Botanical Name Saussurea lappa (syn. Aucklandia lappa) (Official)
Sources for Costus (Mu Xiang) are varied and complex; alternate species used include: 1. Inula helenium, I. racemosa (Tu Mu Xiang; used in India) 2. Jurinea souliei (Chuan Mu Xiang; used in Sichuan, China) 3. Vladimiria souliei (Chuan Mu Xiang) 4. Aristolchia debilis, A. contorta (Ching Mu Xiang); no longer used due to its toxicity.
Arabian, Bitter and Sweet varieties were traditionally known in the West, but only the Arabian (S. lappa) was commonly available in Europe, and was regarded as best. The Arabian is heavy, ashen colored, hard to break, with a strong smell and aromatic taste and a little bitterness. The varieties available in the West included: 1. Arabian, White, Sweet, or Ancient Costus: Saussurea lappa (best) 2. Indian, Black, or Bitter Costus: Inula racemosa (some sources say Orris) 3. Syrian Costus: heavy, dark with an overpowering scent (lowest quality)
Tibetan Medicine also recognises a 'White' (Vladimira) and 'Black' (Saussurea) type of Costus.
Some authorities (Dymock, Pharmacographia Indica, 1893; Khare, Indian Herbal Remedies) have stated Sweet Costus of the Arabs is Orris root (Iris germanica) which is also listed in Hamdard (Unani) publications.
1. Benefits Stomach and Intestines, Moves Qi: (TCM, Ayurveda, Tibet, West) -good for the Stomach; poor appetite, indigestion -colic, abdominal pain; Hernia -Hiccups, Belching, Bloating -Food Stagnation -Diarrhea with Spleen deficiency or Cold and Damp -with Tonic herbs to prevent their heavy, rich nature from causing stagnation
2. Moves Qi, Opens Obstructions: (TCM, Ayurveda, Tibet, West) -pain over Liver and Gall Bladder; Tumors of the Liver -Gall stones, Cholecystitis, Jaundice -Chest or Epigastric pain
3. Clears Wind and Damp: (Ayurveda, Tibet, West) -Rheumatism and Wind diseases including Paralysis -Urticaria, skin eruptions, promotes Complexion (Ayurveda) -promotes Urine, clears Edema
4. Resists Poison: (Ayurveda, Tibet, West) -Malaria, Cholera, Leprosy, Diphtheria -Scorpion Bites; bites of Viper (Dioscorides) -used in Antidotes
5. Moves Qi, Clears Phlegm, Stops Cough: (Ayurveda, Tibet, West) -spasmodic Cough, bronchial Asthma, chronic Bronchitis (mostly in Ayurveda) -Chest Pain from stagnation of Qi and Cold
6. Regulates Qi, Strengthens the Brain: (Ayurveda, Tibet, West) -Some sources have regarded it as Tonic and Aphrodisiac (Ayurveda, Tibetan Medicine) -Dioscorides said taken with Honey, Costus is Aphrodisiac -Unani texts say it is tonic for Heart, Liver and Brain -Mental disorders associated with Wind or Qi stagnation (Ayurveda); psychosomatic, neurological disorders -Hemiplegia, Paralysis (Ayurveda) -promotes Intellect, rejuvenates -said to turn grey hair black in both West and TCM (Porter Smith)
7. Moves the Qi, Promotes Menstruation -Amenorrhea; Menstrual Pain -'provokes the courses, helps to cleanse the Womb from impurity, and helps Conception'. (Pemell, 1652) -old TCM texts list it to prevent Miscarriage
9. Externally: -oil of Costus is good for Cold and Weak Sinews, Sciatica, Arthritis -compound Oil of Costus; strengthens Nerves, Muscles and Tendons; applied to the Spine in Fevers; also for Colic, Pains; prevents Grey hair -decoction makes a good hair wash to strengthen the hair -Wounds, Ulcers, Ringworm, chronic Skin Diseases and Tumors (ointment or paste) -powder is applied to dry moist Sores, Wounds and Ulcers (Avicenna, Pemell) -headache, mixed with powder with oil and apply to the forehead (Unani) -powder is applied to Toothache -as a fumigant or incense during Infectious diseases to prevent infection -powder with water and honey is applied as a paste to skin discolorations and blemishes, Freckles, Vitiligo, Leucoderma (Unani, Pemell) -as a cosmetic -repels moths and insects from clothes if kept with them
