Cornelian cherries

Chinese: 山茱萸

Pinyin: Shān Zhū Yú

Parts used: Dried ripe sarcocarp

TCM category: Herbs that stabilize and bind

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Sour

Organ affinity: Kidney Liver

Scientific name: Cornus officinalis

Other names: Japanese cornel, Dogwood

Use of cornelian cherries (Shan Zhu Yu) 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: Harvest the fruit when it is red, cook it in boiling water on a slow fire, extract the sarcocarp and dry it.

Dosage: 3 - 12 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Preserves and tonifies the Kidney, Liver and Essence. Stops sweating and benefits the Yang and Qi. Assists menstruation and stops bleeding.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which cornelian cherries may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Tinnitus Impotence Spermatorrhea Enuresis Metrorrhagia Leukorrhea Urinary incontinence Night sweats

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Fire symptoms or those with Damp-Heat and difficult or painful urination.

Common TCM formulas in which cornelian cherries (Shan Zhu Yu) are used*

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system).

Conditions targeted*: Chronic nephritisProstate diseases and others

Shan Zhu Yu is a deputy ingredient in Liu Wei Di Huang Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, Shan Zhu Yu nourishes the Liver and restrains the leakage of Essence. It performs the latter function by inhibiting the improper dispersion and drainage through the Liver, thereby enabling the Essence to build up in the Kidneys. For this to occur, a substance with the strong, Essence building properties of the key herb (Prepared rehmannia) is also required.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

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

Shan Zhu Yu is a deputy ingredient in Ba Wei Di Huang Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Ba Wei Di Huang Wan, Shan Zhu Yu nourishes the Liver and restrains the leakage of Essence. It performs the latter function by inhibiting the improper dispersion and drainage through the Liver, thereby enabling the Essence to build up in the Kidneys. For this to occur, a substance with the strong, Essence building properties of the key herb (Prepared rehmannia) is also required.

Read more about Ba Wei Di Huang Wan

You Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang. Replenishes the Essence. Tonifies the Blood.

Conditions targeted*: Nephrotic syndromeOsteoporosis and others

Shan Zhu Yu is a deputy ingredient in You Gui Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

Read more about You Gui Wan

Qi Ju Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1350 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin. Improves vision.

Conditions targeted*: Diabetes mellitusDiabetes insipidus and others

Shan Zhu Yu is a deputy ingredient in Qi Ju Di Huang Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Qi Ju Di Huang Wan, Shan Zhu Yu nourishes the Liver and restrains the leakage of Essence. It performs the latter function by inhibiting the improper dispersion and drainage through the Liver, thereby enabling the Essence to build up in the Kidneys. For this to occur, a substance with the strong, Essence building properties of the key herb (Prepared rehmannia) is also required.

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan

Zuo Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Strengthens the Kidneys. Fills the Essence. Augments the marrow.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisChronic nephritis and others

Shan Zhu Yu is a deputy ingredient in Zuo Gui Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Zuo Gui Wan, Shan Zhu Yu nourishes the Liver Blood and restrains the leakage of Essence. It performs the latter function by inhibiting the improper dispersion and drainage through the Liver, thereby enabling the Essence to build up in the Kidneys. It works synergistically with Shu Di huang and Goji berries (Gou Qi Zi)

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan

Zuo Gui Yin

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Tonifies the Kidneys.

Shan Zhu Yu is a deputy ingredient in Zuo Gui Yin. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Zuo Gui Yin, Shan Zhu Yu nourishes the Liver Blood and restrains the leakage of Essence. It performs the latter function by inhibiting the improper dispersion and drainage through the Liver, thereby enabling the Essence to build up in the Kidneys. It work synergistically with Shu Di huang and Goji berries.

Read more about Zuo Gui Yin

Zhi Bo Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1584 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Yin. Drains Fire.

Shan Zhu Yu is a deputy ingredient in Zhi Bo Di Huang Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Zhi Bo Di Huang Wan, Shan Zhu Yu nourishes the Liver and restrains the leakage of Essence. It performs the latter function by inhibiting the improper dispersion and drainage through the Liver, thereby enabling the Essence to build up in the Kidneys. For this to occur, a substance with the strong, Essence building properties of the key herb (Shu Di Huang) is also required.

Read more about Zhi Bo Di Huang Wan

Tiao Gan Tang

Source date: 1827 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin.

In Tiao Gan Tang, Shan Zhu Yu  nourishes Liver-Yin

Read more about Tiao Gan Tang

Gui Shao Di Huang Tang

Source date: 1706 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Blood. Nourishes Yin.

In Gui Shao Di Huang Tang, Shan Zhu Yu nourishes Liver and Kidney Yin

Read more about Gui Shao Di Huang Tang

Da Bu Yuan Jian

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Yin and Blood. Nourishes Qi and Yang.

