Skip to main content

Ethnobotanical survey of plant species for herbal tea in a Yao autonomous county (Jianghua, China): results of a 2-year study of traditional medicinal markets on the Dragon Boat Festival



Herbal tea is widely consumed in Jianghua, a Yao autonomous county in Hunan Province, China, to prevent and treat diseases. The materials in herbal tea at the traditional medicinal markets at the Dragon Boat Festival remain unknown. The aims of the paper were (1) to specifically investigate the materials of herbal tea used by Yao nationalities in Hunan Province, (2) to record the most common and the culturally important medicinal plant species in the markets, and (3) to compare the medical plant tradition both used for herbal tea between the Jianghua and Lingnan regions.


During 2016–2017, 215 vendors were interviewed at traditional medicinal markets at the Dragon Boat Festival in Jianghua to record plants used for herbal tea and to document traditional knowledge of their medicinal function, habitat, and conservation status. Bunches of medicinal plants were purchased to identify the species and to prepare voucher specimens. Cognitive salience (CS) based on free-lists and use value (UV) were calculated to analyze the cultural importance of medical plants; other quantitative methods (coefficient of similarity and chi-square analysis) were applied for comparison of herbal tea tradition between the Jianghua and Lingnan regions.


A total of 169 species belonging to 66 families and 142 genera were recorded in herbal tea to treat health conditions in the study area. There were 30 health conditions that were recorded, with heat-clearing and detoxifying being the most common medicinal function, followed by treating rheumatism and promoting blood circulation. Of the 169 species, 97 were herbs. The whole plant was the most commonly used plant part in the preparation of herbal tea. According to the national evaluation criteria, three of these species are listed on “China’s red list” and registered as vulnerable (VU). By comparing the coefficient of similarity of herbal tea plants and the number of mentions for part(s) used in Jianghua and Lingnan, the medicinal plant tradition is different in two areas.


Herbal tea in Jianghua reflects the cultural diversity of the Yao people and the plant diversity of the region. Future research on the safety, efficacy, and the adulterants of herbal tea are needed for sustainable utilization.


The practice of drinking herbal tea is an ancient custom for Yao people. Herbal tea is produced from water infusions of a range of plant species other than Camellia sinensis (L.) O. Ktze. [1]. Plant material may consist of fresh or dried parts from a single species or from multiple species. For millennia, the Yao people have been famous for being good at identifying herbs [2]. However, no documentary records have survived from when Yao medicine originated.

The Yao nationality of China is mainly distributed in Guangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Yunnan, Guizhou, and Jiangxi Provinces. The Yao people from Hunan Province are the birthplace of the Yao nationality; Jianghua Yao Autonomous County has the largest Yao population in Hunan Province, accounting for 53% of the population there [2]. Thus, Jianghua Yao Autonomous County plays an important part in the medicine and culture of the Yao people. For historical reasons, the Yao people live long in adverse circumstances, and in the long struggle against disease, the local people had to collect herbs from surrounding mountains and valleys, and they made herbal tea to treat associated health conditions. This tradition formed different, plentiful, and special medical customs, especially herbal tea and medicated baths.

The traditional medical market is a unique custom to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival (May 5 in the Chinese lunar calendar) by Yao, Zhuang, and Han people in Jianghua (mostly Yao people). At every Dragon Boat Festival, people collect herbs from surrounding mountains and valleys and sell them at the medical market, which is a large-scale market, with more variety and larger trades. The traditional medical market has become a unique spectacle of Yao medicinal culture customs. In addition to buying and selling various herbs, people take this opportunity to exchange their experiences in the recognition and usage of herbs. Since the Dragon Boat Festival is at the end of spring and the beginning of summer, weather conditions are volatile and moist, which probably contribute to the disease rate. During this time, many Chinese herbal medicines are in the periods of harvesting or barking, so the timing forms the unique medicinal market of Yao nationality in Jianghua.

The traditional knowledge of herbs is the result of the accumulated experience by the Yao people’s long-term struggle against disease; thus, many aspects of these treatments are probably scientific. However, like the loss of biodiversity, due to the influence of foreign culture, and not having their own written languages, with descendants inheriting their knowledge just by dictation, the traditional knowledge and culture of Yao medicine is also in danger of being lost. In fact, the vanishing of traditional knowledge has been a common phenomenon in the undeveloped country [3].

In order to protect the traditional knowledge of Yao medicine, guarantee food safety, and meet the increasingly globalized health supplement market, we started to document, explore, and research the herb materials for the preparation of herbal tea in Jianghua in 2016.

