Herb: Chinese Gall

Latin name: Rhus chinensis

Synonyms: Rhus javanica, Rhus osbeckii, Rhus semialata

Family: Anacardiaceae (Cashew Family, Sumac Family)

Medicinal use of Chinese Gall:

The leaves and the roots are depurative. They stimulate blood circulation. A decoction is used in the treatment of haemoptysis, inflammations, laryngitis, snakebite, stomach-ache and traumatic fractures. The stem bark is astringent and anthelmintic. The fruit is used in the treatment of colic. The seed is used in the treatment of coughs, dysentery, fever, jaundice, malaria and rheumatism. The root bark is cholagogue. Galls on the plant are rich in tannin. They are used internally for their astringent and styptic properties to treat conditions such as diarrhoea and haemorrhage. They are a frequent ingredient in polyherbal prescriptions for diabetes mellitus. An excrescence produced on the leaf by an insect Melaphis chinensis or M. paitan (this report probably refers to the galls produced by the plant in response to the insect) is antiseptic, astringent and haemostatic. It s used in the treatment of persistent cough with blood, chronic diarrhoea, spontaneous sweating, night sweats, bloody stool, urorrhoea and bloody sputum. It is used applied externally to burns, bleeding due to traumatic injuries, haemorrhoids and ulcers in the mouth. Some caution is advised in the use of the leaves and stems of this plant, see the notes above on toxicity.

Description of the plant:


6 m
(20 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Lowland, hills and mountains in Japan. Also found in the Himalayas (as R. semialata) where it grows in secondary forests to 2100 metres.

Edible parts of Chinese Gall:

Fruit - cooked. An acid flavour. It is also used medicinally. The fruit can be used as a salt or a rennet substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves are rich in tannin. They can be collected as they fall in the autumn and used as a brown dye or as a mordant. A blue dye is obtained from insect galls on the plant, it can also be used as an ink. The galls are formed as a result of damage by the greenfly, Aphis chinensis. The galls contain up to 77% tannin. The reports do not say if the galls are harvested before or after the insect has left the gall. An oil is extracted from the seeds. It attains a tallow-like consistency on standing and is used to make candles. These burn brilliantly, though they emit a pungent smoke. The wood is soft and is not used.

Propagation of Chinese Gall:

Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in hot water (starting at a temperature of 80 - 90c and allowing it to cool) prior to sowing in order to leach out any germination inhibitors. This soak water can be drunk and has a delicious lemon-flavour. The stored seed also needs hot water treatment and can be sown in early spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Root cuttings 4cm long taken in December and potted up vertically in a greenhouse. Good percentage. Suckers in late autumn to winter.

Cultivation of the herb:

Lowland, hills and mountains in Japan. Also found in the Himalayas (as R. semialata) where it grows in secondary forests to 2100 metres.

Known hazards of Rhus chinensis:

There are some suggestions that the sap of this species can cause a skin rash in susceptible people, but this has not been substantiated. See also notes in 'Cultivation Details'.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.