Conditions targeted*: Uterine prolapse and others

In Da Bu Yuan Jian, Shan Zhu Yu nourishes Yin, Blood and Essence and strengthen Liver and Kidneys. Here it works synergistically with the chief herb Prepared rehmannia

Read more about Da Bu Yuan Jian

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

In Shen Qi Wan, Shan Zhu Yu tonifies the Liver and Kidneys, thereby helping to preserve the essential Qi while nourishing the Yin and reinforcing the Blood. Strengthening the Kidney Qi is beneficial to its role as repository of the body's Yin and Yang. It also ensures that nourishment will be supplied to the Liver, which derives its Essence from the Kidneys. The supply of Yin and Essence to the Liver serves to facilitate the free and smooth operation of its spreading function. It also restrains the leakage of Essence. It performs this function by inhibiting the improper dispersion and drainage through the Liver, thereby enabling the Essence to build up in the Kidneys.

Read more about Shen Qi Wan

Dang Gui Di Huang Yin

Source date: 1640 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Blood. Tonifies Kidney and Liver Yin. Regulates the menstrual cycle.

In Dang Gui Di Huang Yin, Shan Zhu Yu nourishes the Liver and restrains the leakage of Essence. It performs the latter function by inhibiting the improper dispersion and drainage through the Liver, thereby enabling the Essence to build up in the Kidneys. For this to occur, a substance with the strong, Essence building properties of the key herb (Shu Di Huang) is also required.

Read more about Dang Gui Di Huang Yin

Key TCM concepts behind cornelian cherries (Shan Zhu Yu)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cornelian cherries are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that stabilize and bind' category. This category of herbs is used for treating abnormal discharges and displacement of Organs. This includes conditions such as diarrhea, discharges from the vagina, penis or rectum as well as prolapse of the Uterus or rectum. It is important to note that herbs in this category only treat symptoms, so one should also use herbs to treat the underlying Deficiency.

Furthermore cornelian cherries are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that cornelian cherries 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 cornelian cherries can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Cornelian cherries also taste Sour. 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. Sour ingredients like cornelian cherries help with digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of Fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such cornelian cherries are thought to target the Kidney and the Liver. According to TCM, the Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. 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 the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on cornelian cherries (Shan Zhu Yu)

C. officinalis contains ursolic acid which has shown in vitro protective effects on auditory cells.1

Ethanolic extracts of the fruit of C. officinalis has been shown to prevent hepatic injuries associated with acetaminophen-induced liver injury-induced hepatotoxicity (in mice) by preventing or alleviating oxidative stress.2

Cornel iridoid glycoside, a chemical extracted from Cornus officinalis, promoted neurogenesis and angiogenesis and improved neurological function after ischemia in rats.3

A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study found that a Chinese herbal formula that mainly consisted of Cornus officinalis was not only effective at improving erectile function, but it was also safe for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.4

A red ginseng extract-containing Torilus fructus and Corni fructus mixture improves facial wrinkles, a clinical sign of photoaging, and this improvement is associated with biochemical and histological Research Findings of increased collagen synthesis in the dermis.5

Sources:

1. Yu H.-H., Hur J.-M., Seo S.-J., Moon H.-D., Kim H.-J., Park R.-K., You Y.-O., "Protective effect of ursolic acid from Cornus officinalis on the hydrogen peroxide-induced damage of HEI-OC1 auditory cells". American Journal of Chinese Medicine 37 (4) (pp 735-746), 2009

2. Ha H., Lee N.-H., Seo C.-S., Lee H.-Y., Jung D.-Y., Lee J.-K., Lee J.-A., Song K.Y., Shin H.-K., Lee M.-Y., Seo Y.B., Kim H.,"Hepatoprotective and antioxidative activities of cornus officinalis against acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity in mice". Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012 , Article Number: 804924.

3. Yao RQ, Zhang L, Wang W, Li L "Cornel iridoid glycoside promotes neurogenesis and angiogenesis and improves neurological function after focal cerebral ischemia in rats." Brain Res Bull. 2009 Apr 6;79(1):69-76

4. Kam S.C., Choi S.M., Jeh S.U., Lee S.H., Hwa J.S., Jung K.H., Kang C.W., Hyun J.S.,"Efficacy and safety of a herbal formula that mainly consists of Cornus officinalis for erectile dysfunction: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study". Korean Journal of Urology. 48 (7) (pp 741-747), 2007.

5. Cho S, Won CH, Lee DH, Lee MJ, Lee S, So SH, Lee SK, Koo BS, Kim NM, Chung JH. (2009). Red ginseng root extract mixed with Torilus fructus and Corni fructus improves facial wrinkles and increases type I procollagen synthesis in human skin: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Med Food. , 12(6):1252-9. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2008.1390.