The study aims to not only document plant species used and commercialized as herbal tea in Jianghua but also make a comparison of herbal tea tradition between the Jianghua and Lingnan regions. This is the first study to document the plant species used as herbal tea in Jianghua; the medicinal plant tradition was recorded for future investigations and policy-making. As well as, if these plant materials are classified and used correctly, the opportunity to develop Yao medicine and expand the herbal tea culture will emerge.


Study area

The study was conducted in Jianghua, where herbal tea has a significant cultural value and it is traditionally consumed. This region is located in Yongzhou City, which borders Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces, between 110° 25′ S–112° 10′ S and 24° 38′ W–25° 15′ W (Fig. 1). It covers an area of 3248 km2. The total population of Jianghua was 510,000 inhabitants in 2013. It is the only Yao autonomous county in Hunan Province, with the largest population of Yao nationality in the 13 Yao autonomous counties throughout the country. This area features a subtropical monsoon climate, and the weather is relatively moderate, with an annual average temperature of 18–18.5 °C, and plenty of rainfall. It owns the biggest and most famous medicinal market in Hunan Province and the surrounding region, that is, the traditional medicinal markets at the Dragon Boat Festival.

Fig. 1

Location of the traditional medicinal market in Jianghua that was selected as a study site

Traditional medicinal markets at the Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival, or known as the Duanwu Festival, is a traditional Chinese cultural holiday. The festival occurs on the 5th day of May in the traditional Chinese calendar. There are three most well-known and widespread activities conducted to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, preparing and eating zongzi, drinking realgar wine, and dragon boat racing. These customs could be dated back to over 2500 years ago [4]. The Dragon Boat Festival was held at the summer solstice which is a period of high incidence of disease. Many Chinese folklorists pointed out that the Dragon Boat Festival originated from the concept of people fighting diseases and exterminating evils [5, 6]. So, during the Dragon Boat Festival, some indigenous persons, country doctors, and herbalists collect various kinds of plant and sell them to customers, retailers, or formal vendors at the traditional medicinal market.

Ethnobotanical methods

Field surveys including informant interview, structured investigation, free-listing tasks, and voucher specimen collection were conducted during the Dragon Boat Festival in 2016 and 2017. A total of 215 vendors between 22 and 83 years of age were interviewed at the traditional medicinal markets at the Dragon Boat Festival in Jianghua, Hunan Province, to record plants used for herbal tea and to document traditional knowledge on their medicinal function, habitat, and conservation status. Of the vendors, 70% were over 50 years of age, and these vendors were almost equally male and female. The study was carried out following the International Society of Ethnobiology Code of Ethics [7], and all of the participants were informed of our intent prior to the start of the interviews. In addition, every vendor signed a benefit-sharing agreement. The majority of the vendors worked independently or in small groups, and when the vendors spoke only the Yao language, translation was required by an individual that we had hired. Vendors were asked to complete structured ethnobotanical questionnaires, which were answered willingly without payment, the questions included (1) Which species are used for herbal tea? (2) Where do you gather this plant? (3) What plant parts can be used for herbal tea? (4) What is the function of this plant in herbal tea? and (5) What plants do Yao people here use for herbal tea? Bunches of medicinal plants were purchased to identify the species and to prepare the voucher specimens followed by the Flora of China ( and the collections in PE (the Herbarium, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences), and KUN (the Herbarium, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences). We then deposited them in the Ethnobotanical Lab, Minzu University of China. Photographs were taken to record all of the plant species.

The conservation status of each plant was revised by the Information System of Chinese Rare and Endangered Plants ( (Table 1).

Table 1 Medicinal plants used for herbal tea in the traditional medicinal market of Jianghua County on Dragon Boat Festival

Statistical analysis

Cognitive salience (CS) [8] and use value (UV) [9] were applied to determine the greatest cognitive and cultural importance of these medical plants in Jianghua.

Free-listing is a method to obtain cognitive salience from relatively large samples [10, 11]. Interviewers collected traditional knowledge from large samples of free-lists which reveal cognitive salience from individuals’ local knowledge. The measure of cognitive salience includes both list position and list frequency irrespective of list length or number of respondents [8, 12]. We interviewed 215 informants and recorded 215 free-lists; here, we calculated the mean cognitive salience (CS) for each listed species,

$$ \mathrm{CS}=\frac{\left[\sum B+F-1\right]}{\left[2Z-1\right]} $$
$$ B=\frac{\left[K-r(i)\right]}{\left[K-1\right]} $$

F is the number of lists where the particular species is mentioned in all lists while Z is the number of informants. B determines how one plant precedes other plants mentioned in a respondent’s list. K is the number of listed species in one informant, and r (i) is the ith order of each plant’s list position.

