Buddha's hands (Fó Shǒu) in Chinese medicine

Buddha's hands

Chinese: 佛手

Pinyin: Fó Shǒu

Parts used: Dried fruit

TCM category: Herbs that regulate Qi

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterPungentSour

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLiverLung

Scientific name: Citrus medica

Other names: Finger citron, Fingered citron

Use of buddha's hands (Fó Shǒu) 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 practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Cut into thin slices and dry at low temperatures

Dosage: 3-10g

Main actions according to TCM*: Regulates the flow of Qi in the Liver and Stomach, relieves pain, remove phlegm

Primary conditions or symptoms for which buddha's hands may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Chest pain Loss of appetite Vomiting Abdominal pain Coughing

Key TCM concepts behind buddha's hands' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), buddha's hands 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 buddha's hands are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that buddha's hands 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 buddha's hands can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Buddha's hands 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 buddha's hands 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 buddha's hands are thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach, the Liver and the Lung. 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. The Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body.

Research on buddha's hands

Citrus medica has antioxidant, hypoglycaemic and anticholinesterase properties. Oxidative damage, caused by the action of free radicals, may initiate and promote the progression of a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.1

Sources:

1. Filomena Conforti, Giancarlo Antonio Statti, Rosa Tundis, Monica Rosa Loizzo, Francesco Menichini (2007). Antioxidant activity of burdock (Arctium lappa Linné): Its scavenging effect on free-radical and active oxygen. Phytotherapy Research. Volume 21, Issue 5, Pages 427-433

Use of buddha's hands as food

Buddha's hands are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Candied finger lemon or Finger lemon syrup.