The 18+ Benefits Of Tianma and Gastrodin

Tianma and Its 81+ Major Compounds

Tianma (also called “Tian Ma” originating from the plant Gastrodia Elata) works on many systems of the body including the brain, liver, heart, eyes, ears, bones, and lungs.

It has many potential benefits in preventing and treating common neurological and metabolic disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, epilepsy, liver disease, diabetes, neuropathy, and more.

In this post, we are going to be talking about Tianma, its bioactive components, and their benefits.




  1. Basics
  2. Benefits of Tianma
  3. My Experience With Tianma And Gastrodin
  4. Where To Get Tianma and Gastrodin
  5. Caveats
  6. Mechanism Of Action
  7. More Research


Tianma (Gastrdia Elata Blume) exerts effects from 81 major compounds, but in this post I’m mainly going to focus on a few select compounds, mainly gastrodin. R

Tianma also goes by Chi jian, Ming tian ma, or Ding feng cao and in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is usually used to treat liver meridian imbalances. R

Its active compounds may help with: R

  • Aging
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Bacterial and Viral Infections 
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • High and Low Blood Pressure
  • Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
  • Insomnia and Sleep Issues
  • Liver Impairment
  • Memory and Neuroprotection
  • Pain and Neuropathy
  • Preventing Abortion
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures and Epilepsy
  • Sexual Drive
  • Sleep and Insomnia
  • Vascular Regulation
  • Vertigo and Dizziness
  • Vision



Benefits of Tianma

1. Has Neuroprotective Properties

The phenols and glycosides in tianma have neuroprotective effects. R R

For example, gastrodin and 4-HBA can reduce neuroinflammation. R

It reduces microglial activation and stress in the cell (specifically the endoplasmic reticulum). R R R

Tianma also protects the brain against methamphetamine-induced damage to dopaminergic neurons. R

2. May Protect Against Neurodegenerative Disease



Tianma can also protect the brain during times without oxygen. R

For example, during stroke tianma was able to improve overall tissue damage by 67%. R

In animal models of ischemic stroke, gastrodin as well as 4-HA can decrease the stroke and swelling size. R R R R R

It can also improve the recovery after stroke. R

Gastrodin may be beneficial for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) by helping preserve reducing amyloid plaques in the brain and reducing the neurotoxic effects of these plaques. R R R

One way it does this is by increasing acetylcholine via acetylcholinesterase inhibition (AChEi) in the brain. R

Tianma can help against spinal cord inflammation. R R

For example, Gastrodia and Uncaria Decoction (GUD) is commonly used in TCM to effectively treat spinal cord injuries. R

In models of Parkinson’s Disease (PD), gastrodin significantly and dose-dependently protects dopaminergic neurons against neurotoxicity to prevent dopamine depletion in the brain. R

Vanillin (from tianma) also protects dopaminergic cells against cell death and oxidative stress. R

Tianma can also help with huntingtin aggregation in Huntington’s Disease (HD). R

Tianma also protects the brain from aluminum and lead exposure. R R R

3. Improves Cognition

Gastrodin can reduce inflammation in the hippocampus and help increase its size. R R  

Tianma increases brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). R R R R

Gastrodin (enhanced when combined with electroacupuncture) is able to decrease the expression of Nogo-AR

Chronic tianma use may improve learning and memory in rats with memory impairment. R

4. May Help With Epilepsy

Gastrodin can protect against seizures and excitotoxicity in the brain by reducing extracellular glutamate levels. R R R

5. Protects The Heart and Vascular System



Gastrodin may protect the heart against myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury (MIRI). R

Tianma has a protective effect on stroke and heart attacks by helping keep normal blood flow in the body. R

For example, tianma has been used in TCM for dizziness, anemia, low blood pressure, and palpitations. R

Tianma can also reduce high blood pressure and improve serum lipid levels. R R R

Tianma may also help protect against damage to the kidneys caused by high blood pressure. R

Gastrodin is effective at protecting cognitive deficits in those with vascular dementia. R

Tianma may protect the heart muscle against scarring as well. R

It may also protect the cardiovascular system in testosterone deficiency. R 

By regulating blood flow, gastrodin can help with migraines and headaches. R R R R R