The closer to the first position (or rank) the item(s) are, the greater the cognitive salience of item(s) is deemed to be.

The use value (UV) is to quantitatively evaluate the relative importance of species [13,14,15] used by Yao people,

$$ UV=\sum Ui/N $$

where Ui refers to the number of medical use cited by an informant for per species and N is the total number of all informants. When there are many use reports mentioned for one plant, it indicates the use value of this plant is high.

The coefficient of similarity (S) of herbal tea plants between Jianghua and Lingnan regions was calculated by the following formula: S = 2c/(a + b) (a and b are species used by Jianghua and Lingnan regions, respectively; c are species in common use) [16].

Chi-square analysis was applied to find whether the traditional knowledge of herbal tea such as plant life form and plant part(s) used varied considerably between Jianghua and Lingnan.


Medicinal plant species sold for herbal tea at the traditional medicinal markets

Plant species and life form

According to the results of the taxonomical identification, the medicinal plants used for herbal tea belong to 169 species, grouped into 142 genera and 66 families. In alphabetical order of the family, they are presented in Table 1. Further analyses on the plant families show that Compositae has 18 species, making it the dominant family. Liliaceae, Leguminosae, Orchidaceae, Labiatae, and Myrsinaceae are represented by 11, 9, 7, 6, and 5 species, followed by Urticaceae, Umbelliferae, Rubiaceae, and Araliaceae, with 4 species each, and 13 families containing 3 species, 14 families containing 2 species, and 29 families containing 1 species (Fig. 2). Of the 169 species, the most frequent habits of medicinal plants were herbs (97 spp.), followed by shrubs (35 spp.), vines (22 spp.), ferns (7 spp.), trees (6 spp.), phytoparasites (2 spp.), and thalli (1 sp.) (Fig. 3).

Fig. 2

Dominant medicinal plant families used for herbal tea in the Jianghua traditional medicinal market, China, where f > 3, and f is the number of species in a family; for families where f < 3, these were summarized as “others”

Fig. 3

Habitat of herbs used for herbal tea in Jianghua

Part(s) used

In this study, the analysis revealed that there were 16 kinds of plant parts that were used for herbal tea as medicinal materials. The whole plant was the most commonly used plant part (38.4%), followed by root (14.2%), leaf (9.13%), stem (7.76%), rhizome (7.76%), and tuber (5.02%) (Fig. 4). The study also found that some other plant parts, such as the flower, fruit, bark, pod, seed, pith, branch, shoot thorn, shoot, and fruit cluster, are used less frequently.

Fig. 4

Plant parts used for herbal tea in Jianghua

Conservation status

According to the evaluation criteria established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (, three of these species are listed on “China’s red list” and registered as vulnerable (VU), which means that they are at the highest risk for endangerment, namely, Dysosma versipellis, Bulbophyllum pectinatum, and Dendrobium nobile. In addition, five species are categorized under least concern (LC), which is a lower category of risk; they are Bulbophyllum odoratissimum, Galeola lindleyana, Luisia morsei, Spiranthes sinensis, and Fagopyrum dibotrys, and 159 species were not evaluated (NE) while Paris polyphylla is listed as second degree national protective plants and Dendrobium officinale is listed as first degree national protective plants. There is a need to investigate and provide proper management to avoid a shortage.

Medicinal uses

In our study, a total of 30 medicinal uses were recorded, and heat-clearing and detoxifying was the most common medicinal function, followed by treating rheumatism and promoting blood circulation (Fig. 5). In Jianghua, 49.11% of the medicinal plant species (83 spp.) are used for heat-clearing and detoxifying, 30.18% for treating rheumatism, 17.75% for promoting blood circulation, and 15.38% for relieving cough.

