Cassia seeds

Chinese: 决明子

Pinyin: Jué Míng Zi

Parts used: Dried ripe seeds

TCM category: Herbs that clear Liver Heat and brighten the eyes

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: Large intestineLiver

Scientific name: Cassia obtusifolia or Cassia tora

Other names: Jué míng zi, Chinese senna, American sicklepod, Sicklepod, Senna tora, Sickle Senna, Sickle Wild, Sickle pod, Tora, Coffee pod, Tovara, Chakvad, Foetid cassia

Use of cassia seeds (Jué Míng Zi) 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: Remove impurities, wash, dry

Dosage: 6 - 12 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Calms ascendant Liver Yang and brightens the eyes. Expels Wind-Heat affecting the eyes. Moistens the Intestines. Lowers both blood pressure and serum cholesterol. Relieve constipation.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which cassia seeds may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Impaired vision Photophobia Uveitis Constipation Atherosclerosis Headache

Contraindications*: Cassia Seeds should not be used by those with diarrhea or lethargy and should not be used together with Hemp Seeds.

Common TCM formulas in which cassia seeds are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind cassia seeds' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cassia seeds are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that clear Liver Heat and brighten the eyes' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that clear Liver Heat and brigthen the eyes treat the latter with a specific focus on Liver Heat. The Liver, according to TCM, opens into the eyes so any herb that treats the Liver also incidently tends to treat the eyes.

As suggested by its category cassia seeds are plants that are Cool in nature. This means that cassia seeds tend to help people who have too much "heat" in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much heat in their body are said to either have a Yang excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition cassia seeds can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Cassia seeds also taste Bitter and Sweet. 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 cassia seeds 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 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 cassia seeds are thought to target the Large intestine and the Liver. 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. 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 body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on cassia seeds

Inhibit the development of diabetic nephropathy via inhibition of advanced glycation end product accumulation in streptozocin-induced diabetic rats.1

Extracts of Cassia Seeds improve myocardial function and attenuate myocardial ischemia and reperfusion induced injury and apoptosis in diabetic animals.2

Oral antioxidants supplementations (containing anthocyanosides, astaxanthin, vitamin A, C, and E, and extracts of cassia semen and Ophiopogonis japonicas) may increase tear production and improve tear film stability by reducing tear ROS; can be used as an adjuvant therapy to conventional artificial tear therapy for patients with dry eye syndrome.3

Sources:

1. Kim Y, Jung D, Sohn E, Lee Y, Kim C, Kim J. (2014) Extract of Cassiae semen attenuates diabetic nephropathy via streptozocin-induced diabetic rats. Phytomedicine 21:734-739.

2. Fu F, Tian F, Zhou H, Lv W, Tie R, Ji L, LiR, Shi Z, Yu L, Liang X, Xing W, Xing J, Yu J, Sun L, Zhu H, Zhang H. (2014) Semen cassiae attenuates myocardial ischemia and reperfusion injury in high fat diet streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetic rats. Am J Clin Med 42(1): 95-108

3. Huang J, Yeh P, Hou Y. (2016) A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study of oral antioxidant supplement therapy in patients with dry eye syndrome. Clin Ophthalmol 10:813-20

Use of cassia seeds as food

Cassia seeds are also eaten as food.