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Amomum fruits

Chinese: 砂仁

Pinyin: Shā Rén

Parts used: Dried ripe fruit

TCM category: Aromatic herbs that transform Dampness

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach Kidney

Scientific name: Amomum villosum

Other names: Black Cardamom, Villous amomum

Use of amomum fruits (Sha Ren) 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 amomum fruits 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 amomum fruits (Sha Ren) are used*

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

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

Key TCM concepts behind amomum fruits (Sha Ren)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), amomum fruits are plants that belong 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 amomum fruits are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that amomum fruits tend 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 amomum fruits can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Amomum fruits also taste 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 amomum fruits tend 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 amomum fruits are thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach and the Kidney. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Stomach on the other hand is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. 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.

Research on amomum fruits (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 amomum fruits (Sha Ren) as food

Amomum fruits are also eaten as food.