Fig. 5

Plant species involved in each medical function

Cultural and medical significance of species

The cognitive salience of 169 species ranked from 0.012 to 0.343 (Table 1); 10 species listed as the most salient are Artemisia argyi Levl. et Van., Stemona tuberosa Lour., Chloranthus fortunei (A. Gray) Solms-Laub., Grangea maderaspatana (L.) Poir., Lophatherum gracile Brongn., Usnea diffracta (Vain.) Articus, Melastoma dodecandrum Lour., Damnacanthus indicus Gaertn., Plantago asiatica L., and Leonurus artemisia (Laur.) S. Y. Hu. The most 20 salient species are listed in Table 2. The greater the value of cognitive salience, the more culturally important the species is. For example, the highest value refers to Artemisia argyi Levl. et Van., which is a fundamental medicinal plant to local people. The least value of cognitive salience is Clematis uncinata Champ.

Table 2 Cognitive salience for 20 most value species

The use value of 169 species ranked from 0.33 to 1.74. They are Artemisia princeps (1.74), Viscum liquidambaricola (1.68), Viscum diospyrosicola (1.60), Hedyotis auricularia (1.60), Clerodendrum chinense var. simplex (1.57), Cirsium japonicum (1.54), Achyranthes aspera L. (1.52), Schefflera octophylla (Linn.) Frodin (1.51), Panax japonicus (T. Nees) C. A. Mey. (1.48), and Pseudodrynaria coronans (1.47), which are widely and frequently used by local people.

Comparison of medicinal plant tradition in Jianghua and Lingnan

A comparison of plant materials commonly used for herbal tea in Jianghua and Lingnan shows that there are 23 plant species in total used for herbal tea (Table 3), and Compositae is the predominant family in two regions. For part(s) used for herbal tea, no matter whether they are from Lingnan or Jianghua, the vendors like to use whole plants and roots to prepare herbal tea. By comparing, we found that the common functions of the herbal tea produced by the people both in Jianghua and Lingnan are heat-clearing, detoxifying, and treating rheumatism.

Table 3 A comparison of plant materials commonly used for herbal tea in Jianghua and Lingnan

By comparing the herbal tea plants commonly used in Jianghua and Lingnan, there are 23 common plant species among which 6 species have different functions (Table 3). They are Fallopia multiflora, Parthenocissus tricuspidata, Acorus tatarinowii, Trachelospermum jasminoides, Hypericum japonicum, and Leonurus artemisia.

The coefficient of similarity of herbal tea plants commonly used in Jianghua and Lingnan is 11.2%. Using chi-square analysis, the number of mentions for part(s) used varied significantly between the two culturally distinct communities (p value < 0.05).


Prospective value of herbal tea plants used by Yao people

Herbal tea in Lingnan region is based on the theory of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM); many recipes used in herbal tea are evolved from prescriptions of TCM [17]. However, Yao people in Jianghua did not record their traditional knowledge of herbal tea with books or scripts instead of folksongs and teaching generations by experience and dictation. We compared herbal tea plant in Jianghua with Drug Standard Database (, including Chinese PharmacopeiaI (2015 and 1977 versions), Tibetan medicineI, Uygur medicine, and Japanese Pharmacopoeia, and 124 species are not listed in Pharmacopeia (Table 1). Among these 124 species, the medicinal use of not all species can be supported by literatures. For example, Yao people in Jianghua indicated that Achyranthes aspera can relieve pain, which was verified by Barua et al. In 2010, they verified the antinociceptive activity of the methanolic extract of leaves of A. aspera in animal models of nociception [18]. Cirsium japonicum stops bleeding, which was verified by Chen Qi et al. in 2012 [19]. However, most of these 124 species cannot be found in the supporting literatures. Yao people in Jianghua generally believed that Clematis henryi is a good medicine for relieving pain, Heteropanax fragrans can treat rheumatism, and Marsdenia sinensis can treat heatstroke. There is a great need to further study these plant species.

The efficacy and safety of species used in Jianghua

In Jianghua, heat-clearing and detoxifying is the most common medicinal function, followed by treating rheumatism, because the Dragon Boat Festival is at the end of spring and the beginning of summer, weather conditions are hot and humid, so the main plant materials used for herbal tea are focused on heat-clearing and detoxifying and treating rheumatism.

In Jianghua, 22 species were involved in eliminating inflammation; however, of the 83 species used for heat-clearing and detoxifying, 14 species were involved in eliminating inflammation; it shows that 63.6% of the medicinal plant species sold to eliminate inflammation are also used for heat-clearing and detoxifying, so it is important to conduct some studies to understand the dual effect and discover the possible relationship, which is useful for the theoretical construction of the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Over the past 20 years, the safety [20] and pharmacological efficacy [21,22,23,24] of herbal drinks have drawn attention. Findings have elucidated that some phytochemicals in herbal tea are beneficial to human health [25,26,27,28], while some are risky to humans [29,30,31,32,33,34]. Therefore, further research is needed to analyze the bioactivity and toxicity of herbal tea. Among 169 species, two of them are forbidden as raw materials for food based on an announcement from The National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China ( They are Dysosma versipellis (Hance) M. Cheng ex Ying and Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. f.

