Balloon flower may be viewed by many as a beautiful ornamental plant, but the plant has actually been used for its health benefits in parts of Asia for many centuries. Balloon flower which is known by the Chinese as ‘jie geng’ is also used as a culinary ingredient in Korea. The Koreans use the flower’s fresh or dried roots in salads and other dishes.
While not a great deal of research has been done into the medicinal benefits of the herb, like many Asian herbs, balloon flower has a long history of use. We may be dependent on traditional use and anecdotal evidence for much of our information but the plant’s reputation as a medicinal herb is strong.
Purported health benefits of the flower include pain relief, treatment of many respiratory conditions, digestive health benefits, immune system support and anti-allergic properties. Studies have also begun to show that the plant may have potential to prevent certain cancers. If you would like to find out more about balloon flower root and what it could do for your health, please read on.
What is Balloon Flower Root?
Balloon flower is native to parts of Asia including Korea, China, Japan and Russia but these days it is grown the world over. Known scientifically as Platycodon grandiflorus, balloon flower has a number of alternative common names depending on where you are in the world.
Some of these alternative names include Chinese bellflower, Blue balloon flower, Japanese bellflower, jie geng and platycodon.
The flower has been used for its medicinal properties for a very long time. In fact, it may have been used in parts of Asia for 2000 years or more. Such a long history of use is certainly worthy of attention.
The diverse range of benefits offered by the plant likely owe much to the range of volatile ingredients present in the plant’s root. These compounds include Platycosides (saponins), inulin, phytoesterol, betulic acid and glucose. (1) These compounds are known to have beneficial effects against a broad spectrum of illnesses.
The plant was originally a native of Japan, northern China, Eastern Siberia and Korea but it is grown today as an ornamental garden plant in many parts of the world. While many beautiful plants have been introduced to the West from Asia, the balloon flower is certainly one of the most striking.
The balloon flower is an herbaceous perennial belonging to the Campanulaceae family but is the only species in the genus – Platycodon. The flower grows to a height of around 50 cm with an erect stem rising from its thick root.
The flower gets its common names from the balloon shaped buds which open out into stunning bell-shaped flowers with 5 petals. While the flowers are usually some shade of blue, they can come in a range of different colors.
Being such an attractive plant, its medicinal uses have often been overlooked especially in the West. In time gone by, the entire plant was harvested wild and used to make medicine. These days however, it is cultivated commercially in china and only the plant’s toot is used to make medicine. The roots get harvested in either the spring or fall from mature plants.
The vast majority of the scientific studies into the plant have used extracts made from the root.
Facts About Balloon Flower
- Balloon flower is an attractive ornamental plant native to certain parts of Asia.
- These days, it is a very popular ornamental plant around the world, famous for its stunning blue or violet colored petals.
- The plant has been used medicinally for many years and these days the root is cultivated to make herbal medicine.
- In Korea and Japan, the roots are used to make salads. The Koreans also use the root in soups, pickle them or preserve them in syrup.
- The root contains a number of therapeutic compounds including saponins, inulin and betulioc acid.
- It has been used traditionally as a natural anti-inflammatory as well as for its expectorant properties and its ability to boost the immune system.
- Balloon flower root is used in many traditional Chinese formulations for respiratory conditions. It has natural expectorant properties that can help dilate the bronchi and increase bronchial secretions.
- A number of recent studies have found that the plant may be effective against a range of illnesses and may also help improve cognitive function.
Health Benefits of Balloon Flower
In parts of Asia, balloon flower roots have been used for many years to treat a range or respiratory complaints. In Korea, balloon flower root is used as a remedy for bronchitis, asthma and pulmonary tuberculosis. In China, the herb is used as a natural expectorant to treat colds, sore throats, coughs, chest congestion and tonsillitis. (1)
Natural expectorants can help to ease congestion and other respiratory symptoms by helping to break down mucus and phlegm. This also helps you to eliminate bacteria and pathogens that thrive in the nasal passages. Because of its anti-inflammatory prowess, balloon flower can also help ease inflammation in the respiratory passages helping you to breathe more freely.
Balloon flower may also help you overcome a range of digestive ailments. Despite the lack of scientific research into the effects of the herb on the digestive system, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support its traditional uses. Balloon flower has traditionally been used in Asia to help people overcome diarrhea, upset stomach and dysentery. (2)
Balloon flower roots contains a number of compounds with excellent antioxidant properties. While there has been little research into the specific antioxidant effects of the balloon flower, the antioxidants found in the plant perform a number of crucial roles.
Antioxidants are substances found in plants that can help protect against and even reverse the damage caused by free radicals. They can help protect against a number of serious illnesses including heart disease, dementia and cancer and also perform an anti-aging function.
Studies have even demonstrated that some of the compounds found in balloon flower root can have an anti-cancer effect against certain types of cancer. (3)
A review of the available studies published published in 2014 concluded that balloon flower had a number of potential health benefits, These included cancer, alzheimer’s and obesity. (4)
Balloon flower may also be good for your brain. According to a very recent animal study published in 2017, rats given extracts from balloon flower root demonstrated improved cognitive function especially memory.
The researchers concluded that balloon flower root was a potential future treatment for memory disorders including Alzheimer’s disease. (5)
Immune System Health
Using balloon flower may also help boost the immune system which is essential to overall good health. By boosting your immune function, the herb can help prevent many common illnesses including the common cold or flu.
The antioxidants found in balloon flower may help improve your heart’s health and keep heart disease at bay. There is also evidence that the herb can help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood which can also reduce your risk of suffering heart attacks and stroke.
Rheumatism and Arthritis
Because of its anti-inflammatory actions, balloon flower may also help relieve the joint pain associated with painful conditions like arthritis and rheumatism. Balloon flower may also have mild analgesic effects that can relieve the pain associated with these conditions.
Studies have found that balloon flower can help fight allergies and reduce reaction to allergens. It does this by inhibiting the release of histamines when you encounter certain substances that usually cause a reaction. (6)
Dosage and Administration
Balloon flower extract is available in several forms including liquid extracts and tinctures. it is often consumed in the form of a tea. To make tea with balloon root, add a gram of the dried leaves to a mug of boiled water and also the tea to steep for at least ten minutes. You can drink two to three cups each day.
When buying tinctures, be sure to buy from a reputable supplier and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. The usual dose is between 10 and 30 drops mixed in a glass of fresh water two or three times each day.
Possible Side Effects of Balloon Flower
There is very little safety data regarding the use of balloon flower extract but it is likely safe when taken in the recommended dose.
- Excessive amounts of the herb may cause adverse side effects including nausea, vomiting, fatigue, restlessness and sweating.
- Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding should avoid using the herb because of the lack of any safety data.
- Make sure that you speak to your doctor or medical expert before you use this herb.
- There is no data regarding interactions with other medication.
- Balloon flower is an herb which has been popular in Asian medicine for many years.
- In Korea and japan, the plant is often used as a culinary ingredient.
- The root is usually used to make medicine and is high in antioxidants as well as having anti-inflammatory properties.
- Among the conditions that balloon flower can help treat are respiratory conditions, digestive complaints, arthritis and immune system health.
- Studies have found that it can help boost memory while recent research suggests the herb has anti-cancer potential.