Biota is the common name for Biota orientalis. It is used in Chinese healing and called bai zi ren. In English biota is sometimes called oriental arborvitae.
Biota is a slow-growing tree native to China. It grows to a height of about 45 ft (15 m) in moist, well-drained soils throughout East Asia. It tolerates air pollution well and will grow in cities. When cultivated, biota produces an abundant seed crop. The leaves and seeds are used in healing. A yellow dye can be made from the young branches. Many varieties of biota are used for ornamental landscaping.
Biota is an herb that is sometimes confused with Thuja occidentalis. Thuja is a North American tree in the cedar family that is called American arborvitae. The leaves of thuja are sometimes used by Western herbalists, but are used in very different ways from B. orientalis.
Biota is one of the less important of the 50 fundamental herbs of Chinese herbalism. In Chinese herbalism, biota is said to have a neutral nature and a sweet, acid taste. It is associated primarily with the heart and digestive system and is often a component of shen tonics.
Biota seeds are used as a sedative, to help disperse anxiety and fear, and to reduce insomnia. Other uses are
Biota leaves, either fresh or dried, are used to treat a variety of conditions including:
- stopping various kinds of bleeding
- bacterial infection
- premature baldness
- skin infections
- arthritis pain
- dysentery caused by bacteria
Biota is an herb that has not received much attention from scientists. There are very few chemical analyses or laboratory studies done on biota leaves or seeds in either Asia or the United States. Virtually all health claims for this herb are based on its use in traditional Chinese medicine and observations of herbalists rather than controlled scientific studies.
Biota seeds are prepared by boiling, and extracts are made of the leaves. Commercially most biota is sold as capsules. Most often biota is used as part of a formula or tonic. It is a component of formulas that tend to stimulate the heart and relieve stress, fatigue, and forgetfulness.
Biota is one ingredient of the cerebral tonic pills called bu nao wan. These pills are used to improve concentration and treat conditions such as Alzheimer disease. They are also given to combat restlessness and agitation.
Another common formula that contains biota is ginseng and zizyphus (tian wang bu xin dan). This formula treats insomnia and disturbed sleep, nightmares, anxiety, restlessness, forgetfulness, heart palpitations, and hard, dry bowel movements. It is available in both tea and capsule form. Dosage varies considerably depending on the formula and the condition being treated.
Some herbal practitioners recommend that biota not be taken by pregnant women.
No undesirable side effects have been reported.
Biota and other Chinese herbs are often used together with no reported interactions. Since biota has been used almost exclusively in Chinese medicine, there are no studies of its interactions with Western pharmaceuticals.
Molony, David. Complete Guide to Chinese Herbal Medicine. New York: Berkeley Books, 1998.
Teegaurden, Ron. The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs. New York: Warner Books, 1998.
American Association of Oriental Medicine. 433 Front Street, Catasauqua, PA 18032. (610) 266-2433.