Notes on This Category

Commonly combined with:
• A. Herbs that promote Qi circulation.
• B. Herbs that warm the interior, when there is interior cold associated.
• C. Herbs that transform dampness, when there is dampness in the middle Jiao.
• D. Herbs that clear heat when there is heat associated. (Lian qiao is most commonly used.)
• E. Herbs that tonify the spleen and stomach when there is deficiency of either organ.

Gu Ya – Rice sprout – Oryza

Nature: sweet, neutral

Enters: Spleen, Stomach

Actions: Promotes digestion (mainly of starch); adjusts the middle Jiao; slightly tonifies the spleen and stomach; promotes the appetite.

• Food retention, including when due to spleen or stomach deficiency: indigestion – especially with accumulation of undigested starchy foods (contains amylase). Also appropriate in cases of hot food stagnation.
• Spleen or stomach deficiency: poor appetite, weak digestion.
• Will not damage stomach Qi – very safe.
• The raw form is mainly used to aid digestion.
• The dry-fried form is stronger at tonifying the stomach and spleen.
• This herb’s potency is greatly diminished by cooking or prolonged toasting. It is best taken powdered and added to a prepared decoction.

Dose: 9-15g

Ji Nei Jin – Chicken Gizzard Lining – “Chicken Inner Gold”

Nature: sweet, neutral

Enters: Spleen, Stomach, Small Intestine, Bladder

Actions: Slightly strengthens the spleen; promotes digestion; strongly eliminates food retention; controls Jing and urine; transforms hardness and dissolves stones.