Gastrodin and polysaccharide 2-1 have anticoagulant activities, inhibiting the formation of clots and decreasing the risk of thrombosis. R R

6. Protects The Liver

Gastrodin can reduce inflammation in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). R R

It is also able to reduce scarring of the liver and biliary tract, as well as reduce triglyceride levels, fasting glucose, and liver enzymes. R R

4-HBA and vanillin from tianma can reduce insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, hypertension. R R R

Tianma also potentiates leptin signaling and helps protect against weight gain. R

7. Helps With Pain



Gastrodin can help with chronic inflammatory pain and pain originating from:

  • Spontaneous (in the absence of a stimulus) R
  • Temperature R
  • Touch R

Gastrodin also helps with diabetes-related neuropathic pain. R

Gastrodin may also be effective at treating peripheral nerve injuries. R

8. May Help with Depression

In animal models of depression, gastrodin was able to improve symptoms such as anhedonia, despair, slow movement, and poor spatial memory. R

In models of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), gastrodin is able to produce anti-depressant effects. R

Gastrodin may also help balance neurotransmitters by decreasing the metabolism dopamine and serotonin of in the brain. R

9. May Help With Anxiety

By antagonizing the 5ht1a receptor, tianma may help with schizophrenia. R

The glycosides in tianma can also help regulate GABA levels by decreasing the breakdown of GABA. R

4-HA and 4-HBA in tianma both significantly produce anti-anxiety effects. R

10. May Help With Insomnia



Gastrodin and 4-hydroxybenzenemethanol can produce strong sedative and hypnotic effects. R

N6-(3-methoxyl-4-hydroxybenzyl) adenine riboside (B2) can decrease sleep latency, prolong NREM sleep, and shorten wakefulness. R R

11. Helps With Digestion

Gastrodin may help heartburn by blocking the enzyme pepsin (which breaks down proteins in the stomach). R 

In mice with vertigo, Tianma could improve food intake. R

Also, in a decoction called Banxia Baizhu Tianma, it could help with blood flow associated with vertigo. R

12. Protects Against Pathogens

Tianma has many protective qualities against:

  • Dengue Fever (WGEW and AGEW) R
  • Meloidogyne incognita R
  • Phytophthora nicotianae R
  • Ralstonia solanacearum R
  • Rhizoctonia solani R
  • Tetanus R

13. Protects The Eyes And Ears

Tianma can be used to treat tinnitus. R R

It can also be used to improve hearing and protect against hearing loss. R R

14. Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

The phenolic compounds in tianma have anti-inflammatory properties that inhibit COX activity (same pathway as non-steroidal inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs). R

15. Protects Against Cancer

Tianma can reduce cancer growth. R R

It can also help against cognitive deficit in brain cancer. R

16. May Help With Tourette’s Syndrome

By regulating dopamine, gastrodin may help reduce tics in Tourette’s Syndrome (TS). R R  

17. May Support Bone Health

Gastrodin can inhibit inflammation in bones and may be a useful treatment for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. R

Gastrodin may also prevent bone erosion and improve stem cells in bones. R

Gastrodin can also prevent steroid-induced damage to the hip bones. R

18. Protects The Lungs

By activating NRF2 and HO-1, gastrodin can protect the lungs against bacterial inflammation. R

Also, 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzyl alcohol and 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzoic acid (2 extracted components in tianma) have anti-asthmatic properties. R

My Experience With Tianma And Gastrodin

With tianma, I experience:

  • Increased happiness and calmness
  • Less brain fog

With gastrodin, I experience:

  • Better reasoning abilities
  • Better overall energy levels (less highs and lows)
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Increased sleep length 
  • Suppressed hunger (if taken on empty stomach in morning)

Where To Get Tianma And Gastrodin



Tianma can be found in forms of injection, liquid, granule, pill and capsule. R

Getting it as a liquid extract (or the one above) should have more general effects, while gastrodin alone has it’s own specific effects on anxiety and cognition. R

Sustained-release gastrodin should be easier on the stomach, if you have gastric problems from it. R

