bitter. Aucuba japonica is a demulcent which adds viscosity to the mixture. The three herbs are decocted several times until a thick fluid extract is produced. This fluid extract is then dried until a solid extract results. The extract is extremely bitter which makes it, amongst other things, an excellent digestive tonic! Bitters increase the digestive tracts production of essential digestive enzymes.

So bitter was this herbal extract, monks used it for an amusing and practical purpose. Monks would take a small amount in their mouth to wake themselves up when they found themselves falling asleep while studying. History reveals that as monks spread the word of Buddha, they also spread the word of Daranisuke and Kihada.

Since then Daranisuke has become a household remedy. It is a digestive tonic used in stomachache, gastroenteritis, jaundice, diarrhea, food poisoning, hangovers, nausea and indigestion.

Kihada itself has many, many traditional uses. It is used to treat boils, ulcers, conjunctivitis, cystitis, dermatitis, diarrhea, dysentery, eczema, enteritis, meningitis, acute conjunctivitis, fever, flux, gonorrhea, jaundice, leucorrhea, melaena, rheumatism, stomatitis, urethritis, vaginitis, and worms!

If one were to summarize Kihada’s use, it could be seen as a healing agent for the skin and mucous membranes. It is used internally and applied externally for all chronic skin conditions. The mucous membrane lines the digestive, reproductive, urinary, and respiratory tract and many of the problems affecting those systems are rooted in mucous membrane malfunction. For mucous membrane disease, Kihada is used internally.

The science of Kihada
Chemical Constituents
Alkaloids (1.5-4.5%): berberine (0.6-3.5%), palmatine, magnoflorin, jateorrhizine, phellodendrine, candicine, menispermine, magnoflorine. Limonoids: obakunone, limonin (obakulactone), dictamnolide. Steroids(7-8%)

On the scientific front, many things have been learned about Kihada.

Acute Infections of Skin or Mucous Membrane
Kihada contains 2% beberine. Scientific research reveals it kills E coli, Staphylococcus, diphtheria bacilli cholera bacillus, dysentery bacillus. It is active against gram-positive bacillus, gram-negative bacillus, and the gonorrhea bacillus. On top of that, it is active against the parasite that causes malaria. Many of these organisms can cause diarhea, which explains a traditional use. Kihada has also been found to increase white blood cell activity or immune cell activity making it furtherly anti-infection.

Preparations of cortex of Kihada were used for 20 cases of meningitis ranging in duration from 1 to 18 days, and in age from 4 to 24 years old. All recovered and those with mild symptoms were better in one day, but the mean time for disappearance of signs and symptoms was 8 days, and to normal CSF was 10 days.

In many cases, Kihada has been found to be very effective for bacillary dysentery.

Externally applied, preparations of Cortex of Kihada have been useful in the treatment of vaginitis and cervicitis caused by Trichomonas infections.

Chronic Inflammation of Skin and Mucous Membrane
Research reveals beberine is anti-inflammatory in nature. In fact, in one experiment using different strengths of kihada solutions, it was found to combat chronic conjuntivitis. The study involved 474 children. Results varied from 100% success within 3-4 days in 78 children treated with the strongest preparation, to a 55.8% success rate with a milder solution, and lastly, with the weakest solution, only 24% within 3 days. The message was that Kihada must be used in strong preparations for the best effect.

An ointment of Cortex of Kihada was found very effective in treating eczema around the ears.

Practioner Recommended Use
Kihada can be used when either the mucous membrane or the skin is inflammed. This includes sinusitis, chronic mucous overproduction, hay fever, allergies, urinary tract infections, vaginitis, etc. It can be used in eczema, psoriasis, and acne, indeed, whenever the skin is irritated. However, it is better suited to conditions of chronic inflammation, as in chronic sinusitis as compared to the inflammation of a cold.

• James Duke, Medicinal Plants of China, Reference Publications, 1986,
• Kung-Ying Yen, The Illustrated Chinese Materia Medica, SMC Publishing INC., 1992
• Dan Benski and Andrew Gamble, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Eastland Press, p114, 1986
• W.Tang, G. Eisenbrand, Chinese Drugs of Plant Origin, Springer Verlag, p759-761, 1992
• Kee Chang Huag, The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, CRC Press, p384-385,1999
• Kazuo Izawa, Encyclopedia of medicinal plants, Shufunotomo-sha, p383, 1999
• Akira Suzuki, Dictionary of Folklore medicine, Tokyo-do-shuppan,1999
• Junji Nakanishi, Japanese herbal, Kensei-sha, 1997
• Tomome Yamazaki, Toshiro Murata, Mami Kako, Eriko Ishihara, Masaru Usami, Keiichiro Tanigawa, Atushi Kato Natural Medicines 50(6), 417-419, 1996
• Tsuneo Nanba Encyclopedia of Chinese-Japanese herbal medicine, Hoiku-sha 1993

Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.