Dysosma versipellis: Podophyllotoxin, a chemical compound isolated from D. versipellis, is recorded to show cytotoxicity resulting emesis, diarrhea, and hepatic and central nerve system lesion [35,36,37,38]. However, due to its chemical function similar to colchicine, podophyllotoxin and its derivatives have been synthesized and utilized as anti-tumor drugs [39]. Besides, it was recorded to be used as an antiviral material for treating condyloma acuminatum caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) [40]. D. versipellis is largely be utilized for clearing heat and detoxification, rheumatism, and promoting blood circulation by Yao people in Jianghua. However, due to excessive consumption, the conservation status of D. versipellis on “China’s red list” is registered as vulnerable. At present, D. versipellis is cultivated in Jianghua.

Tripterygium wilfordii: The extract of T. wilfordii, a Chinese herb, has anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive activities and an established history of use in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis [41, 42]. However, the most common side effects of T. wilfordii are gastrointestinal tract disturbances, such as diarrhea, leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, rash, skin pigmentation, and malfunction of the male and female reproductive system [43].

Comparison of plant materials used for herbal tea in Jianghua and Lingnan

The resurgence of interest in natural products has fueled the global herbal tea market. In 2013, Yujing Liu recorded 241 species used for herbal tea in Lingnan Region (China) [1]. By comparing the herbal tea plants commonly used by Jianghua and Lingnan, there are 23 common plant species, among which, there were 17 species that had consistent function and 6 species have different functions.

By comparing the 6 species having different functions in Jianghua and Lingnan, we cannot confirm that they have various medical functions. Achyranthes aspera, Fagopyrum dibotrys, Lonicera confuse, Lonicera japonica, Dendranthema morifolium, and Juncus effusus are heat-clearing and detoxifying herbs. In Chinese medicine, the lower the fire is equal to clear heat. We found that there may be a relationship between detoxifying and antibacterial or anti-inflammation properties, because most of the plants with detoxifying properties have antibacterial or anti-inflammation effects (Table 3) [44,45,46,47,48,49,50,51,52]. For Gleditsia sinensis, Jianghua people pointed that it can induce diuresis, and the Lingnan people indicated that it can relieve pathological heat and remove dampness through diuresis. This may represent a direction for our study of the activity of Chinese herbs. So it will be necessary to verify the pharmacological activity in the future.

By comparing the herbal tea plants commonly used by Jianghua and Lingnan, the coefficient of similarity of herbal tea plants is 11.2%, which is low. We compared all plant parts used in the Jianghua and Lingnan regions. The common used plant parts are whole plant, root, leaf, stem, rhizome, tuber, flower, fruit, bark, seed, pith, branch, and shoot thorn. In Lingnan region, there are several particular used plant parts. They were aerial part, bulb, kernel, bud, peel, stigma, stem node with horns, and pollen. However, in Jianghua region, the particular used parts are pod, shoot, and fruit cluster. We selected all common used parts to do statistical analysis with chi-square analysis; the results (p value < 0.05, χ2 = 61.333) show the used plant parts varied significantly between these two different regions. Hence, the variation of used plant part in two regions accounts not only for the particular mentioned used parts but for varied usage rate of each common used part. For example, in Lingnan region, root (20.78%) is the most frequently mentioned used part, while in Lingnan region, it is whole plant (38.36%). The variation of plant part used suggests that the medical plant tradition is far different between the Lingnan and Jianghua regions. The low coefficient of similarity and the variation of plant part used reflect a relatively great difference of herbal tea plant tradition between Jianghua and Lingnan.

The traditional medicinal market is a bit unstructured

In the ethnobotanical surveys, we found that there are 14 poisonous species, which need to be payed attention. They are Pothos chinensis (Raf.) Merr., Typhonium flagelliforme (Lodd.) Blume, Trachelospermum jasminoides (Lindl.) Lem., Asarum sagittarioides C. F. Liang, Dysosma versipellis (Hance) M. Cheng ex Ying, Celastrus orbiculatus Thunb., Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. f., Senecio scandens Buch.-Ham. ex D. Don, Hemsleya macrosperma C. Y. Wu ex C. Y. Wu et C. L. Chen, Reineckia carnea (Andr.) Kunth, Eomecon chionantha Hance, Fallopia multiflora (Thunb.) Harald., Stemona tuberosa Lour., and Schizocapsa plantaginea Hance. In addition, we do not know if there is a phenomenon of substitutes or adulterants in Jianghua traditional market. Based on the Drug Standard Database, we listed the originality of all of the species (Table 1). So, the plants that are nonexistent in the Drug Standard Database need to be scientifically investigated for their efficacy and safety in the future.


