Nature: bitter, slightly warm, slightly toxic
Enters: Lung, Large Intestine
Actions: Descends the Lung Qi, stops coughing, eases difficult breathing; moistens the large intestine, promotes bowel movement.
• Lung fails to descend its Qi: cough, difficulty breathing. Appropriately combined, this herb can be used for either hot or cold patterns. It is the especially useful for externally contracted dry coughs, and coughs which are accompanied by wheezing.
• Dryness of the large intestine: constipation
• Topical: grind to a powder and mix with water to form a paste. Apply locally for acne, dog bites, trichomonas vaginitis.
• Forms a cyanide compound (hydrocyanic acid) in the body: lethal dosage for adults is approximately 50-60 kernels, and in children about 10 kernels. Cooking it, removing the outer coating, and mixing it with sugar all reduce its toxicity. Overdose can be treated with administration of activated charcoal and syrup of ipecac [Cephaelis ipecacuanha]. The bark of the apricot tree and the cortex of its root have also been used traditionally as antidotes. Use cautiously with infants.
• The type most often used are the bitter kernels which grow in northern China, called “bitter apricots” – Ku xing ren – or “northern apricots” – Bei xing ren. Sometimes, especially in the treatment of dry or deficient coughs, the sweet apricots grown in southern China are used. These are called “sweet apricots” – Tian xing ren – or “southern apricots” – Nan xing ren.
DY: The slight toxicity of Xing ren is located in the superficial skin and the tip of the seed. The preparation of Dan xing ren (scalded apricot seed) by removing the tip and skin, considerably reduces the risk of toxicity.
• Tian/Nan xing ren (the sweet, southern type) is sometimes used – it is not toxic, and is favored for asthma and cough of the deficiency type and dry constipation.
• With Chuan bei mu to moisten while transforming phlegm, downbear the Qi, and stop cough. For indications such as:
– 1. Chronic cough and/or dry cough with little or no phlegm, difficultly expectorating, and dry throat due to Lung vacuity.
– 2. Relentless cough with expectoration of yellow phlegm due to external evils or an accumulation of phlegm-heat in the Lungs.
• With Jie geng to effectively regulate the Lungs’ function of dispersing and descending, to transform and disperse phlegm, stop cough, and calm asthma. For such indications as cough and/or asthma with chest oppression, profuse phlegm, sore throat, and aphonia due to an attack of external wind (wind-cold or wind-heat) that disturbs the diffusion and downbearing function of the Lungs.
– Both herbs have the function of dispersing and descending the Lung Qi, however, Jie geng mainly disperses while Xing ren mainly descends. Both herbs transform and disperse phlegm, however, Xing ren mainly transforms while Jie geng mainly disperses (promotes expectoration of) phlegm.
Hsu: Expectorant, antitussive, emollient, laxative.