Nature: sour, neutral
Enters: Liver, Spleen, Lung, Large Intestine
Actions: Astringes Lung Qi; astringes the large intestine; stops coughing and diarrhea; generates body fluids, eases thirst; calms roundworms; stops bleeding.
• Lung Qi deficiency: chronic cough.
• Chronic diarrhea, chronic dysentery, blood in the stool.
• Yin deficiency (or Qi deficiency) heat: thirst, wasting and thirsting disorder.
• Roundworms (also for hookworms): epigastric and abdominal pain, vomiting (must purge the patient after calming the worms with Wu mei).
• Occasionally used for abdominal pain and vomiting without parasites.
• Bleeding: uterine, fecal (especially when there are accompanying symptoms of blood deficiency including dryness, thirst, parched mouth).
• Topical (as a paste made by powdering and mixing with vinegar, or in plaster form): protruding lumps on the skin – warts, corns, etc.
• Bensky/Gamble: soften the growth in hot water, remove it, then apply the herb, cover with gauze, and change every 24 hours.
• Bacillary dysentery.
• Stimulates production of bile and contraction of bile duct.
• Partially char when using to stop bleeding.
Dr. Wei Li (Portland, Oregon) gives in large dose for recalcitrant skin disease, such as eczema (20-100g).
Hong-Yen Hsu (Oriental Materia Medica): Pronounced antibacterial effect, antifungal, anti-allergic effect.
Bob Flaws: Mume is a plum picked green in the fifth month. It is then preserved by drying over a slow-baking fire for several days. In Japan, umeboshi is made from this same plum which is pickled with salt and Perilla leaves (called chiso in Japanese). According to Michio Kushi, a leading proponent of Japanese macrobiotics, umeboshi plums “neutralize an acidic condition and relive intestinal problems, including those caused by microorganisms.” Another Macrobiotic teacher, Naburo Muramoto, says: “As medicine the umeboshi plum works miracles. Stomach aches, stomach cramps, migraines, certain types of headaches, and acidity are some of the minor pains these plums can relieve. They also counteract fatigue and act as a preventive against dysentery.”
Wu Mei Wan with additions and subtractions can be used for women with severe dysmenorrhea in turn due to endometriosis with a pattern of damp heat stasis and stagnation, spleen qi deficiency, and even a bit of yang deficiency.
In modern Chinese medicine, Mume has three main uses. First, it astringes the intestines and stops diarrhea. Secondly, it expels worms or parasites. And third, it engenders fluids. However, the Shen Nong Ben Cao says that Mume “precipitates or descends the qi, eliminates heat and vexatious fullness, quiets the heart, relieves pain in the limbs, treats hemilateral withering, insensitivity, and dead muscles, and removes green-blue and black moles and malign diseases.” Likewise, the Ri Hua Zi Ben Cao says Mume “eliminates taxation [read: deficiency]…and treats one-sided withering of the skin with numbness and impediment.” Pain in the limbs, one-sided withering, insensitivity, and dead muscles might certainly be describing an autoimmune condition like MS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). And the Ben Cao Tu Jing says Mume “rules … vacuity taxation emaciation and skinniness” which might also describe certain autoimmune and immune deficiency diseases. Vexatious fullness suggests liver depression qi stagnation, the necessity of precipitating the qi suggests upward counterflow, eliminating heat suggests depressive heat, and quieting the heart, when read together with the other symptoms, suggests yin fire disturbing the heart spirit. Li Dong-yuan did sometimes use Mume in his yin fire formulas. Green-blue and black moles suggest blood stasis, while malign diseases means both injurious diseases and also suggests blood stasis, since static blood is also called malign blood.
Heiner Fruehauf says that a number of medicinals are specifically quieting to the spirit in gu zheng cases. He then goes on to list a number of yin-enriching, fluid-engendering medicinals, such as Radix Glehniae Littoralis (Bei Sha Shen), Bulbus Lilii (Bai He), and Rhizoma Polygonati (Huang Jing). Fructus Pruni Mume likewise engenders fluids. It is also the best known of the commonly used Chinese medicinals for treating worms or parasites. Although Fruehauf does not mention Mume being described in the Chinese gu zheng literature as a typical anti-gu medicinal. I believe it should be. In addition, I think the combination of Mume and Perilla is a very effective one in clinical practice. One can add Mume to anti-gu formulas containing Perilla and/or eat Japanese umeboshi plums as a condiment in their diet. (Perilla, by the way, can also be grown as a self-reseeding garden herb and eaten as a salad green.)
See also BF’s commentary on Zi su ye, where he discusses the use of Mume in combination with dispersing herbs to prevent depletion.