How To Spot Fake Ban Xia

Ban Xia

Plants are the source of most Chinese herbal medicine and a crucial component of China’s national healthcare system. In recent years they have become part of a vast trade which has become a global phenomenon. Increasing demand and ever-lengthening supply chains have brought into sharp focus the need to ensure that these herbal drugs are sourced from the correct species. As some of you may be aware, we recently informed you about Chai Hu substitutes but unfortunately, there are many other ‘fake’ herbs circulating the TCM market – like Ban Xia.

Authentic Ban Xia

Ban Xia has been in increasing demand for many years as it is an extremely versatile herb that can be used to treat numerous problems. It aids the throat as it dispels phlegm and coughing, as well as treating sickness, vomiting and pain in the stomach. It is also used as a painkiller. Authentic Ban Xia is traditionally found in the Sichuan, Hubei and He Nan provinces and is dug out in Summer and Autumn, washed and then dried in the sun. It is round and shaped like a peanut with small dark dots on the white outer shell. However, it cannot be eaten raw as it is toxic when unprocessed. Ban Xia is usually processed with ginger or liquorice to remove toxicity. The processing effect makes the herb change colour from white to a dark orange/brown which makes it harder to differentiate between fake and real – especially when the processed product is sliced. If you are unsure whether or not your sliced Ban Xia is authentic, check the price as the real herb will be more expensive.


Unofficial Ban Xia Substitutes 

Shui Ban Xia
Shui Ban Xia

Fake Ban Xia is usually just a quarter the price of the authentic herb.  When supplies of Ban Xia were in short supply in China in the 1980’s, a Ban Xia substitute was used as a cheap substitute – a practice which continues today on domestic and international markets. Unlike the authentic product, fake Ban Xia is grown in water. Shui Ban Xia – Shui meaning water – is grown using the same concept of growing rice in fields, rather than being grown underground. Shui Ban Xia is a dark brown colour and is usually rough and pointed as opposed to the smooth Ban Xia. Shui Ban Xia is beneficial in treating injuries, such as snake bites. As it

Zhang Ye Ban Xia
Zhang Ye Ban Xia

is an unofficial substitute, the fake herb has much fewer benefits that the authentic species. Unfortunately, Shui Ban Xia isn’t the only unofficial substitute on the market; practitioners also need to be aware of Zhang Ye Ban Xia, another fake which has a similar appearance to authentic Ban Xia but is also toxic.


Quality Assurance

We are aware that some other UK TCM suppliers are selling the unofficial substitute for a much lower price. We urge you not to use any fake products. If you are uncertain about a product or require assistance in identifying a herb, please do send us a sample. Alternatively, we recommend purchasing Christine Leon’s book ‘Chinese Medicinal Plants, Herbal Drugs and Substitutes’. The comprehensive guide is imperative for all herbalists and provides extensive information on not only the herb but the unofficial substitutes too.

If you have any further question or want to know about our quality assurance, please contact us at 

Images: Chinese Medicinal Plants, Herbal Drugs and Substitutes – Christine Leon and Lin Yu-Lin.

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