Tian Ma: A Protected Species  

Tian Ma: A protected species

Tian Ma (Rhizome Gastrodiae) is a precious TCM herb with a history of more than 2,000 years. It is widely used for relieving headaches, dizziness, numb limbs, and convulsions. However, the over-cultivation of the herb since the 1970s resulted in Gastrodiae being classed as vulnerable by the Global Conservation Status and listed on the IUCN Red List

Tian Ma 

Gastrodia refers to the tuberous root of an orchid-like plant, Gastrodia Elata or Tian Ma. Gastrodia has been incorporated into traditional Chinese medicine for at least 2,000 years. It was originally called Chi Qian, meaning red arrow, because the plant has a red stem shaped like an arrow’s staff. It was later given the status of a “superior herb,” meaning that it could be taken for a great length of time to promote health and prolong life. 

Tian Ma is an extremely nourishing herb and it’s sweet and neutral properties target the liver to extinguish wind and pacify Yang. It is used to treat high blood pressure, low immune system, high cholesterol, migraines and dizziness, stroke-related symptoms, cramp and arthritis.  

Protected Species  

Most ‘Tian Ma’ is sourced from artificially propagated rhizomes with the best quality Dong Ma (winter Tian Ma) harvested in November. Harvesting continues throughout winter but rhizomes sprouting in early spring are considered inferior and traded as Chun Ma (spring Tian Ma). Wild-sourced rhizomes command a higher price than both their cultivated counterparts since traditional references consider them clinically superior. 

Despite the species’ large natural distribution in China, where it grows between 400 – 3200m altitude in open forests, the 1970s and 80s saw its wild populations plummet. This was due to over-harvesting and extensive deforestation as Tian Ma’s growth is reliant on deciduous trees along with the honey fungus, for survival.  

It was China’s national logging ban of 1998 that provided the turning point for the recovery of the species’ wild populations. Today, wild harvesting and sustainable harvesting practices are permitted in some localities.  

DaoDi quality Tian Ma is produced in Guizhou province, (in the districts of Anshun, Bijie and Zunyi) and a GAP medicinal cultivation standard has been developed with GAP-certified bases established in Shaanxi province. The Gastrodiae species is also native to Bhutan, North-East India, Japan, Nepal and Russia.  

As Tian Ma is a vulnerable herb, it is protected by CITES – Convention of International Trade in Endangered Special of Wild Fauna and Flora. CITES aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of plants does not threaten their survival. CITES regulates international trade in over 30,000 plant species, including Gastrodia Elata. 

Due to the endangered status of Tian Ma, it is recommended you obtain the herb from a supplier who has the authority to sell it and who can also provide a CITES certification to you for regulation purposes. Fortunately, we provide certificates of analysis for each batch of dry herbs and concentrated granules. Please contact us for our CITES certification.  

With all protected species, we recommend practitioners use a sustainable cultivated supply to protect the wild species of Tian Ma.  

If you have any questions regarding Tian Ma or CITES certification, please contact info@phoenixmd.co.uk.  

Disclaimer: Please note that this information is intended for qualified herbalists or healthcare professionals only. If you are a patient, please consult your practitioner for a diagnosis as these recommendations may not be suitable for you. If you would like us to recommend a practitioner who uses Phoenix Medical products, contact us at info@phoenixmd.co.uk and we will gladly assist you. 

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