English: Black sesame seeds

Chinese: 黑芝麻

Parts used: Dried seeds

TCM category: Laxative herbs that drain downward

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Kidney Liver

Scientific name: Sesamum indicum

Use of Hei Zhi Ma ( black sesame seeds) 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: Harvest the plants in autumn. Take the seeds, remove the impurities and dry them.

Dosage: 9 - 30 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Nourishes the Liver and Kidney Yin. Nourishes Blood. Lubricates the Intestines.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Hei Zhi Ma may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Impaired vision Tinnitus Dizziness Premature graying Constipation Hair loss

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with diarrhea.

Common TCM formulas in which Hei Zhi Ma is used*

Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang

Source date: 1658 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears dryness. Moistens the Lungs.

Conditions targeted*: InfluenzaAcute bronchitis and others

Hei Zhi Ma is an assistant ingredient in Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang, Hei Zhi Ma moistens the Lungs and nourish the Lung Yin. It harmonizes the Heat-clearing and Lung Qi-disseminating actions of the other ingredients with a moistening action.

Read more about Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang

Xiao Feng San

Source date: 1617 AD

Number of ingredients: 13 herbs

Formula key actions: Disperses Wind. Eliminates Dampness. Clears Heat. Cools the Blood.

Conditions targeted*: UrticariaEczema and others

Hei Zhi Ma is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Feng San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Xiao Feng San, Hei Zhi Ma nourishes the Blood and moistens. All assistant herbs help the Blood as a means of extinguishing the Wind.

Read more about Xiao Feng San

Key TCM concepts behind Hei Zhi Ma's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Hei Zhi Ma belongs to the 'Laxative herbs that drain downward' category. The herbs in this category are those whose main purpose is to treat constipation. They're called 'laxative' because they're often rich in oils. This allows them to lubricate the Intestines in order to help it remove the stools from the body.

Furthermore Hei Zhi Ma is Neutral in nature. This means that Hei Zhi Ma typically doesn't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang Excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin Excess. The Neutral nature of Hei Zhi Ma means that you don't have to worry about that!

Hei Zhi Ma also tastes Sweet. 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. Sweet ingredients like Hei Zhi Ma tends to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Hei Zhi Ma is thought to target the Kidney and the Liver. 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 Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on Hei Zhi Ma

Sesame consumption produces reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.1

Studies on sesame seeds report a reduction of oxidative stress markers and lipid peroxidation.2


1. Khosravi-Boroujeni H, Nikbakht E, Natanelov E, Khalesi S (2017). "Can sesame consumption improve blood pressure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials". Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 97 (10): 3087–3094. doi:10.1002/jsfa.8361.

2. Gouveia Lde A, Cardoso CA, de Oliveira GM, Rosa G, Moreira AS (2016). "Effects of the Intake of Sesame Seeds (Sesamum indicum L.) and Derivatives on Oxidative Stress: A Systematic Review". Journal of Medicinal Food. 19 (4): 337–345. doi:10.1089/jmf.2015.0075.

Use of Hei Zhi Ma as food

Hei Zhi Ma is also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Black Sesame Panna Cotta.