• Food retention: malnutrition in children or distention of the epigastrium, poor appetite. Can be used alone in mild cases of food retention.
• Seminal emission, incontinence, enuresis, frequent urination. Especially for children.
• Stones in the urinary or biliary tract.
• Usually considered more effective when taken directly as a powder.
• Note: this herb is often heat treated before entering the United States (presumably due to concerns about bird flu or other contaminants). If the herb derives its potency in part from ventriculin and digestive enzymes, this heat treatment may damage these substances and reduce its efficacy. You could theoretically make your own from domestic chickens.
Hsu: Increases gastric secretions, promotes motor activity in the stomach, increases the rate of expelling air, stimulates the nerves and muscles of the GI tract.
DY: Frees strangury.
• With Hai jin sha to free strangury, transform stones, and, therefore, treat stone strangury. For stone strangury and urinary lithiasis due to damp-heat. This combination can be reinforced by combining it with Jin qian cao, Hua shi, Qu mai, and Che qian zi.
• With Mang xiao to strongly and effectively soften hardness, disperse accumulation, clear heat, and transform stones. For renal, urethral, or bladder lithiasis. Neither substance should be cooked. For greatest efficacy, the two herbs should be ground to a powder (6-10g Ji nei jin and 3-10g Mang xiao) and taken, 6g at a time, twice daily, dissolved in hot water.
SD: Jineijin is the inner lining of the chicken gizzard, which has a yellowish-gold color (ji = chicken; nei = inner; jin = gold). This substance has been in use for about 2,000 years, and was mentioned, along with other parts of the chicken also used medicinally, in the Shennong Bencao Jing (ca. 100 A.D.). At that time, jineijin was described as a treatment for diarrhea (1). Later, it developed a reputation for promoting digestion and astringing fluid discharge, which are therapeutic approaches used in the treatment of diarrhea, but these can also be applied to alleviating nausea, vomiting, and indigestion, as well as astringing excess urination, seminal emission, or leukorrhea. The claimed digestion promoting effect has been broadened to indicate that jineijin aids not only meat digestion, which was one of the early attributions, but also digestion of grains, and it is said to alleviate chronic digestive disorders, such as stomach ulcers, atrophic gastritis, and stomach prolapse. An additional property was attributed to jineijin: breaking down masses, being used for any kind of stagnation in the internal organs, for lower abdominal masses in women, for gallstones and kidney stones, and for tumors.
Its digestion-promoting activity has been the primary focus of its use in traditional Chinese medicine. As described by Yang Yifan (2); “Jineijin not only reduces the stagnation of meat, but also aids digestion of all other kinds of food. Its action in relieving food stagnation is quite strong and it is very effective in treating fullness in the stomach, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.” According to the famous physician Jaio Shude (3): “Jineijin primarily disperses food…used to fortify the spleen and open the stomach, disperse water and grain, and assist movement and transformation.” The Advanced Textbook on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology (4) notes that jineijin “is effective for treating dyspepsia, food stasis, and infantile malnutrition…for spleen dysfunction in transformation and transportation marked by loss of appetite.” In comparing jineijin with other substances used for promoting digestion, this text indicates that it has a “strong effect.”
The gizzard lining has trace amounts of digestive enzymes in it, but these cannot be a major source of the action of this substance. In our digestive process, there is a release of digestive juices with enzymes in quantities far higher than one would obtain from jineijin. The active component that has been isolated from the gizzard lining is called ventriculin. This substance was used in modern medicine during the early 20th century, at which time it was derived from hog stomachs. It had been primarily prescribed as a treatment of pernicious anemia, a condition which often resulted from poor absorption of vitamin B12, and for atrophic gastritis (also called chronic gastritis), one of the main causes of pernicious anemia in adults. Ventriculin was later replaced by other drugs.
Ventriculin was developed into a drug at the Simpson Memorial Institute for Medical Research, a center at the University of Michigan opened in 1926 and specifically created to identify a cure for pernicious anemia. At that time pernicious anemia had become a serious problem, with a particularly high rate in Michigan. The money to set up this center was donated in 1924 by a leader in the iron industry, Thomas Simpson, who suffered from this disease, which was incurable and deadly. Even before a director could be appointed, a treatment for pernicious anemia was identified in 1926 through research at other laboratories, for which the discoverers were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1934. That treatment involved consumption of massive quantities of liver extract.
Dr. Cyrus Sturgis was appointed as inaugural director of the Simpson Institute, and his research in 1929 led to the development of Ventriculin. This substance may have functioned by two mechanisms: providing a missing intrinsic factor secreted by the stomach lining that is needed for B12 absorption and stimulating secretion of gastric acid and digestive enzymes, such as pepsin, which help release essential nutrients from food, including vitamin B12. The University arranged with Parke-Davis, a Michigan company that had opened a factory in Detroit during the 1870s, to produce the drug. Later, it was determined that atrophic gastritis was primarily caused by H. pylori bacterial infection or an autoimmune disorder, leading to other approaches to therapy. In relation to the use of jineijin for digestive weakness, the potential for ventriculin to stimulate the secretion of gastric digestive substances is the main area of interest.
According to Chinese studies, as relayed in the summary book Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica (5), a large dose of jineijin could even affect people with normal digestion:
45-60 minutes following ingestion of the roasted jineijin powder (5 g) in healthy individuals, the gastric secretion was increased by 30-37% compared with the control group; two hours later the condition was normalized. The acidity of the gastric juice was also greatly increased. The free acid and total acid generally began to rise 1 hour after the medication, peaking in 1-2 hours; the condition was gradually restored to normal after 3 hours….The onset of the incremental effect on the digestive juices was slow, but the effect was prolonged. Gastric motility was also markedly increased as shown by the prolongation of peristalsis and accentuation of peristaltic waves, resulting in rapid emptying of the stomach. Since jineijin itself contains only a very small amount of pepsin and amylase, the increase of gastric secretion and motility following medication was believed to be due to stimulation of the gastric neuromuscular receptors as mediated by the humoral factor.
The research cited above was from 1963, and there have been few detailed studies since. According to a 1973 clinical report relayed in the same summary, it was noted that jineijin (usually as an ingredient in an herbal formula) “was especially suitable for dyspepsia and gastric discomfort due to insufficient digestive enzymes. It reduced abdominal distention, abnormal intestinal fermentation, halitosis, and mushy stool, etc.” In a 1975 report, one researcher considered that the mechanism of action was mainly due to increased gastric secretion promoted by ventriculin.
Although roasting is a common process for preparing jineijin, roasting likely damages some of the ventriculin, so using the raw material may be superior. The original purpose for roasting it was to enhance the treatment of diarrhea. Roasted herbs, with ginger and atractylodes as typical examples, are commonly used for that purpose. Roasting produces adsorption sites in carbon-based materials to bind up fluids, bacteria, and toxins; this is the same reason that activated charcoal is used for treatment of diarrhea. Roasting isn’t a required step for promoting secretion of digestive fluids.
The absence of significant amounts of digestive enzymes in jineijin is also the case with commonly used Chinese herbs employed for treating indigestion, such as crataegus, raphanus, atractylodes, and citrus. Sprouted barley (maiya) does contain some amylase (for breaking down starch). This is a heat-labile enzyme, so that decocting maiya reduces the amylase activity by one-third compared to using just the powdered herb; it is reduced by half again if the herb is roasted as is often done in China. A study conducted in 1964 (5) suggested that maiya “mildly promoted the secretion of gastric acid and pepsin in humans. Mild cases of indigestion could be treated with a decoction of 9-15 grams of the herb.” The fermented wheat or barley product called shen-chu (shenqu) also contains some protease and amylase derived from the yeast fermentation, and the situation is similar: a substantial dose in decoction form is needed to treat mild indigestion.
The potential benefits to having additional digestive enzymes-particularly at a higher level than available through Chinese herbs for treating cases of indigestion-is evident. Modern technology makes it possible to get a sufficient amount of these enzymes in a small volume, such as in a capsule or tablet. These substances can be obtained from fungal/yeast, plant, or animal sources and are then concentrated to varying extents. Enzyme supplements have become a popular method of therapy.

