Bupleurum is an herbal supplement created from the root of the plant Bupleurum chinense. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for centuries.
It has recently become popular in the West for its supposed liver-cleansing benefits. Some studies suggest that it may also support immune health, boost mood, and fight inflammation (
Other studies show evidence of antiviral and anti-tumor effects while noting that excessive intake may cause liver damage (
It’s important to consult your healthcare provider and weigh its risks and benefits before beginning any new supplement, including bupleurum.
This article explores some of the claims made about bupleurum and explores whether science backs them up.
Bupleurum is a genus of mostly perennial herbs that are often used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It’s native to East Asia, comprising nearly 200 species in total — of which Bupleurum chinense is one (
Its roots are often dried, ground into a powder, and encapsulated. You may also find bupleurum as part of a blend of herbs that claims to cleanse the liver.
Furthermore, bupleurum species have been used across Korea and Japan to treat fevers, colds, and the flu (
All the same, modern research on these traditional uses is limited.
Bupleurum is a herbal remedy with applications in Chinese medicine. It has been used for centuries to treat liver problems and other ailments.
While human studies are very limited, animal and test-tube research has suggested that bupleurum offers several health benefits.
May help manage diabetes
Bupleurum may help prevent neuropathy, a common complication for people with either type 1 or 2 diabetes. In this condition, prolonged high levels of blood sugar cause nerve damage to small vessels in parts of your body, such as your eyes and extremities (4).
This nerve damage causes a loss of sensation, which may be harmful if an injury occurs and goes unnoticed. In turn, neuropathy may reduce your quality of life (5).
In another study, mice with diabetes given bupleurum for 2 days had reduced blood sugar and increased blood insulin levels. Because insulin is necessary to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, an increase suggests better blood sugar management and fewer complications (
Although these results are promising, the findings of animal studies may not apply to people. As such, human research is needed.
May support immune health
Preventing illness largely has to do with taking proactive steps to support your immune system. Indeed, studies suggest that bupleurum may strengthen immune health.
In a 6-day study that gave rats either bupleurum or anti-inflammatory medications, bupleurum inhibited the production of inflammatory compounds called cytokines. Keep in mind that this study used two European bupleurum species, not Bupleurum chinense (
Still, a test-tube study observed similar results, reporting that the root of Bupleurum rotundifolium had anti-inflammatory effects (
One human study compared the effectiveness of an herbal preparation containing Bupleurum saponin with the common antiviral flu drug Tamiflu. It found the bupleurum decoction to be 93.3% effective at treating influenza A (H1N1) with no adverse effects (
Still, more human research is needed.
May help prevent liver disease
In China, bupleurum has long been used to treat liver problems.
One review examined numerous herbal preparations, including bupleurum, that claim to “soothe the liver” and “cure liver injury.” The evidence suggested that bupleurum extract may help protect the liver from damage by regulating calcium levels within cells (
While this review of the current evidence gives insight into bupleurum’s function, more studies on human subjects are needed.
Test-tube and animal research indicates that bupleurum may strengthen your immune system, protect your liver, and prevent diabetes complications. Still, more human studies are necessary.
Although there’s limited data about bupleurum’s safety, this herb has several potential dangers.
Potential toxicity and liver damage with high doses
High doses of bupleurum may pose several risks.
One review noted that saikosaponins, a compound in bupleurum, may cause inflammation and lesions in the liver if you consume very high doses of this herb in a short period (
A rat study likewise noted that bupleurum may cause liver damage within 1–2 weeks at doses of 22.7–56.8 grams per pound (50–125 grams per kg) of body weight (
Plus, in a large study in people with hepatitis B, a potentially life threatening liver infection, those who took over 19 grams of bupleurum daily were at increased risk of hospitalization due to liver damage (
Thus, anyone with liver conditions like liver cirrhosis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and jaundice should consult a healthcare professional before and during supplementation with bupleurum.
Plus, bupleurum is unsafe to take during pregnancy due to a lack of research and the possibility of it damaging the liver. If you’re pregnant or nursing, you may want to avoid this supplement.
Additionally, inform your doctor if you’re taking this herb in combination with other medications or herbal supplements.
Consider the source
As with any supplement, it’s important to be selective about which product you choose. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates supplements differently than foods.
Manufacturers are required to ensure supplement safety, as well as back up any claims made on the label with evidence. However, unlike medications, supplements don’t require approval from the FDA before they can be sold to the public (
Still, it’s important to read labels carefully. You can look for certifications from third-party labs, such as NSF International and ConsumerLab, which test the ingredients of supplements to ensure accuracy and purity.
Bupleurum may cause liver damage in high doses, so you should consult a healthcare professional before trying it. You may also want to look for certification by a third-party lab.
You can find bupleurum in capsules and drops. You may be able to find dried roots as well.
Doses range widely but typically vary from 100–1,000 mg. You should never take more than the amount recommended on the label.
A healthcare professional may be able to help you determine how much to take.
No set dosage for bupleurum has been established. As such, it may be best to consult a healthcare professional to figure out how much to take.
Bupleurum is an herb that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine.
Although test-tube and animal research indicates that it supports liver health, immune health, and blood sugar levels, research in humans is lacking. What’s more, high doses are potentially toxic.
Therefore, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional and read labels carefully before trying bupleurum, especially if you have a health condition.