How To Spot Fake Chai Hu

Real Chai Hu

At Phoenix, our aim is to pioneer the development of Chinese medicine and to accomplish this; we ensure our quality is unprecedented. However, there are some suppliers within the UK and Europe who do not share the same ideology as us and supply incorrect species of herbs to practitioners. We are fully aware that some companies are using inappropriate substitutes, but we fear that you may not be aware yourself. Substitute or ‘fake’ herbs usually have extremely different results and effects but have come into circulation as they are easier to source and usually much cheaper – like Chai Hu.

Chai Hu is a popular herb in TCM and is referenced numerous times in the Shang Han Lun. Many people are unaware that there are actually two types of Chai Hu; one grown in the North of the China and the other in the South. Despite North Chai Hu being the authentic species, many practitioners in the UK, Europe and even China have been unknowingly using the fake South Chai Hu since the 1980’s.

North Chai Hu

As Chai Hu is so commonly used, the supply of the herb is decreasing, however, the demand

Authentic Chai Hu

isn’t. It is widely favoured for treating discomfort in the chest, dispelling cold, vomiting and low moods and is referenced in many books and the Chinese Pharmacopeia. Authentic Chai Hu is light brown in colour and extremely hard, so is difficult to snap. It is grown in the Hebei province and is dug out by the roots in the Spring and Summer, the leaves are removed and left to dry in the sun. Our factories are also located in the North, meaning we are to be able to directly source the herb from authentic areas.

As some of you may be aware, we have been working with Kew Botanical Gardens for several years now and we have supplied them with over 200 herbs to test for authenticity. Through our work together, we are pleased to confirm that our Chai Hu has also been approved by Kew Gardens and Christine Leon, who runs the Chinese medicinal plants and their materia medica project, meaning the herb is 100% authentic and safe.

South Chai Hu

Unfortunately, Chai Hu from the South is much more readily available and for many years, it

Southern Chai Hu

has been a much cheaper alternative. Usually, the price disparity between North and South Chai Hu has been a clear indicator of whether or not the herb is authentic. However, the price of Chai Hu from the South is now also increasing due to growing demand resulting in a new cheaper alternative coming into circulation from Tibet, known as Bupleurum Longiradiatum or Da Ye Chai Hu, which is just 1/3 of the price of our Chai Hu. As well as price, the appearance of the herb can be a clear indicator as to whether or not the herb is authentic. South Chai Hu is much darker in colour and can be bent easily as it is much softer. It has different properties to genuine Chi Hu as its actions treat stomach discomfort and diarrhea.

Tibetan Chai Hu

Tibetan Chai Hu is thicker than the original and almost black in colour. It is also toxic and very much prohibited as an official source of Chai Hu as it is known for acute, adverse reactions which resulted in a fatality in 1973.

As Chai Hu is such a popular herb, there are unfortunately many fakes circulating the TCM market. Other substitutes include:

–    Xian Ye Chai Hu

–    Zhui Ye Chai Hu

–    Chang Jing Chai Hu

Quality Assurance

Although we cannot stop the distribution of potentially harmful counterfeit products, we can guide and inform our customers to buy the correct products. We are aware that the cost of some of our herbs, including Chai Hu, may be slightly higher compared to other suppliers on the market. However, our prices are only higher when compared to fake herbs. When price matched against real Chai Hu, our prices are like for like, or even cheaper. The price of Chai Hu increased, as did its popularity but unfortunately output decreased. At Phoenix, we maintain the standard that all of our herbs are certified DaoDi herbs and are grown without herbicides or pesticides, and therefore our output has greater limitations. As we are restricted on the areas where can grow our herbs, some of our prices may be slightly higher but the quality is unprecedented and trusted by top institutions such as Kew Gardens, Universities and well know TCM practitioners.

We recommend only using authentic herbs. If you would like to obtain authentic results and have any doubt about the authenticity of your herbs, please feel free to send us a sample and we can assist in identifying the product. We also recommend herbalists referring to Christine Leon’s book, ‘Chinese Medicinal Plants, Herbal Drugs and Substitutes’. The book is a comprehensive guide to the identification of over 200 herbs and the source in which they come from. We believe the book is a must-have for all TCM practitioners to be able to identify herbs and to be aware of unofficial substitutes. Furthermore, if you have any questions regarding our quality assurance or herbs, please contact us on 01245 350822 or at

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

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