Plants For A Future Logo Full Contact Details
Registered Charity No. 1057719

Back to main Search Page

Dichroa febrifuga - Lour.

Chinese Quinine

AuthorLour. Botanical references11, 51, 266
FamilyHydrangeaceae GenusDichroa
Known Hazardswarning signOne report says that the plant is toxic but gives no more details[147].
RangeE. Asia - China, Japan, Himalayas.
HabitatShrubberies and damp places[51], often gregarious in clearings of oak forests[146], 900 - 2400 metres, from C. Nepal to China[51].
Edibility Rating 0 (1-5) Medicinal Ratingapple iconapple iconapple icon 3 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics

icon of man icon of shrub An evergreen Shrub growing to 2m.
It is hardy to zone 9. It is in leaf all year, in flower from June to August, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soil. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.


Woodland Garden; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; South Wall By; West Wall By;

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antiperiodic; Emetic; Expectorant; Febrifuge; Purgative.

This plant is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs[218]. The leaves are purgative[218]. They are used in the treatment of stomach cancer[218]. The juice of the leaves is used in Nepal to treat coughs, colds and bronchitis[272]. A decoction of the stem bark is used in the treatment of fevers[218]. a decoction of the leaves is used to treat malarial fever[272]. The root contains several alkaloids[283] and is emetic, expectorant, febrifuge and purgative[51, 61, 146, 147, 176, 218, 240, 272]. The juice of the root is used in Nepal to treat fevers and indigestion[272]. This plant is 26 times more powerful than quinine in the treatment of malaria but causes vomiting[176]. Substances in the plant are 100 times more powerful than quinine, but they are poisonous[218].

Other Uses

The wood is used as a fuel[272].

Cultivation details

An easily grown plant, succeeding in an open loamy soil[1]. The flowers vary in colour according to the type of soil they grow in, the best blue colour is formed when plants are in very acid soils[260]. One report says that this plant is probably not hardy outdoors in Britain[11] whilst another says that some provenances tolerate temperatures down to about -5°c[260] and another report says that the forms in cultivation are only fully hardy in southern Cornwall[1]. This same report goes on to say that those forms probably do not belong to D. febrifuga in the strict sense[1]. This plant is cultivated in Russia as an anti-malarial herb[240].


Seed - we have no information on this species but suggest sowing the seed in a greenhouse in spring and only just covering it. Do not allow the compost to dry out. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings. No details are given, we suggest trying in August with almost ripe wood in a frame.



[1] F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press 1951
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).

[11] Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray 1981
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.

[51] Polunin. O. and Stainton. A. Flowers of the Himalayas. Oxford Universtiy Press 1984
A very readable and good pocket guide (if you have a very large pocket!) to many of the wild plants in the Himalayas. Gives many examples of plant uses.

[61] Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable 1974 ISBN 0094579202
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.

[146] Gamble. J. S. A Manual of Indian Timbers. Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh 1972
Written last century, but still a classic, giving a lot of information on the uses and habitats of Indian trees. Not for the casual reader.

[147] ? A Barefoot Doctors Manual. Running Press 0 ISBN 0-914294-92-X
A very readable herbal from China, combining some modern methods with traditional chinese methods.

[176] Yeung. Him-Che. Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas. Institute of Chinese Medicine, Los Angeles 1985
An excellent Chinese herbal giving information on over 500 species. Rather technical and probably best suited to the more accomplished user of herbs.

[218] Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. 1985 ISBN 0-917256-20-4
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.

[240] Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. 1986
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.

[260] Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Conservatory and Indoor Plants Volumes 1 & 2 Pan Books, London. 1998 ISBN 0-330-37376-5
Excellent photos of over 1,100 species and cultivars with habits and cultivation details plus a few plant uses. Many species are too tender for outdoors in Britain though there are many that can be grown outside.

[266] Flora of China 1994
On-line version of the Flora - an excellent resource giving basic info on habitat and some uses.

[272] Manandhar. N. P. Plants and People of Nepal Timber Press. Oregon. 2002 ISBN 0-88192-527-6
Excellent book, covering over 1,500 species of useful plants from Nepal together with information on the geography and peoples of Nepal. Good descriptions of the plants with terse notes on their uses.

[283] Nguyen Van Dan & Doan Thi Nhu Medicinal Plants in Vietnam World Health Organisation 1989 ISBN 92 9061 101 4
An excellent book, giving information on over 200 plants, their medicinal compounds and applications.

Readers Comments

Plants for a Future does not verify the accuracy of reader comments, use at your own risk. In particular Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. You should always consult a professional before using plants medicinally.

Dichroa febrifuga

Tom Reed Wed Jul 13 18:27:35 2005

Would like source of seeds or selected cultivars, preferably available in US.

Dichroa febrifuga

Stephen Griffith Mon Oct 8 2007

I HAVE BEEN GROWING THIS PLANT OUTSIDE IN A SHELTERED ACID WOODLAND CLOSE TO THE SEA IN ABBOTSBURY GARDENS IN DORSET, UK, FOR 15 YEARS NOW. In the coldest winters it looses its leaves but comes back in spring -3 is our average winter cold .occasionally -6 We take cuttings which root quite easily for insurance plants.It has a vivid blue flower that often gets confused with nearbt Hydrangeas

ABBOTSBURY SUB TROPICAL GARDENS 18thC woodland garden , Vast plant collections from all over the world

Dichroa febrifuga

anne mccaughan Mon Jan 7 2008

I have a shrub that I think may be a dichroa. Mine started flowering in September and is now at its peak. It matches the photos I've seen but there seems to be conflicting information about flowering times. If anyone could help with identification, I could send a photo. January 7th

Dichroa febrifuga

anne Mon Jan 7 2008

forgot to sat that I live in Co Down, close to the sea. I had thought it was a hydrangea.

Add a comment/link:

Enter your comment about this page here.
Note: please don't expect a quick reply to comments/questions posted here? We don't have the resources to answer questions ourselves. You can ask questions on our mailing list.

Subject: Dichroa febrifuga


LinksTo add a link to another website with useful info add the details here.
Name of Site:
URL for Site:

Your Name:
email address:
Email addressed added here will not be displayed on the website or be passed to third parties.
They are used incase we need to get in touch with you.
To prevent spam all comments are moderated, comments with spam or swearing are blocked.

Discussion Monitor

To have posts to this page mailed to you enter your email address here:

email address: 

(Your email address will not appear on the webpage or be passed on to third parties).

All the information contained in these pages is Copyright (C) Plants For A Future, 1996-2008.

Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567, 

HTML version prepared by Rich Morris - Home Page

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You can copy, distribute, display this works and to make derivative works but: Attribution is required, and it's Share Alike (GNUish/copyleft) i.e. has an identical license. We also ask that you let us know ( if you link to, redistribute, make a derived work or do anything groovy with this information.