English: Chinese Honeylocust Abnormal Fruits

Chinese: 猪牙皂

Parts used: The abnormal fruits

TCM category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): PungentSalty

Organ affinity: Large intestine Lung

Scientific name: Fructus Gleditsiae Abnormalis

Other names: Zao Jiao

Use of Zhu Ya Zao (chinese honeylocust abnormal fruits) 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 the fruits, remove impurities and dry.

Dosage: 1-1.5g

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Phlegm. Opens orifice and blockage. Dispels Wind and kill worms.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Zhu Ya Zao may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Dyspnea Cough with abundant phlegm Apoplexy Wind stroke Epilepsy Throat inflammation Sores Swellings Skin tinea

Contraindications*: Not suitable during pregnancy or for these with vomiting blood.

Common TCM formulas in which Zhu Ya Zao is used*

Tong Guan San

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Formula key actions: Unblocks the jaw. Opens the sensory orifices.

Conditions targeted*: HysteriaPsychosis and others

Zhu Ya Zao is a king ingredient in Tong Guan San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Tong Guan San, Zhu Ya Zao is warm, acrid, and scurrying. It scours out Phlegm, opens the sensory orifices, and revives the spirit such as  restores consciousness. 

It unblocks the gates of the orifices above and below and is able to cause Phlegm and spittle vomiting.

For example, once it stimulates the nose, there will immediately be a sneeze.

Read more about Tong Guan San

Key TCM concepts behind Zhu Ya Zao's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Zhu Ya Zao belongs to the 'Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough' category. In TCM Phlegm is a condition of Stagnation of Fluids which tends to start in the Spleen and then goes to the Lungs. If this overly accumulates it thickens and becomes pathological Phlegm. Phlegm, being a form of Stagnation, often starts as being Cool and transforms to Hot as the condition progresses. The herbs in this category are Warm in nature so they treat the early stages of the Stagnation: Cold-Phlegm and Wet-Phlegm with symptoms of wheezing, vomiting and nausea.

As suggested by its category Zhu Ya Zao is Warm in nature. This means that Zhu Ya Zao tends 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 Zhu Ya Zao can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Zhu Ya Zao also tastes Pungent and Salty. 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. Pungent ingredients like Zhu Ya Zao tends 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. On the other hand Salty ingredients tend to have a draining effect in the body because they clear accumulations, remove Phlegm and soften hard lumps.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Zhu Ya Zao is thought to target the Large intestine and the Lung. 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. 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.