Dose: 3-9g (1.5-3g directly as powder)

Lai Fu Zi – Radish seed – Raphanus

Nature: acrid, sweet, (maybe bitter), neutral

Enters: Spleen, Stomach, Lung

Actions: Descends the Lung Qi; resolves phlegm; promotes digestion, eliminates food retention; slight function to promote bowel movement.

• Food retention: bloating, fullness, distended epigastrium and abdomen, belching with fetid odor, acid regurgitation, abdominal pain, or diarrhea with hesitant elimination.
• Food retention leading to dampness/phlegm in the Lungs: coughing, wheezing.
• Lung phlegm accumulation: cough with copious sputum.
• The raw form is used for food stagnation.
• The dry-fried form is used for productive coughs.
• The fried form is used for promoting bowel movement.
• Antimicrobial, antifungal properties.
• Reduces serum triglycerides.
• Compared to Su zi and Bai jie zi: All are capable of transforming phlegm, regulating the Qi, and alleviating wheezing. However, Bai jie zi warms the Lung Qi, Lai fu zi disperses the Lung Qi, and Su zi descends the Lung Qi.
JTCM: For abdominal distention after surgery: fry 200g Lai fu zi, grind to a powder, wrap in cloth or a tea bag, heat it, and apply it to the navel until the distention abates (can also apply a TDP lamp to keep the bag hot).
• For eczema and prevention of viral and fungal growths: fry the herb for 30 minutes, let it cool, grind it to a powder, mix it with vinegar, and apply it topically once a day.
PLB: For respiratory conditions with phlegm (allergies, asthma, etc.) which are exacerbated by food sensitivities.
Hsu: Antibacterial, antifungal, stomachic, expectorant.

Dose: 6-12g

Mai Ya – Barley sprout

Nature: sweet, neutral (warm if fried)

Enters: Spleen, Stomach, Liver

Actions: Promotes digestion (mainly of starch); mildly frees the flow of liver Qi; adjusts the middle Jiao; strengthens the stomach and spleen; inhibits lactation.

• Food retention: distended epigastrium and abdomen, poor appetite. Particularly useful for over-consumption of starch and for cold food stagnation. Also for poorly-digested milk in infants.
• To stop nursing or for stagnant milk with distending pain in the breasts, use a large dose (to 60g).
• Liver Qi stagnation: stifling sensation and distention in the epigastrium or costal region, belching, poor appetite.
• Spleen deficiency: weak digestion, poor appetite.
• Treats hepatitis, especially acute.
• When using herbs which strongly subdue the liver, add a small amount of Mai ya – a sprout which possesses the “springing-forth” nature of wood – so as not to insult the proud general – to let it still rise upward.
• The raw form is neutral, and is used mainly to reduce and guide out.
• The dry-fried form is warm, and is better at strengthening the spleen, improving the appetite, and inhibiting lactation.
• The powdered form is better for aiding in the digestion of grains.
Hsu: Slightly stimulates secretion of pepsin and gastric acid.
• Treats painful and swollen mammary glands and milk stagnation due to cessation of breast feeding.
MLT: For blocked lactation with distended breasts, take 25g raw sprouts and 25g fried, in decoction, each day.
BF: I have lots of experience using Mai Ya to stem lactation, both in China and the U.S. To achieve this effect, the med must be used in large doses (30-60g) and lightly stir-fried till aromatic. I have found this med to be very dependable for this effect, and there is quite a lot of published research on this med’s effect on PRL. I have used Mai Ya for women who had lost their babies during birthing, for women with galactorrhea due to hyperprolactinemia, and for women with galactorrhea-amenorrhea syndrome, and it has always worked.

