Wanted Weeds Part 2: Goatheads
Alright, I will admit it: probably the only people who think there is any value in goatheads are Chinese herbalists. Bicyclist in the Rocky Mountain region surely consider them a nemesis. But as a Chinese herbalist who treats itchy skin conditions, I have to admit that these little burrs come in handy.
The goathead, also known as tribulus, puncturevine or Caltrop fruit, is called Bai Ji Li in Chinese. The part of the weed utilized as an herb is the little thorny “fruit” or seed pod. In Chinese herbal medicine, we place this herb in the category of herbs that “Calm Liver and Extinguish Wind.” In regards to skin issues, this herb helps alleviate itching.
Though it is possible to use this herb topically, most often it is combined with other herbs and taken internally to treat itchy skin problems such as eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, urticaria, psoriasis, or general pruritus (itching). It is also used in herbal formulas to treat vitiligo, warts, neurodermatitis or lichen planus.
At Zi Zai Dermatology, we hand craft topical products so we don’t use Bai Ji Li as often as I would like (that is mostly because I hand grind all the herbs myself and this is one very durable little fruit!). I do use it in my clinical practice, however, when I formulate internal herbal prescriptions.
So the next time you are cursing the goathead for giving you a flat tire on your bicycle, perhaps you will recall its anti-itching properties and find it in your heart to feel a little respect for this useful herb (maybe after you patch your tire).
Publish Date: June 7, 2010 *Articles may include updates since original publishing.