The traditional medical market in Jianghua Yao Autonomous County reflects the plant species richness and cultural diversity. Traditional knowledge of herbal tea is the result of the accumulated experience by the Yao people’s long-term struggle against disease, so many aspects must be scientific. With the rise of natural product drugs, there is the need to analyze the chemical composition and activity of the materials of herbal tea. Future research is also needed to understand the safety and efficacy of the recorded herbal tea. For sustainable utilization, the production of herbal tea should be monitored.

In addition, uniform standards of practice and licensing of herbal vendors is required to produce a safer herbal tea market. It is very important for them to have the knowledge to select the proper plants since some herbs are hard to identify due to similar morphological characteristics.



Cognitive salience


Least concern


Not evaluated


Coefficient of similarity


Use value




  1. 1.

    Liu YJ, Ahmed S, Long CL. Ethnobotanical survey of cooling herbal drinks from southern China. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2013;9:82.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    刘 育: 湖南瑶族医药研究. 湖南科学技术出版社; 2002.

  3. 3.

    Rates SM. Plants as source of drugs. Toxicon. 2001;39:603.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Huang Z. Comments on the customs of the Dragon Boat Festival since 1980’s. J Univ Sci Technol Suzhou. 2007;24(3):118–25.

  5. 5.

    乌丙安: 中国民俗学.新版. 辽宁大学出版社; 2002.

  6. 6.

    杨琳: 中国传统节日文化. 宗教文化出版社; 2000.

  7. 7.

    International Society of Ethnobiology, Code of Ethics (with 2008 additions).

  8. 8.

    Robbins MC, Nolan JM, Chen D. An improved measure of cognitive salience in free listing tasks: a Marshallese example. Field Methods. 2017;29:1525822X1772672.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Phillips O, Gentry AH, Reynel C, Wilkin P, Galvezdurand BC. Quantitative ethnobotany and Amazonian conservation. Conserv Biol. 1994;8:225–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Nolan JM, Robbins MC. A measure of semantic category clustering in free-listing tasks. Field Methods. 2000;12:12–28.

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Quinlan M. Considerations for collecting freelists in the field: examples from ethobotany. Field Methods. 2005;17:219–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Zhang J. Comparative cultural salience: measures using free-list data. Field Methods. 2006;18:398–412.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Tabata M, Sezik E, Honda G, Yesilada E, Fukui H, Goto K, Ikeshiro Y. Traditional medicine in Turkey. III. Folk medicine in East Anatolia, van and Bitlis provinces. Int J Pharmacognosy. 1994;32:3–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Tardío J, Pardodesantayana M. Cultural importance indices: a comparative analysis based on the useful wild plants of southern Cantabria (northern Spain)1. Econ Bot. 2008;62:24–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Bano A, Ahmad M, Ben HT, Saboor A, Sultana S, Zafar M, Khan MP, Arshad M, Ashraf MA. Quantitative ethnomedicinal study of plants used in the skardu valley at high altitude of Karakoram-Himalayan range, Pakistan. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014;10:43.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Zai-Fu XU. Preliminary comparison on traditional knowledge of medicinal plants used by Dai Xishuangbanna China and Khmer Cambodia. Acta Bot Yunnan. 2008;30:371–7.

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    冼剑民, 姚杭: 浅析广东的凉茶文化及其流变. 饮食文化研究 2005:100–107.

  18. 18.

    Barua CC, Talukdar A, Begum SA, Lahon LC, Sarma DK, Pathak DC, Borah P. Antinociceptive activity of methanolic extract of leaves of Achyranthes aspera Linn. (Amaranthaceae) in animal models of nociception. Indian J Experim Biol. 2010;48:817–21.

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Qi C, Qianfeng G, Lingyun Z, Yaohui Y, Bingxue Y, Jing Z, 陈泣, 龚千锋, 钟凌云, 叶耀辉: studies on hemostatic effect and component differences of carbonized Cirsium Japonicum DC from different Regions不同地区大蓟炭止血药效与成分差异的初步研究. 世界科学技术:中医药现代化. 2012;14:2196–200.

