English: Akebia stems

Chinese: 木通

Parts used: Dried stem

TCM category: Herbs that drain Dampness

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Organ affinity: Heart Lung Small intestine

Scientific name: Akebia quinata or Akebia trifoliata

Other names: Chocolate vine

Use of Mu Tong (akebia stems) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, soak in water, remove after soaking, slice and dry.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Encourages urination and clears Heat. Clears Heat and inflammation of the Heart. Promotes lactation. Moves and smoothes the flow of Blood. Used for painful obstruction associated with either Dampness, Blood Stagnation, Wind or Heat.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Mu Tong may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Urinary difficulties Urinary tract infection Edema Irritability Scanty urination Mouth ulcers Low milk supply Amenorrhea Joint pain Strangury

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used during pregnancy and should be used with caution with patients who have Yin Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which Mu Tong is used*

Dao Chi San

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears the Heart. Promotes urination.

Conditions targeted*: StomatitisOral thrush and others

Mu Tong is a king ingredient in Dao Chi San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Dao Chi San, Mu Tong clears Heat from the Heart Channel in the upper body, and clears Heat and promotes urination within the Small Intestine Channel below.

Read more about Dao Chi San

Ba Zheng San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and Fire. Promotes urination. Unblocks painful urinary dribbling.

Conditions targeted*: GlomerulonephritisCystitis and others

Mu Tong is a deputy ingredient in Ba Zheng San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Ba Zheng San, Mu Tong is bitter and cold. It is very effective in
clearing the Stagnation caused by Dampness. It also clears Heat and promotes urination. It assists the king ingredients in unblocking any painful urinary dribbling.

Read more about Ba Zheng San

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

Conditions targeted*: FurunclesPurulent otitis and others

Mu Tong is an assistant ingredient in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, Mu Tong works together with Plantain seeds (Che Qian Zi) and Water plantain (Ze Xie), other assistant herbs in this formula, to drain Heat from the Upper Burner and eliminate Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner by promoting urination.

This provides a pathway to drain Liver Fire. Because the Liver stores the Blood, Heat in the Liver Meridian can readily injure the Yin and Blood.

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Tong Ru Dan

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies the Qi and Blood. Removes Stagnation from the breast connecting Meridians.

Mu Tong is an assistant ingredient in Tong Ru Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Tong Ru Dan, Mu Tong removes Stagnation from the breast-connecting Meridians.

Read more about Tong Ru Dan

Dang Gui Si Ni Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Channels. Disperses Cold. Nourishes the Blood. Unblocks the Blood vessels.

Conditions targeted*: Vascular headacheRaynaud's disease and others

Mu Tong is an envoy ingredient in Dang Gui Si Ni Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Dang Gui Si Ni Tang, Mu Tong facilitates flows inside channels and vessels. It also balances the warming effect of other ingredients by removing any excessive Heat. This strengthens the actions of the other ingredients and focuses their effects on the channels and vessels. 

Read more about Dang Gui Si Ni Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Mu Tong's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Mu Tong belongs to the 'Herbs that drain Dampness' category. These herbs are typically diuretics, meaning that they promotes the increased production of urine in order to remove Dampness that has accumulated in the body. According to TCM Dampness accumulates first in the lower limbs, causing edema and impaired movement. From there, if unchecked, it can move upward and impair digestion and eventually the respiratory system.

Furthermore Mu Tong is Cold in nature. This means that Mu Tong typically helps people who have too much 'Heat' in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition Mu Tong can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Mu Tong also tastes Bitter. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like Mu Tong tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Mu Tong is thought to target the Heart, the Lung and the Small intestine. In addition to regulating Blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body. Like the Stomach, the Small Intestine has a digestive role, extracting the "pure" part of what we injest to the Spleen and the "impure" down to the Large Intestine.