Herb: Biota

Latin name: Thuja orientalis

Synonyms: Biota orientalis, Platycladus orientalis, Platycladus stricta

Family: Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)

Medicinal use of Biota:

This plant is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs. The leaves are antibacterial, antipyretic, antitussive, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, emollient, expectorant, febrifuge, haemostatic, refrigerant and stomachic. Their use is said to improve the growth of hair. They are used internally in the treatment of coughs, haemorrhages, excessive menstruation, bronchitis, asthma, skin infections, mumps, bacterial dysentery, arthritic pain and premature baldness. The leaves are harvested for use as required and can be used fresh or dried. This remedy should not be prescribed to pregnant women. The seed is aperient, lenitive and sedative. It is used internally in the treatment of palpitations, insomnia, nervous disorders and constipation in the elderly. The root bark is used in the treatment of burns and scalds. The stems are used in the treatment of coughs, colds, dysentery, rheumatism and parasitic skin diseases.

Description of the plant:


15 m
(49 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Steep dry rocky valley slopes.

Edible parts of Biota:

Seed - after removing the bitterness. No more details are given, but the bitterness in seeds is usually removed either by leaching them in water or by thoroughly cooking them.

Other uses of the herb:

Tolerant of regular trimming, though not into old wood, it can be grown as a dense hedge. A yellow dye is obtained from the young branches. Wood - durable in the soil, moderately hard, close grained, rather coarse grained, light, soft, brittle. Used for construction, cabinet making, cooperage.

Propagation of Biota:

Seed - best sown when ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed germinates best if given a short cold stratification. It can then be sown in a cold frame in late winter. Plants make very little growth in their first year. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If there is sufficient seed it is worthwhile trying a sowing in an outdoor seed bed in April. Grow the plants on for at least two years before planting them out in the winter. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, July/August in a shaded frame. Forms roots by the end of September but should be overwintered in a frame. Cuttings of almost ripe wood, 5 - 10cm with a heel, September in a cold frame. Forms roots in the following summer. Plant out in autumn or spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Steep dry rocky valley slopes.

Known hazards of Thuja orientalis:

The leaves are toxic if eaten. The plant can also cause skin allergies in sensitive people.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.