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

Meridian affinity: KidneyLiver

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 are used*:

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 elements" 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 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


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.