Herb: Tien Ma

Latin name: Gastrodia elata

Family: Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Medicinal use of Tien Ma:

This species has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for over 1,500 years. The root contains a number of phenolic compounds with medicinal actions. It is a sweet, acrid, herb that is analgesic, anticonvulsive, antispasmodic, carminative, cholagogue, sedative and tonic. It is used internally in the treatment of convulsive illnesses (such as epilepsy and tetanus), rheumatoid arthritis, vertigo and numbness associated with liver disharmony. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. The stem is aphrodisiac and tonic.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Woods in the mountains of N. Japan.

Edible parts of Tien Ma:

Root - raw or roasted. Large.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - surface sow, preferably as soon as it is ripe, into the plants natural habitat near existing colonies, or onto a bed of Quercus wood inoculated with the fungus Armillaria mellea (introduce this fungus into your land with extreme caution since it kills trees and there is no known preventative). The seed of this species is extremely simple, it has a minute embryo surrounded by a single layer of protective cells. It contains very little food reserves and depends upon a symbiotic relationship with a species of soil-dwelling fungus. The fungal hyphae invade the seed and enter the cells of the embryo. The orchid soon begins to digest the fungal tissue and this acts as a food supply for the plant. Division in autumn. The plant is very intolerant of root disturbance, any moving or dividing should be attempted in the autumn, keep a large ball of soil around the plant.

Cultivation of Tien Ma:

Woods in the mountains of N. Japan.

Known hazards of Gastrodia elata:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.