Cinnamon twigs

Chinese: 桂枝

Pinyin: Guì Zhī

Parts used: Dried young branches

TCM category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): PungentSweet

Organ affinity: Spleen Heart Lung

Scientific name: Cinnamomum cassia

Other names: Chinese cassia, Chinese cinnamon

Use of cinnamon twigs (Gui Zhi) 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: Remove impurities, wash, soak in water, cut in thick slices and dry.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Adjusts the nutritive Ying and defensive Wei Qi. Relieves the Exterior through sweating. Warms and disperses Cold. Removes obstruction of Yang. Promotes the circulation of Yang Qi in the chest. Regulates and moves blood.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which cinnamon twigs may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Common cold Abdominal pain Amenorrhea Arthralgia Edema Palpitations Rheumatoid arthritis Dysmenorrhea

Contraindications*: Do not use for those with Warm febrile diseases, those who are showing Heat signs, and should be used with caution for women who are pregnant or are bleeding heavily.

Common TCM formulas in which cinnamon twigs (Gui Zhi) are used*

Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Promotes Blood and lymphatic circulation, thus eleminates Blood Stagnation. Softens and resolves hard lumps such as cysts and fibroids.

Conditions targeted*: InfertilityDysmenorrhea and others

Gui Zhi is a king ingredient in Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan, Gui Zhi unblocks the Blood vessels and reduces Blood Stagnation by promoting circulation.

Read more about Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan

Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and inflammations. Unblocks the flow of Yang Qi and promotes movement (in areas with painful obstruction). Clears Wind and Damp. Relieves pain.

Conditions targeted*: Rheumatoid arthritisConnective tissue disorders and others

Gui Zhi is a king ingredient in Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang, Gui Zhi warms and unblocks the Channels. 

Read more about Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang

Xiao Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior. Transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Warms the Lungs. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsBronchitis and others

Gui Zhi is a king ingredient in Xiao Qing Long Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Xiao Qing Long Tang, Gui Zhi releases the Exterior, opens the Blood vessels, and promotes Qi transformation.

Together with the other key herb in this formula, Ephedra (Ma Huang), the two herbs disperse Wind-Cold from the Exterior, promote water metabolism to remove Phlegm-Fluids, disseminate Lung Qi, and open the vessels to treat wheezing and body aches.

Read more about Xiao Qing Long Tang

Wen Jing Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Uterus and vessels. Nourishes Blood. Dispels Cold. Dispels Blood Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Dysfunctional uterine bleedingUterine hypoplasia and others

Gui Zhi is a king ingredient in Wen Jing Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Wen Jing Tang, Gui Zhi enters the Food Qi (nutritive Qi) to improve circulation in the Blood vessels and disperse Cold

Read more about Wen Jing Tang

Shen Qi Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies and warms Kidney Yang.

Conditions targeted*: Diabetes mellitusHyperaldosteronism and others

Gui Zhi is a king ingredient in Shen Qi Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Shen Qi Wan, Gui Zhi is acrid, sweet, and warm. It tonifies Yang, expels Cold and strengthens the Fire of the Gate of Life. It benefits the joints, warms the channels, and unblocks the vessels. It also promotes Qi transformation in the Bladder. Some sources have Rou Gui (Cinnamon bark) instead of Gui Zhi.

Read more about Shen Qi Wan

Tao He Cheng Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Dispels Heat and. Eliminates Blood Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: LeiomyomaRetained placenta and others

Gui Zhi is a deputy ingredient in Tao He Cheng Qi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, Gui Zhi warms the sinews, unblocks the vessels, and dispels retained Blood from the Lower Burner. In doing so it helps the Peach kernels eliminate Blood Stagnation.

Read more about Tao He Cheng Qi Tang

Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Strengthens the Spleen. Resolves Dampness.

Conditions targeted*: Meniere's diseaseBasilar insufficiency and others

Gui Zhi is a deputy ingredient in Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang, Gui Zhi warms the Yang and improves Qi's ability to transform the thin mucus and Phlegm. It also directs the rebellious Qi downward. 