Dose: 12-30g (6-15g directly as powder)

Shan Zha – Crataegus fruit – Hawthorn (C. pinnatifida or C. cuneata)

Nature: sour, sweet, slightly warm

Enters: Spleen, Stomach, Liver

Actions: Promotes blood circulation and dispels blood stasis and clumps; promotes digestion, eliminates food retention, digests fat. The partially charred form stops diarrhea (and is superior for moving blood).

• Food retention: distended epigastrium, abdominal pain, diarrhea. Particularly for over-consumption of meat or fatty foods.
• Blood stasis: abdominal pain (including post-partum), clumps, testicular pain and hernial disorders.
• Chronic diarrhea/dysentery: use the partially-charred form.
• Breast lumps: use the seeds.
• Hypertension; coronary artery disease; elevated serum cholesterol.
• Oddly, this herb has been shown to promote hair growth in this study.
• This herb’s combination of sweet and sour flavors give it the potential to nourish Yin.
• The herb is used commonly used raw for dispelling blood stasis and is dry-fried for food stagnation.
Li: Softens hardness: clots, etc.
Jin: Add to phlegm-resolving formulas to treat phlegm due to food sensitivity.
• For acne: pimples are deposits of oil (fat) and this herb helps digest fat (see Jin’s acne formula.
• For weight loss: digests fat.
MLT: Reduces hypertension, cholesterol, blood lipids; also for murmurs, enlarged heart.
Yoga: V-, P+; K+ (in excess)
• Not for Pitta-type (hot) heart conditions.
• Especially good for Vata heart conditions like nervous palpitations, or the heart problems of old age (the age of Vata) like cholesterol and arteriosclerosis.
Hsu: Increases secretion of digestive enzymes; antibacterial, vasodilator.

Dose: 9-15g (to 30g)