  20. 20.

    Huxtable RJ. Herbal teas and toxins: novel aspects of pyrrolizidine poisoning in the United States. Perspect Biol Med. 1980;24(1):1–14.

  21. 21.

    Matsuda K, Nishimura Y, Kurata N, Iwase M, Yasuhara H. Effects of continuous ingestion of herbal teas on intestinal CYP3A in the rat. J Pharmacol Sci. 2007;103:214–21.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Weizman Z, Alkrinawi S, Goldfarb D, Bitran C. Efficacy of herbal tea preparation in infantile colic. J Pediatr-US. 1993;122:650–2.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Lindenmuth GF, Lindenmuth EB. The efficacy of echinacea compound herbal tea preparation on the severity and duration of upper respiratory and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. J Altern Complemen Med. 2000;6:327.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    McKay DL, Blumberg JB. A review of the bioactivity of south African herbal teas: rooibos Aspalathus linearis and honeybush Cyclopia intermedia. Phytother Res. 2007;21:1–16.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Nookabkaew S, Rangkadilok N, Satayavivad J. Determination of trace elements in herbal tea products and their infusions consumed in Thailand. J Agri Food Chem. 2006;54:6939–44.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Fei S, Jin Y. The effect of a special herbal tea on obesity and anovulation in androgen-sterilized rats. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 2000;223:295–301.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Carmona MD, Llorach R, Obon C, Rivera D. “Zahraa ”, a Unani multicomponent herbal tea widely consumed in Syria: components of drug mixtures and alleged medicinal properties. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005;102:344–50.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Ryan EA, Imes S, Wallace C, Jones S. Herbal tea in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Clin Invest Med. 2000;23:311–7.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Manteiga R, Park DL, Ali SS. Risks associated with consumption of herbal teas. Rev Environ Contam T. 1997;150:1–30.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Mcgee J, Patrick RS, Wood CB, Blumgart LH. A case of veno-occlusive disease of the liver in Britain associated with herbal tea consumption. J Clin Pathol. 1976;29:788.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Johanns ES, Le VDK, van Gemert HM, Sijben AE, Peters PW, De VI. An epidemic of epileptic seizures after consumption of herbal tea. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2002;146:813.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Levi M, Guchelaar HJ, Woerdenbag HJ, Zhu Y-P. Acute hepatitis in a patient using a Chinese herbal tea - a case report. Pharm World Sci. 1998;20:43–4.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Hsu CK, Leo P, Shastry D, Meggs W, Weisman R, Hoffman RS. Anticholinergic poisoning associated with herbal tea. Arch Intern Med. 1995;155:2245–8.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Kumana CR, Ng M, Lin HJ, Ko W, Wu PC, Todd D. Herbal tea induced hepatic veno-occlusive disease: quantification of toxic alkaloid exposure in adults. Gut. 1985;26:101–4.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Jiang F, Tian HY, Zhang JL, Ye QM, Jiang RW. Chemical constituents from Dysosma versipellis. Chin Trad Herb Drugs. 2011;42:634–9.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Gordaliza M, Garcia PC, Jmm CM, Gomez-Zurita M. Podophyllotoxin: distribution, sources, applications and new cytotoxic derivatives. Toxicon. 2004;44:441–59.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Jordan MA, Thrower D, Wilson L. Effects of vinblastine, podophyllotoxin and nocodazole on mitotic spindles. Implications for the role of microtubule dynamics in mitosis. J Cell Sci. 1992;102(Pt 3):401–16.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Seiter K. Toxicity of the topoisomerase II inhibitors. Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2005;4:219–34.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Zhu RR, Qin LL, Wang M, Wu SM, Wang SL, Zhang R, Liu ZX, Sun XY, Yao SD. Preparation, characterization, and anti-tumor property of podophyllotoxin-loaded solid lipid nanoparticles. Nanotechnology. 2009;20:055702.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Syed TA, Cheema KM, Khayyami M, Ahmad SA, Ahmad SH, Ahmad S, Ahmad SA. Human leukocyte interferon-alpha versus podophyllotoxin in cream for the treatment of genital warts in males. Dermatology. 1995;191:129–32.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Ma J, Dey M, Yang H, Poulev A, Pouleva R, Dorn R, Lipsky PE, Kennelly EJ, Raskin I. Anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive compounds from Tripterygium wilfordii. Phytochemistry. 2007;68:1172–8.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Xuelian Tao MD, Davis LS, Lipsky PE. Effect of an extract of the Chinese herbal remedy Tripterygium wilfordii Hook f. on human immune responsiveness. Arthritis Rheum-US. 1991;34:1274–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Bao J, Dai SM. A Chinese herb Tripterygium wilfordii Hook f. in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: mechanism, efficacy, and safety. Rheumatol Int. 2011;31:1123–9.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Yuan G, Chen Y, Li F, Zhou R, Li Q, Lin W, Huang L. Isolation of an antibacterial substance from Mahonia fortunei and its biological activity against Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzicola. J Phytopathol. 2017;165(5):289–96.