Its combination with Fu Ling (Poria-cocos mushroom) is a delicate way of dealing with mucus and Phlegm accumulation due to cold. Fu Ling increases the Body Fluids circulation, while Gui Zhi warms the Qi flow. 

Read more about Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang

Wu Ling San

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Promotes urination,. Warms the Yang. Strengthens the Spleen. Promotes Qi transformation function. Drains Dampness. Clears edema.

Conditions targeted*: EdemaGlomerulonephritis and others

Gui Zhi is an assistant ingredient in Wu Ling San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Wu Ling San, Gui Zhi serves as both an assistant and envoy in this formula. When the retention of Dampness obstructs the circulation of Fluids, the Kidneys and Bladder may be unable to transform them. Cinnamon twigs are used to warm the Fire at the gate of vitality, which is like adding firewood under the cauldron. Not only does this assist the Bladder in transforming and discharging urine, it also helps the Spleen Qi to raise the clear, thus facilitating the movement and 'steaming' of the Fluids by the Kidneys. In this respect, it serves as an envoy to the Kidneys and Bladder.

As an assistant, it also helps to dispel pathogenic influences from the Exterior and thereby release the exterior aspects of the greater Yang-warp disorder.

Read more about Wu Ling San

Da Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Promotes sweating. Releases the Exterior. Clears Interior Heat.

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsInfluenza and others

Gui Zhi is an assistant ingredient in Da Qing Long Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Da Qing Long Tang, Gui Zhi works together with Fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang), another assistant herb of this formula, to assist the key herb - Ephedra (Ma Huang) - in strongly opening the pores, inducing sweating, and scattering Wind-Cold.

Read more about Da Qing Long Tang

Ba Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Yang. Warms the Kidneys and lower extremities.

Conditions targeted*: Diabetes mellitusDiabetes insipidus and others

Read more about Ba Wei Di Huang Wan

Key TCM concepts behind cinnamon twigs (Gui Zhi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cinnamon twigs are plants that belong to the 'Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior' category. Herbs that release the Exterior aim to to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the throat or the skin. TCM believes that External diseases such as colds or allergies can only invade the body if the External environment overwhelms our Wei Qi (the TCM version of the immune system). In order to counteract this invasion Warm/Acrid herbs aim to induce sweating by increasing the flow of sweat to our capillary pores. The belief is that this will expel the disease from the body and stop it from invading further.

As suggested by its category cinnamon twigs are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that cinnamon twigs 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 cinnamon twigs can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Cinnamon twigs also taste 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. Pungent ingredients like cinnamon twigs 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. 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 cinnamon twigs are thought to target the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. In addition to regulating Blood flow, 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.

Research on cinnamon twigs (Gui Zhi)

5 g dose of Cassia cinnamon may reduce the peak blood glucose response and improve glucose tolerance following an oral glucose tolerance test.1

Both vivo and vitro results indicated Guzhi Fuling capsules (containing cinnamon twigs) possessed a significant spasmolytic effect on uterine titanic contraction.2

Sources:

1. Gutierrez JL, Bowden RG, Willoughby DS. ( 2016). Cassia Cinnamon Supplementation Reduces Peak Blood Glucose Responses but Does Not Improve Insulin Resistance and Sensitivity in Young, Sedentary, Obese Women. J Diet Suppl. , 13(4):461-71. doi: 10.3109/19390211.2015.1110222. Epub 2015 Dec 30.

2. Lan S, Liu L, Zong S, Wang Z, Zhou J, Xu Z, Ding G, Xiao W, Kou J. (2016) Traditional Chinese medicine Guzhi Fuling capsule used for therapy of dysmenorrhea via attenuating uterus contraction. J Ethnopharmacol 191: 273-279.

Use of cinnamon twigs (Gui Zhi) as food

Cinnamon twigs are also eaten as food.