English: Amomum fruits

Chinese: 砂仁

Parts used: Dried ripe fruit

TCM category: Aromatic herbs that transform Dampness

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Kidney Spleen Stomach

Scientific name: Amomum villosum

Other names: Black Cardamom, Villous amomum

Use of Sha Ren (amomum fruits) 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

Dosage: 3-6g

Main actions according to TCM*: Warms the Spleen and transforms Dampness. Promotes the movement of Qi for Damp and Stagnant conditions of the Stomach and Spleen. Settles a restless fetus and stops morning sickness. Prevents cloying and Stagnation sometimes caused by tonifying herbs.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Sha Ren may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Dysentery Abdominal pain Vomiting Diarrhea Anorexia Miscarriage Dysphagia Morning sickness

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Yin Deficiency when there are Heat signs.

Common TCM formulas in which Sha Ren is used*

Ge Hua Jie Cheng San

Source date: 13th century

Number of ingredients: 13 herbs

Formula key actions: Separates and reduces alcohol-dampness. Warms the Middle. Strengthens the Spleen .

Conditions targeted*: HangoversAlcoholism and others

Sha Ren is a deputy ingredient in Ge Hua Jie Cheng San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Ge Hua Jie Cheng San, Sha Ren warm the Middle Burner, strengthen the Spleen, harmonize the Stomach and invigorate Qi. Thus, the Spleen gains control over the accumulation of Dampness

Read more about Ge Hua Jie Cheng San

Shen Ling Bai Zhu San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Augments the Qi. Strengthens the Spleen. Leaches out Dampness. Stops diarrhea.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic gastritisEnteritis and others

Sha Ren is an assistant ingredient in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, Sha Ren transforms Dampness and promotes the movement of Qi so the formula can tonify without causing Stagnation.

Read more about Shen Ling Bai Zhu San

Dan Shen Yin

Source date: 1801 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates the Blood and removes Blood Stagnation . Promote Qi movement . Relieves pain .

Conditions targeted*: Angina pectorisHepatitis and others

Sha Ren is an assistant ingredient in Dan Shen Yin. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Dan Shen Yin, Sha Ren promotes the Qi movement, relaxes the Middle Burner, disperses the stifling sensation of constraint in the chest, and relieves pain.

Read more about Dan Shen Yin

He Che Da Zao Wan

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies the Kidneys. Strengthens the Directing and Penetrating Vessels. Regulates the periods.

In He Che Da Zao Wan, Sha Ren resolves Dampness

Read more about He Che Da Zao Wan

Wu Yao Tang

Source date: 1336 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Pacifies the Liver. Moves Qi. Stops pain. Nourishes Liver Blood. Eliminates Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease and others

In Wu Yao Tang, Sha Ren is acrid, warm and aromatic. It promotes the movement of Qi and transforms Dampness. It focuses on the Qi dynamic of the Middle Burner, the Spleen and the Stomach, because of its focal role in the ascent and descent of Qi. 

Together with Mu Xiang, it reduces distention and alleviates pain while also strengthening the Spleen.

Read more about Wu Yao Tang

Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1675 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Spleen and Stomach Qi. Removes Dampness. Moves Qi. Alleviates pain.

In Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang, Sha Ren moves Qi, stops nausea. and eliminates Stagnation in the epigastrium.

Read more about Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang

Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan

Source date: 1587 AD

Number of ingredients: 13 herbs

Formula key actions: Strengthens and harmonizes the Spleen and Stomach. Resolves Dampness.

Conditions targeted*: Poor appetiteLoss of taste and others

In Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan, Sha Ren circulates Qi in the Middle Burner, as well as remove Dampness. It also warms the Middle and stops pain. 

Read more about Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan

Key TCM concepts behind Sha Ren's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Sha Ren belongs to the 'Aromatic herbs that transform Dampness' category. This category of herbs resolves a TCM condition called 'Cold Damp Stagnation', especially as it affects the Stomach and Spleen. In modern medicine this often translates into symptoms such as distended chest and abdomen, lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting

As suggested by its category Sha Ren is Warm in nature. This means that Sha Ren tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition Sha Ren can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Sha Ren also tastes Pungent. 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. Pungent ingredients like Sha Ren tends to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Sha Ren is thought to target the Kidney, the Spleen and the Stomach. According to TCM, the Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. The Spleen on the other hand assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine.

Research on Sha Ren

Bornyl acetate, the main ingredient of Amomum villosum volatile oil, shows analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.1


1. X Wu, X Li, F Xiao, Z Zhang et al. (2004). "Studies on the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect of bornyl acetate in volatile oil from Amomum villosum". europepmc.org

Use of Sha Ren as food

Sha Ren is also eaten as food.