Taken with Wine to move the Blood and open Obstructions. Taken with Wine and Honey to cure Poison and Venom. Taken with Honey, it is aphrodisiac (Dioscorides) Of the Powder: 1–3 grams In Decoction: 2–9 grams
Combinations 1. Costus has been regularly combined with Elecampane (and related Inula species). They are related herbs and support one another in action. Costus is more aromatic and better to move Qi. Elecampane is more strengthening and better to tonify Qi. Together, they strongly strengthen and regulate the Qi, especially of the Stomach and Intestines. 2. Organ Pain and obstructions of the Organs, combine Costus with Cinnamon, Asarum, Celery seed, Aniseed, Rhubarb, Saffron and Myrrh (as in Diacostum) 3. Poor appetite and Digestion, Costus with Chebulic Myrobalan, Ajowan, Ginger, Long Pepper, Calamus 4. Indigestion, Bloating, Rumbling, Diarrhea: i. Costus with Cardamon, Fennel, Ginger (Ayurveda) ii. Costus with Amomum Sha Ren and Tangerine peel (Chen Pi) (TCM) iii. Costus with Amomum, Caraway, Clove (as in Amomum 4 (Ko la 4) of Tibetan Medicine) 5. Hiccup: Costus, Saffron, Rose, Mastic, Spikenard (½ oz. each), Asarum (2 drams), Aloes, Opium (1 dram each). Dose, 1 dram (Pemell, 1652) 6. Diarrhea with Blood and Mucus in the stool, Costus with Madder, Picrorrhiza, Swertia (Ayurveda) 7. Constipation and to promote peristalsis: i. Costus with Cassia Fistula and Senna ii. Costus with Triphala and Rhubarb 8. Sore Throat, Hoarseness, Cough, Chest pain Costus with Clove, Tabasheer, Licorice, White Gentian (Gentian algida), Chebulic Myrobalan (as in Clove 6 (Li shi drug pa) of Tibetan Medicine) 9. Cough, Asthma, Costus combines well with Cardamon (Unani) 10. Asthma: i. Costus with Trikatu (Long and Black Peppers, Ginger) ii. Costus with Long Pepper, Ephedra, Licorice (Ayurveda) 11. Chest Pain, Costus with Wormwood in wine (Dioscorides) 12. Bruising, Costus with Madder, Scabious, St Johns wort, Rhubarb (as in Powder Against Bruising) 13. Liver obstruction, Liver heat, Hepatitis, Cholecystitis, Costus with Gentian, Greater Cardamon, Wormwood, Agrimony, Bitter Almond, Black Pepper, Aniseed (as in Decoction for the Liver of Nicholas 14. Uterine Cramps, Dysmenorrhea, Costus with Shatavari, Ammi, Turmeric, Rose 15. Hysteria, Costus with Calamus, Asafetida, Valerian (Ayurveda) 16. To improve Sperm quality, Costus with Withania, Shilajit 17. Gout from Wind-Damp-Heat, Costus with Tinospora (Ayurveda) 18. Chronic Rheumatism: i. Costus with Cardamon ii. Costus with Celery seed, Centaury, Frankincense 19. Brain tonic: i. Costus with Calamus, Withania, Almond ii. Costus with Centella, Withania iii. Costus with Calamus and Gold Bhasma (Ayurveda) 20. Mental diseases, Costus with Calamus, Bacopa and Convolvulus Shankhapushpi made into a medicated Ghee. (Ayurveda) 21. As an oil externally, Costus with Elecampane, Marjoram, boiled in Sesame oil (as in Oil of Costus) 22. Powder of Costus is mixed with Mustard oil and applied to Prurigo (chronic severe itching) 23. Chronic Joint diseases, combine Costus with Rock Salt, Mustard oil, Vinegar, form a paste and apply topically. (Ayurveda)
Substitutes 1. The Costus we have from TCM and Ayurvedic sources can generally be used for Sweet and Bitter Costus. 2. Elecampane, Zedoary, Angelica, Gentian have all been listed as substitutes 3. Inula racemosa, I. royleana have been used. 4. Carduus nutans (reportedly) 5. roots of Methna hortensis corymbifera, Agirocynera from Italy.
Adulterants Due to the high demand and increasing rarity of the wild plant, adulterants are not uncommon. 1. Saussurea hypoleuca, Aplotoxis auriculata (syn. S. auriculata) are commonly substituted. 2. Orris, Elecampane and others have also been substituted. The official plant (S. lappa) is now grown commercially in Yunnan province, China. The Chinese supply is stable and cheap.
Cautions: 1. Drying, so not suitable in Yin deficiency 2. Very activating, so not used in Qi weakness (but can be combined with Qi tonics)