Western Hawthorne, C. oxycantha and many other species (in Western herbalism, the leaves and flowers are also often used):
K&R: Cardiac sedative, hypotensive, sympatholytic, febrifuge, diuretic and astringent, coronary dilator, chronotrope negative (strong), bathmotrope negative, antispasmodic.
• Fire and wood excess:
Fire: slows and reinforces the heart’s contractions, treats tachycardia, extrasystoles, arrhythmia, promotes vasodilation of the coronaries and treats sequela of infarctus, increases oxygen supply to the heart, stimulates venous walls (varices, varicose ulcer), diminishes arterial tension, treats arterial hypertension, can reverse arteriosclerosis; diuretic.
• Diminishes diarrhea from full heat in the small intestine, inhibits the sympathetic tonus.
• Precordial pain or oppression, dyspnea, rapid and weak heart contractions, cardiac hypertrophy, endocarditis.
• Also for such Fire yang symptoms as: vertigo, dizziness, anguish, insomnia, night terrors, enuresis, hot flashes of menopause.
Wood: disperses liver and gallbladder channels, calms sympathetic nervous system, calms sympathotonic spasms, CNS sedative.
• The flowers and berries are astringent – use in decoction for a sore throat.
• East Asian uses: for blood stasis, menstrual pain, postpartum lower abdominal pain, intestinal bleeding, lower abdominal distention.
• Increases stomach acidity to help digest meats and fats.
• Treats bacterial dysentery and chronic enteritis.
• Chinese research has shown that its flavones can alleviate myocardial ischemia. Its flavones also can reinforce the crosslinking of collagen that forms connective tissue, and can prevent the release of pro-inflammatory substances such as prostaglandins, leukotrienes and histamine, and thus prevent tissue destruction in inflammatory diseases of the soft tissues.
• Potentiates the action of barbiturates.
• Topical: for angina.
• Not for acute cardiac insufficiency (use Lily of the Valley [Convallaria] or Foxglove [Digitalis]) – Hawthorn should be taken over time to improve the functional tone of the myocardium and prevent arteriosclerosis.
• Contraindicated for stomach ulcers with hyperacidity.
BII: Beneficial in: atherosclerosis, cardiac arrhythmia, CHF, hypertention, peripheral vascular disease, vascular fragility.
• Reduces angina attacks, lowers blood pressure and serum cholesterol.
IBIS: (berries, flowers, leaves)
• Qualities: sweet, slightly bitter, cool, dry, astringent.
• Affinities: heart, arteries, blood.
• Actions: cardiotonic, myocardial trophorestorative; coronorary and peripheral vasodilator, anti-arrhythmic, antioxidant, hypocholesterolemic, hypotensive, positive inotrope.
• Tincture (flowers & leaves) : 1 – 2 ml T.I.D.
• Tincture (berries) : 2 – 4 ml. T.I.D.
• (Preparations may vary, some are 50/50 Flower/Berries.)
• Dried herb : Infusion (flowers & leaves) Decoction (berries) Two teaspoons per cup (30gm/500ml) One cup T.I.D.
• Powdered dried herb : 500 – 1000 mg T.I.D.
• Standardized Extract : 100-250mg T.I.D. (Standardized to 1.8% vitexin or 10% total flavonoids as hyperoside)
• Therapy: coronary artery disease; angina pectoris; myocardial hypoxemia; Cardiac insufficiency (NYHA Stage I and II), arrhythmias; senile degeneration of the heart and atherosclerosis; post-infectious weakening of myocardium (Weiss pp. 164-65); paroxysmal tachycardia; Buerger’s disease, (British Herbal Pharmacopoeia), synergist to reduce dosage of cardiac glycoside herbs (or drugs).
• Specific indications: hypertension with myocardial weakness, angina pectoris (British Herbal Pharmacopoeia).
• Cardioactivity: It is established that Crataegus oligomeric procyanidins and flavonoids increase myocardial and coronary blood flow, that it is positively inotropic and and hypotensive, but the mechanism of action is unclear. Crataegus flavonoids inhibit cAMP Phosphodiesterase, and myocardial Na+/K+ ATP’ase. The same compounds exhibit high antioxidant free radical scavenging activity, and are hypolipidemic via an action on hepatic LDL receptors and increased bile secretion. Crataegus also inhibits TXA2 (Thromboxane) formation, while stimulating prostacycline. Crataegus prolongs rather than reduces the myocardial refractory period, unlike most positive inotropes, hence reducing risk of arryhthymia. Animal studies have confirmed the abilty of Crataegus to lower blood pressure, increase myocardial perfusion, minimize ischemic damage (reduces post infarct LDH by 50%).(Literature Review see American Herbal Pharmacopoeia).
Clinical trials:
• Several controlled studies have been performed with Crataegus extracts and NYHA stage I and II cardiac insufficiency patients. Crataegus increased exercise tolerance, decreased systolic BP and heart rate (Schmidt 1994), decreased severity of symptoms subjectively as well as HR, BP (Leuchtgens, 1993). In another group (n=1476) Crataegus decreased symptom severity by 66%, and was associated with systolic drop of 10mm and diastolic drop pf 5mm average blood pressure. (Loew, 1996)
Drug interactions:
• Crataegus will synergize with the cardiac glycoside containing plants such as Convallaria, Digitalis, Strophanthus, Urginea, Apocynum, Asclepias etc., as well as the hypotensive alkaloids of Veratrum and Rauwolfia. Western clinical herbalists use Crataegus as an adjuvant to lower the dose of these more toxic herbs required for effective action.
• Crataegus potentiates the activity of cardiac glycosides including digitoxin, digoxin etc. Patients using these medications should be monitored by a herbalist or physician since the dose of pharmaceutical drug will need to be reduced during intercurrent therapy.
Joseph Coletto (OCOM): Extract of the berry (e.g. Scientific Botanicals’ solid extract) is both tasty and excellent for oral lesions and irritation (administer repeatedly and hold in the mouth).

Shen Qu – Medicated Leaven (Usually composed of 6 herbs) – “Divine Fermented Mass”

Nature: acrid, sweet, warm

Enters: Stomach, Spleen

Actions: Promotes digestion and eliminates food retention; harmonizes the stomach.

• Any type of food retention, including minerals, metals, bones: fullness, distention in the epigastrium and abdomen, poor appetite, borborygmus, diarrhea. Also appropriate for overindulgence in alcohol and starches.
• Especially effective for stomach cold with food stagnation.
• Can be dry-fried to enhance its effect on food stagnation.
• Added to pills that contain minerals to aid in their digestion and absorption.
• Bensky/Gamble: The ingredients vary – usually a fermented combination of wheat flour, bran, Qing hao, Xing ren, Cang er zi, Chi xiao dou. Liu: Wheat, Xing ren, Chi xiao dou, Qing hao, plus varying local herbs.
MLT: Rich in digestive enzymes.
• Also good for stomach flu.

Dose: 6-15g