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)