Other sources of gastrodin:

  • E. Coli R
  • Galeola faberi (Vanilloideae) R
  • Shuan-Tong-Ling R

Other sources of 4-HBA:

Other sources of vanillin:

Tianma combines well with:


Gastrodin inhibits pepsin so taking it with digestive enzymes may counteract those problems. R

As an anticoagulant, tianma may theoretically interact with other blood thinners. R

Taking gastrodin with Tiangou Jiangya may inhibit its absorption. R

The half-life of tianma is around 4–5.5 hours. R

Mechanism Of Action


  • Increases Acetylcholine R
  • Increases ADH7 R
  • Increases AMPK R
  • Increases Anxa2 R
  • Increases Bcl-2 R
  • Increases BDNF R
  • Increases Clic4 R
  • Increases DA R
  • Increases Dbnl R
  • Increases DOPAC R
  • Increases Fbln5 R
  • Increases GABA R R
  • Increases GCLM R
  • Increases GDNF R
  • Increases GPX2 R
  • Increases GPX3 R
  • Increases GSH R
  • Increases HDL R
  • Increases HO-1 R
  • Increases MAPK R R
  • Increases Mki67 R
  • Increases Mobkl3 R
  • Increases NFE2L2 R
  • Increases NPY R
  • Increases NQO1 R
  • Increases NRF2 R
  • Increases Nxn R
  • Increases PC1 R
  • Increases PDI R.
  • Increases PI3K R
  • Increases PPARγ R
  • Increases SOD R R
  • Increases TH R R
  • Increases VEGF R
  • Increases 5HIAA R
  • Increases 5HT R
  • Reduces ACE R
  • Reduces AChE R
  • Reduces Acta2 R
  • Reduces Ang II R
  • Reduces ALD R
  • Reduces ALT R
  • Reduces AST R
  • Reduces AT1R R
  • Reduces Bax R
  • Reduces BACE1 R
  • Reduces Calr R
  • Reduces Canx R
  • Reduces Caspase 3 R
  • Reduces COX-2 R
  • Reduces Cx43 R
  • Reduces Hsp70 and Hsp90 R
  • Reduces IL-1b R
  • Reduces IL-6 R
  • Reduces MAO-A R
  • Reduces MDA R
  • Reduces MMP1 R
  • Reduces NE R
  • Reduces NFATc1 R
  • Reduces NMDA R
  • Reduces NO R
  • Reduces Nogo-A R
  • Reduces Orai1 R
  • Reduces Pdia3 R
  • Reduces PKR/eIF2α R
  • Reduces Rak1 R
  • Reduces ROS R
  • Reduces Skp1a R
  • Reduces STIM1 R
  • Reduces TNF-a R




