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HoloSapiens - the TCM "Food as Medicine" Project


Introduction to the disharmony


Major symptoms:

  • excessive sweating
  • excessive urination
  • severe or chronic diarrhea


  • Kidney Yang deficiency symptoms - excessive urination, loose stools, edema, clear vaginal discharge in women


The herbs in this class address disorders in which body fluids are discharged abnormally, chronically or excessively. Excessive bleeding, sweating, urinating, or chronic diarrhea are all examples of such disorders. Most commonly excess discharge of body fluids is caused when there is not enough energy in a certain organ or in the whole body. One of the functions of Qi is to hold things in place. Chronic or severe Qi deficiency will manifest in body fluids leakage and also prolapse (of the uterus or the rectum).


Another cause for abnormally discharged fluids is deficient Yang. Every body organ has Yin and Yang aspects. Yin is the structural/substance aspect of the organ while Yang is the warming faculty that makes this structure function. When the warming principle diminishes (due to long term sickness, old age, etc.) the organ becomes “cold” and lethargic and body fluids leakage starts. Kidney Yang deficiency manifests in excessive urination, loose stools, edema and clear vaginal discharge in women.


Improper use if purgatives can also lead to excessive body fluids discharge.


The herbs in this class are mostly sour and astringent. Yet they are the type of herbs that address the manifestation of the condition rather than it’s cause. Therefore they should be combined with tonifying herbs to address the root of the disharmony as well. (1)


Major Chinese herbs


A major astringent herb in Chinese medicine is Shan Zhu Yu (Cornus officinalis) – Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit, or cornus. It preserves Kidney Essence, and astringes excessive sweating and bleeding (uterine bleeding or excessive menstrual bleeding). It enters the Kidney and Liver channels and tonifies Kidney Essence and Liver Yang.


Wu WeiZi


Wu Wei Zi (Schisandra chinesis) is another major astringent herb. It enters the Heart channel, relaxes the Heart and quiets the spirit. It can be used for irritability, heart palpitations, poor sleep. It both inhibits sweating and generates fluids, it enters the Kidney and retains Kidney Essence. Maybe the most famous usage of Wu Wei Zi is for its ability to withhold leakage of Lung Qi, manifesting in chronic cough and wheezing.


There is a story about a man who suffered from tuberculosis so everyone in his village wanted to get rid of him. Finally his parents, left without a choice, send him to live in a cave up in the mountains. After some time the man became so weak and lost so much weight that he didn’t have the strength to go and collect food anymore. One day a hunter came by the cave and feeling sorry for the sick man went to pick some fruit for him to eat. He picked a big amount of that fruit and it lasted for 10 days. Eating the fruit  the man gradually started feeling better and regained his lost weight. In a few months  he fully recovered from the tuberculosis and returned to the village. The fruit he was eating was Wu Wei Zi. (2)


As the herbs with astringent quality are abundant we will arrange them based on their additional qualities. Herbs that inhibit the leakage of Lung Qi and stop cough are Wu Mei (Fructus mume) – mume fruit or “dark plum”, He zi (Terminalia chebula) – myrobalan fruit, Ying Su Ke (Papaver somniferum) – opium poppy husk, Wu Bei Zi (Rhus chinesis) – gallnut of Chinese sumac. Herbs that stabilize the Intestines and stop diarrhea are Wu Mei, Wu Bei Zi, He Zi, Ying Su Ke, Chi Shi Zhi, Rou Dou Kou (Myristica fragrans) – nutmeg seeds, Shi Liu Pi (Punica granatum) – pomegranate husk, Chun Pi (Ailanthus altissima) – root bark of ailanthus, Yu Liang Shi – limonite, Jin Ying Zi (Rosa laevigata) – Cherokee rosehip. Herbs that are used topically are Wu Mei – for corns and warts, Chi Shi Zhi – promotes healing of wounds, Shi Liu Pi – topically used for ringworm, Wu Bei Zi – topically for healing scar tissues, Chun Pi – used externally for pruritic tinea-like rashes. Herbs that stabilize the Kidneys and bind the Essence (for symptoms like nocturnal emission, premature ejaculation, spermatorrhea, vaginal discharge, urinary frequency) are Shi Liu Pi, Lian Zi, Qian Shi, Jin Yin Zi, Fu Pen Zi (Rubus chingii) – Chinese raspberry, Hai Piao Xiao (Sepia esculenta) – cuttlefish bone, Sang Piao Xiao (Paratenodera sinesis) – mantis. Herbs that astringe the blood and stop bleeding are – Wu Mei, Chi Shi Zhi, Yu Liang Shi, Hai Piao Xiao. Herbs that stop sweating are Fu Xiao Mai, Ma Huang Gen, and Nuo Dao Gen Xu (Oryza sativa) – glutinous rice root. (1)


Healing foods


Foods with healing effect on abnormally discharged fluids are foods with astringent quality or sour taste.


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(1) Benski, Dan & Gamble, Andrew (1993). Materia Medica, Revised Edition. Seatle: Eastland Press, Incorporated

(2) Lu, Henry (2005). Chinese Natural Cures. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.

(3) Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books

(4) Holmes, Peter (1998). The Energetics of Western Herbs. Boulder: Snow Lotus Press, Inc.


Related Articles:

Deficiency of Spleen Qi

Deficiency of Lung Qi

Deficiency of Kidney Qi

Deficiency of Kidney Yang



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