  45. 45.

    Yang B, Yue Q, Wang LP, Zhang XL. Studies on the anti-inflammatory molecular mechanism of chlorogenic acid extracted from Lonicera confusa DC in vitro. Chin Pharmacol Bull. 2009;25:542–4.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Song JL, Shin EJ, Son KH, Chang HW, Kang SS, Kim HP. Anti-inflammatory activity of the major constituents of Lonicera japonica. Arch Pharm Res. 1995;18:133–5.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Kwak WJ, Han CK, Chang HW, Kim HP, Kang SS, Son KH. Loniceroside C, an antiinflammatory saponin from Lonicera japonica. Chem Pharm Bull. 2003;51:333.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Xue YQ, Song J, Su-Ping YE, Yuan K. Separation, identification and its antibacterial activity of glycosylflavones in Lophatherum gracile Brongn. West China J Pharm Sci. 2009;24(3):218–20.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Liu XR. Study on antimicrobial effect of the extract from Lophatherum gracile Brongn. J Guangdong Ind Tech Coll. 2008;7(2):20–3.

    Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Greca MD, Fiorentino A, Monaco P, Pinto G, Pollio A, Previtera L. Action of antialgal compounds from Juncus effusus L. on Selenastrum capricornutum. J Chem Ecol. 1996;22:587.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Bonghyun K, Kyoungsik P, Chang IM. Elucidation of anti-inflammatory potencies of Eucommia ulmoides bark and Plantago asiatica seeds. J Med Food. 2009;12:764–9.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Feng L, Chen F, Bai J. Study of antimicrobial in vitro from Fagopyrum dibotrys extracts. J Wuhan Bot Res. 2006;24:240–4.

    Google Scholar 

Download references


Many thanks to the 215 vendors from the traditional medicinal market in Jianghua, a Yao autonomous county; their spirits of sharing the traditional knowledge were critical to this study. We would like to sincerely thank Liu Bo for the valuable assistance in identifying the plant species. A special acknowledgment to Liu Sizhao and Zhang Beixi; they supplied valuable assistance in recording the information during our interviews. A particular thank to Wang Changxin and Jiang Chunrun who are local Yao people for providing us with translation assistances.


Funding was received from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 21505075, 31600254, and 31761143001), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (KJQN201630), Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province of China (Grant No. BK20150491), National Science Foundation for Post-doctoral Scientists of China (Grant No. 2016M591810), Jiangsu Postdoctoral Sustentation Fund (Grant No. 1701070B), the Start-Up Fund for Advanced Talents of Jiangsu University (Grant No. 14JDG150), the Key Laboratory of Ethnomedicine (Minzu University of China) of Ministry of Education of China (KLEM-ZZ201806), the School of Agricultural Equipment Engineering at Jiangsu University, and the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions (PAPD, [2014]37).

Availability of data and materials

We are willing to share the data generated or analyzed during the current study.

Author information




BJ and YL conceived of and designed the study, conducted the data collection, and analyzed the data. Literature retrieval was done by BJ and JX. Field surveys were conducted by YL, BL, and CL. BJ and YL drafted the manuscript. CL revised the manuscript and in particular the inventory. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Chunlin Long.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

We followed the ethical guidelines adopted by the International Society of Ethnobiology (2008) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB). Permissions were verbally informed by all vendors in this study. The human subject approval was obtained from the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Minzu University of China, prior to beginning the work.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Jin, B., Liu, Y., Xie, J. et al. Ethnobotanical survey of plant species for herbal tea in a Yao autonomous county (Jianghua, China): results of a 2-year study of traditional medicinal markets on the Dragon Boat Festival. J Ethnobiology Ethnomedicine 14, 58 (2018).

Download citation


  • Herbal tea
  • Ethnomedicine
  • Yao people
  • Dragon Boat Festival
  • Quantitative methods