  • Tianma has over 81 bioactive components (phenolics, polysaccharides, sterols and organic acids, etc) and the major studied components are phenolics (0.0485%), polysaccharides (21.6%), flavonoids (0.235%), amino acids (1.92%), Gastrodin (0.240%), β-sitosterol (0.113%), and 77.8% not determined. R
  • In the heart, gastrodin pretreatment can alleviate ischemia-reperfusion injury, reduce or inhibit extracellular Ca2+ influx (via SERCA and PLB protein expression regulation), decrease inflammation factor TNF-a and IL-6 release, prevent arrhythmias during ischemia reperfusion, and increase the scavenging ability of free radicals. R
  • Gastrodin improves blood pressure by inhibiting angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), angiotensin II (Ang II), aldosterone (ALD), plasma membrane receptor AT1 (AT1R). R
  • In the liver, gastrodin activates the AMPK/Nrf2 pathway decreasing reactive oxygen species (ROS) and malondialdehyde (MDA), but increasing superoxide dismutase (SOD). R
  • In microglial cells activated by lipopolysaccharides (LPS), gastrodin reduces  iNOS, COX-2, TNF-α, IL-1β and NF-κB. R
  • In models of pain, GAS has been shown to inhibit ASIC channels in DRG neurons. R
  • It works independently of opioid receptors and inhibits spinal c-Fos expression induced by inflammation, and spinal synaptic potentiation and neuronal hyperexcitability (mediated by ASIC channels). R
  • In the brain, gastrodin can N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) excitotoxicity in CA3 hippocampal cells, as well as abolish hypoxia-, glutamate- and NMDA receptor-induced toxicity. R
  • Vanillin, 4-hydroxybenzyl aldehyde (4-HBAL) and 4-HBA can also reduce calcium-induced neuronal death, a common problem seen in epilepsy. R
  • 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde (4-HBA), an active component of Tianma, has anti-oxidative effects and modulates GABA, which contributes to its anti-epileptic and anti-convulsive activity. R
  • Gastrodin also increases GABA in the hippocampus. R
  • Tianma can regulate the activator protein 1 (AP-1) expression, modulating neuronal plasticity and apoptosis, via the JNK signaling pathway in KA-induced epilepsy. R
  • Also in the hippocampus, gastrodin reduces norepinephrine (NE) and tyrosine hydroxylase in the locus coeruleus, as well as increasing neuropeptide Y (NPY) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hypothalamus. R
  • It also reduces long term potentiaion (LTP), PPF, and I/O. R
  • By downregulating Slit1 and RhoA and upregulating CRMP2 and PFN1, gastrodin can decrease the metabolism of serotonin (5-HT) to 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) in the hippocampus and dopamine (DA) to 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid (HVA) ratios in the frontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus. R
  • It also suppresses BACE1 expression by inhibiting the protein kinase/Eukaryotic initiation factor-2α (PKR/eIF2α) pathway. R
  • Tianma can prevent mutant huntingtin aggregations in PC12 cells in a model of Huntington’s disease (HD) and was demonstrated to increase proteasomal activity by targeting the A2A-R through protein kinase A (PKA)-dependent pathway. R
  • In depression models, gastrodin downregulates the Slit-Robo pathway. R
  • In epileptic brains, gastrodin inhibits Nav1.6 sodium currents in the temporal lobe. R
  • Gastrodia possesses inhibitory activity on GABA transaminase which degrades GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid). R
  • Parishin C has high affinity with 5-HT1A receptor as a 5-HT1A-agonist. R
  • Bis (4-hydroxybenzyl) sulfide (BIS) and NHBA have the ability to bind the adenosine A2Areceptor (A2A-R) gene that is highly expressed in GABA striopallidal neurons. R
  • N 6 -(4-hydroxybenzyl) adenine riboside (NHBA) activates adenosine A1/A2A receptors and stimulates to the sleep center in the ventrolateral preoptic area (VLPO). R
  • P-hydroxybenzyl alcohol (p-HBA) protects the brain by protein disulphide isomerase (PDI). R
  • In parkinsons, gastrodin downregulating connexin 43 (Cx43). R 
  • In microglia, 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde-COS (HB-COS) reduces ROS and DNA oxidation against H2O2. R
  • Gastrodin antifungal proteins (GAFPs, also known as gastrodianins) is a monocot mannose-binding lectin isolated from the cortex of the terminal corm of G. elata show a strong fungistatic activity against a broad spectrum of fungi. R R
  • Tianma can suppress the endothelial extracellular matrix degradation induced by tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and decrease TNF-α-induced increase of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2/-9 activities. R
  • C-4 hydroxy and C-3 methoxy radicals of benzyl aldehyde play an important role in anti-inflammatory effects. R
  • G. elata was found to inhibit NO production in vivo and in vitro as well as the mRNA expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) R
  • It could also suppress TNF-α-induced vascular inflammatory process via inhibition of oxidative stress and NF-κB activation. R
  • In the heart, gastrodin reduces coll
    agen synthesis and suppresses of store-operated Ca2+ entry (SOCE) by reducing the expression of STIM1 and Orai1, and helps with cardiac hypertrophy. R R
  • But in the skin, gastrodin can enhance collagen synthesis (PC1). R
  • In the gut, gastrodin inhibits the activity of acid-sensing ion channels in primary sensory neurons. R

More Research

  • Tianma grows symbiotically with other fungi (mycenna spp. and armillaria mellea) and gastrodin helps the vegetative propagation corms to turbers. R