English: Catechu

Chinese: 儿茶

Parts used: The extract of acacia trees

TCM category: Herbs for external application

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Heart Lung

Scientific name: Senegalia catechu

Other names: Acacia catechu, Gambir, Black cutch, Black catechu, Cachou, Cashoo, Terra Japonica, or Japan earth, Katha

Use of Er Cha (catechu) 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: Collect acacia tree branches, remove skins and chop to big blocks. The boil the blocks to get the dense extract.

Dosage: 0.5-2g

Main actions according to TCM*: Clear Phlegm. Clears Heat and drains Dampness. Applied externally for stopping bleeding.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Er Cha may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Cough with hot phlegm Excessive thirst Bleeding Cold sores Eczema Bleeding hemorrhoids

Contraindications*: Contraindicated for patients with Damp-Cold patterns.

Common TCM formulas in which Er Cha is used*

Qi Li San

Source date: 1762 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates the blood and removes Blood Stagnation . Invigorates Qi . Reduces swelling and pain. Stops bleeding .

Conditions targeted*: Stasis by traumatic injuryContusions and others

Er Cha is an assistant ingredient in Qi Li San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Qi Li San, Er Cha is cool and astringent. It clears Heat and assists Dragon's blood in stopping the bleeding and generating new tissue.

Read more about Qi Li San

Key TCM concepts behind Er Cha's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Er Cha belongs to the 'Herbs for external application' category. Like the name indicates, this category of herbs is used mostly for external application in the form of powders, pastes or ointments. As such they are used to treat trauma, inflammation, swelling, bruises, bleeding, pain and so forth.

Furthermore Er Cha is Neutral in nature. This means that Er Cha 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 Er Cha means that you don't have to worry about that!

Er Cha also tastes Bitter and Pungent. 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 Er Cha 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.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Er Cha is thought to target the Heart and the Lung. In addition to regulating Blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.