Plant Medicine

Dichondra repens and carolinensis

Dichondra repens

Dichondra carolinensis (Saltillo, MS)

Don’t you just love this little creeping ground cover? It’s all over my yard, and visually it reminds me of Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) , but it’s not related. Dichondra is in the bindweed or morning glory family, Convolvulaceae (kon-volv-yoo-LAY-see-ee), and Dichondra repens is a popular ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine blends. The medicinal properties of this particular species is what we will be discussing in this blog post.



creeping dichondra

Dichondra carolinensis (Saltillo, MS)

According to A Barefoot Doctor’s Manual, D. repens has neutral properties and an acrid taste. In all of my research, I haven’t seen any suggestion of using D. repens in tinctured form; it is always suggested as a whole plant decoction (30 to 60 g, drink daily).

This tiny, unassuming plant does the following:

1. Removes heat / Clears fevers / reduces swelling / removes “dampness” in the body

2. Detoxifies *yes, I know that’s vague*, and it is also indicated for treating jaundice, so I am assuming it acts on the liver in some way.

3. Induces diuresis / Removes calculi (mineral deposits that can form a blockage in the urinary system)

4. Enhances blood circulation

5. Lowers blood pressure / Reduces myocardial oxygen consumption

6. Has a bacterial effect on the body

7. Stops bleeding, esp. during Hemoptysis (coughing up blood or blood-tinged sputum from the respiratory tract)


Dichondra carolinensis (Saltillo, MS)

Suggested indications for Dichondra repens:

1. Jaundice

2. Dysentery

3. Mastitis *perk* will be doing more research on this

4. Hemoptysis

5. Stranguria from urolithiasis *translation*: Straining to urinate due to stones located anywhere in the urinary tract.

6. Cloudy urine

7. Edema

8. Boils / Furuncles *ain’t that a cool word?* Or as my great grandma used to call them: “Risens”.

9. Decreased bile secretion: D repens can relax the bile duct and increase bile secretion.

This amazing plant is also called Huang Dan Cao, and, according to The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, it is interchangeable with the following due to similar properties (and is referred to as Jin Qian Cao): Lysimachia christianae Hance, Desmodium styracifolium Merr., Hydrocotyle sibthorpiodes Lam., and Glechoma longituba (Nadoi)

Dana’s Notes:

I have found that D. repens and carolinensis are interchangeable on gardening forums, and in some places, carolinensis is considered a “variety” of repens. I have tried to find an image of D. repens for comparison purposes, and I haven’t been successful in properly identifying repens.

I have a theory (kind of like a “bellybutton opinion”) that Dichondra repens and D. carolinensis MAY be interchangeable, not because of the way they are presented online, but because I am an adventurous soul, it’s a safe plant for experimentation purposes and no one has told me otherwise. Here are my D. carolinensis notes based on that theory:

When I drank a strong infusion of Dichondra carolinensis and tasted the freshly infused plant, I did not find that this species tasted acrid at all; it was actually more “sweet” (not sugar sweet) and very mild. I will decoct it longer *overnight* next time and see if there is a difference in taste. I really liked it.

I am curious about tincturing a bit of it for out of season use, and will be comparing the two.

I wonder how it would compliment my liver/kidney and my heart tonic blends.

I am also curious to know how it would act on UTIs and bladder issues.

Do you have any experience working with Dichondra repens or carolinensis? Please let me know about your experiences. I would love to include them on this post or on a future post dedicated to Dichondra.

Sources on the medicinal properties of Dichondra repens:

A Barefoot Doctor’s Manual p.400
Encyclopedia Reference of TCM p.123
The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, 2nd Ed p.305

P.S. I would like to give a huge “thank you” hug to Susan Marynowski for being so supportive with the evolution of this post, and to my (many) other herbalist colleagues who work so diligently to research plant medicine, generously share their findings, and encourage others to carry the medicine forward. You have touched my heart in a profound way.


4 thoughts on “Dichondra repens and carolinensis”

  1. Thank you, Dana! I think I have this lovely along my dry creek. I will try to photograph it this weekend and see if we are talking about the same plant. Great article.

  2. I love this article and LOVE how you test the plants for medicinal qualities yourself, instead of just reporting claims. Experience is different from knowledge and that is a rare trait in the herbal world! I too am an Herbologist and I operate out of South Florida and own my own herbal company euFLoria healing, so many of the plants you talk about I deal with, wonder about, and test out as well! If you ever need any info on more tropical plants let me know! I LOVE following you and enjoy all of your info:) Namaste. Laura
    PS Dichondria is covering my yard too, the perfect natural grass!

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