English: Bush cherry pits

Chinese: 郁李仁

Parts used: Dried ripe seeds

TCM category: Laxative herbs that drain downward

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): BitterPungentSweet

Organ affinity: Large intestine Small intestine Spleen

Scientific name: Prumnus humilis, Prunus japonica or Prunus pedunculata

Other names: Japanese bush cherry pits, Oriental bush cherry pits, Korean bush cherry pits, Chinese dwarf cherry pits

Use of Yu Li Ren (bush cherry pits) 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: Extract the pits and dry, crush before use.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Moistens the Intestines and invigorates Qi. Increases the flow of urine.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Yu Li Ren may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Abdominal bloating Constipation Oliguria Edema

Contraindications*: Should be avoided by pregnant women and those with Yin Deficiency

Common TCM formulas in which Yu Li Ren is used*

Wu Ren Wan

Source date: 1345 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Moistens the Intestines. Unblocks the movement of Stool.

Conditions targeted*: Irritable bowel syndromeVertigo and others

Yu Li Ren is a deputy ingredient in Wu Ren Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Wu Ren Wan, Yu Li Ren increases the capacity of the formula to moisten the Intestine along with Biota seeds.

Read more about Wu Ren Wan

Key TCM concepts behind Yu Li Ren's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yu Li Ren 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 Yu Li Ren is Neutral in nature. This means that Yu Li Ren 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 Yu Li Ren means that you don't have to worry about that!

Yu Li Ren also tastes Bitter, Pungent and 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. Bitter ingredients like Yu Li Ren tends 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 Sweet ingredients tend 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 Yu Li Ren is thought to target the Large intestine, the Small intestine and the Spleen. In TCM the Large Intestine receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. Like the Stomach, the Small Intestine has a digestive role, extracting the "pure" part of what we injest to the Spleen and the "impure" down to the Large Intestine. The Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body.

Research on Yu Li Ren

MeOH extracts of Prunus japonica seeds possess anti-acne and antimicrobial properties.1


1. MZ Sultan, KM Lee, SS Moon (2009). Antibacterial effect of naturally occurring unsaturated fatty acids from Prunus japonica against Propionibacterium acnes. Oriental Pharmacy and Experimental Medicine, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp.90-96. DOI: 10.3742/OPEM.2009.9.1.090