Eucommia trunk bark is obtained from eucommia, also known as the hardy rubber plant. Precisely speaking, this herb is the bark of the tree whose scientific name is Eucommia ulmoides - a deciduous tree belonging to the family Eucommiaceae. This tree has its origin in China and is cultivated in the mountainous expanses.
Belonging to the rubber family, eucommia is found growing in the Hubei, Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of China. When mature, these trees can attain a height of about 50 feet. Although the bark of this tree is very useful, people never kill the tree for its bark. On the other hand, they peel away small patches from the tress that are more than 10 years old. The peeling of the bark is generally undertaken towards the end of summer or beginning of autumn. The healing properties of this tree are present in a whitish rubbery liquid found in its inner bark.
Eucommia trees are in bloom in April, while its seeds mature during September and October. The flowers of this tree are dioecious in nature - denoting that each flower contains either male or female reproductive organs. Since only one sex is present in any particular tree of this species, it is essential to grow plants of both sexes in close vicinity if one requires seeds. This plant needs damp soil and full sunlight to thrive. It will not survive if grown in a shaded location.
The leaves of eucommia have an alternate arrangement. They are simple ovate having an acuminate apex and measure anything between 8 cm and 16 cm in length. These leaves have a jagged margin. Moreover, the leaves are torn crossways, but latex strands emanated from the veins of the leaves turn into solid rubber and keep the two separate parts of a leaf together. The flowers of eucommia are unremarkable and not easily visible. They are small and have a green color. These trees bear fruits between June and November. The fruits of eucommia are winged samara having a solitary seed, bearing close resemblance to an elm samara. The fruits measure 2 cm to 3 cm in length and are about 1 cm to 2 cm in width.
In China, eucommia is primarily produced in the Hubei, Guizhou, Sichuan, Shannxi and Yunnan provinces. In order to obtain eucommia, people peel the bark anytime between April and June. Once the cork is scraped off, they pile up the bark pieces and store them in a sealed pack until their color changes to purplish brown. The bark pieces are necessarily dried in the sun. The bark pieces are either stir-baked with salt for use or cut into small segments.
It is unfortunate that Eucommia ulmoides trees are facing extinction in the wild. Currently, people in a number of provinces of China cultivate these trees for their remedial bark. In fact, the bark of Eucommia ulmoides is considered to be a valuable product in herbal medicine, especially in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
The genus Eucommia comprises only one species - Eucommia ulmoides, which is native to China. This plant possesses an exceptional quality, as it can tolerate cold in places lying in the temperate climatic zones. It is worth mentioning here that this species is not in any way related to the common rubber tree, whose scientific name is Hevea brasiliensis. Unlike the common rubber tree, Eucommia ulmoides trees cannot be tapped to collect the latex exuded by them.
In Chinese herbal medicine, eucommia bark is among the 50 fundamental herbs and is referred to as dùzhòng. As this natural rubber is produced in very small quantities in China against an extremely high demand for it in the country, people there have developed a unique process to make elastic materials using Eucommia ulmoides gum or EUG, which substitutes for products made with natural rubber. Different from the latex employed for manufacturing natural rubber, EUG is basically a polymer called trans-1,4-polyisoprene. As a result, various products manufactured using EUG may exhibit properties which are very different from the characteristics of natural rubber. For instance, they are not very high elastics or have lower thermoplastic temperatures and other attributes.
According to the traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the bark of Eucommia ulmoides possesses sweet and warm properties. This herb is related to the conditions of the liver and the kidneys. It is regarded as the main herb whose use can stimulate the functioning of yang in the body. Moreover, the bark of this tree also makes the bones and muscles stronger, restores the health of the weakened and injured tissues and can even be useful in alleviating pain in the leg and lower back (lumbar) region. It is also said to be helpful in reducing stiffness of the muscles and joints and effective in treating arthritis.
Aside from the healing actions of eucommia, this herb possesses the aptitude to lower high blood pressure. Hence, it is not surprising that nearly all Chinese herbal remedies meant for lowering high blood pressure contain varying amounts of eucommia. In addition, this herb is also recommended for women during pregnancy with a view soothe the fetus and also avoid miscarriage.
The bark of Eucommia ulmoides is a preferred herb of athletes as well as people who are active physically, since it is known to enhance physical energy and, at the same time, make the bones, ligaments and tendons stronger. In traditional Chinese medicine, this herb is also used to tone up the liver as well as the kidneys, thereby making eucommia among the best herbs available for sustaining the skeletal system's integrity. This herb is also extremely beneficial for aged people, as it helps to preserve the stability and flexibility of the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Eucommia offers several other health benefits, among which the mild action of this herb in lowering high blood pressure is well documented. In fact, use of this herb is also safe and it does not have any toxic reaction. Apart from the various structural benefits offered by this herb, eucommia has exhibited that it is an effectual anti-inflammatory agent. Moreover, this herb helps to repair torn tissues and broken bones. In addition, this herb has also been used traditionally for preventing hemorrhage and miscarriage during pregnancy.
As we consider our kidneys to be the main seat of willpower, it will be beneficial if we consume eucommia. In fact, consumption of this herb helps to reinforce resolve. Precisely speaking, eucommia serves as a super quality tonic herb and is safe as well as effective for men and women alike.
Practitioners of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) mainly use the bark of Eucommia ulmoides in the form of a kidney tonic. They use this herb for its ability to cure health issues related to the body's lower part, for instance the aching knees, lumbago and lower back pain, dizziness, itching in the areas around the genital owing to moistness, impotency and very frequent urination. In addition, eucommia is also employed for strengthening the bones and sinews. It is also effective in providing relief from exhaustion.
Aside from the above-mentioned health benefits of eucommia bark, this herb also has anti-tumour actions. Pharmacological experiments undertaken in current times have revealed that chlorogenic acid present in the bark of this tree serves to suppress tumours and cancer. This herb also works to strengthen the kidneys, while reinforcing the functioning of the immune system. Results of various experiments undertaken to explore and assess the health benefits of eucommia have shown that chlorogenic acid possesses the ability to stimulate the adrenal cortex system and pituitary glands. At the same time, eucommia works to improve the performance of the adrenal cortex.
The bark of Eucommia ulmoides also possesses antioxidant and anti-aging properties, in addition to combating the harmful free radicals and improving metabolism. It contains chlorogenic acid, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial actions. Moreover, this herb helps to reduce high blood pressure, while increasing leukocyte (white blood cell) count. Eucommia also significantly enhances gastric peristalsis as well as secretion of various gastric juices.