Bitter oranges

Chinese: 枳壳

Pinyin: Zhǐ Ké

Parts used: Dried ripe fruit

TCM category: Herbs that regulate Qi

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterPungentSour

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomach

Scientific name: Citrus aurantium

Use of bitter oranges (Zhi Ke) 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, wash, cut and dry.

Dosage: 3 - 10 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: To regulate the flow of Qi, remove its stagnation, and alleviate distension.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which bitter oranges may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Chest pain Indigestion Phlegm Constipation Rectal prolapse Uterine prolapse

Contraindications*: Use with caution when pregnant

Key TCM concepts behind bitter oranges (Zhi Ke)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), bitter oranges are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that regulate Qi' category. Herbs in this category typically treat a TCM condition called 'Qi Stagnation'. Concretely it means that Qi is blocked in the body's Organs and Meridians, most typically the Stomach, Liver, and to a lesser extent, the Lungs. In modern medicine terms, Qi Stagnation often translates into psychological consequences such as depression, irritability or mood swings. It's also frequently associated with conditions such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopausal symptoms, the development of breast swellings as well as various digestive disorders.

Furthermore bitter oranges are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that bitter oranges 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 bitter oranges can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Bitter oranges also taste Bitter, Pungent and Sour. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like bitter oranges tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing heat, drying dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients 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. Lastly Sour ingredients help with digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such bitter oranges are thought to target the Spleen and the Stomach. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid 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.