English: Croton fruits

Chinese: 巴豆

Parts used: Dried ripe fruit

TCM category: Cathartic herbs that drain downward

TCM nature: Hot

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Stomach Large intestine

Scientific name: Croton tiglium

Other names: Purging Croton

Use of Ba Dou (croton 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 fruits and dry them

Dosage: 0.1 - 0.5 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Strongly purges Stagnation and accumulation due to Cold. Drains water and Dissolves Phlegm. Clears warts and speeds healing of abscesses, carbuncles and furuncles. Can be used as an insecticide.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Ba Dou may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Constipation Abdominal bloating Edema Phlegm Chest congestion Ulcers

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by pregnant women nor by those with a weak constitution. One should not ingest hot liquids while taking this herb. This herb should not be used with Semen Pharbitidis. This is a very strong and penetrating herb and only used internally or externally in prescribed dose and with caution.

Common TCM formulas in which Ba Dou is used*

San Wu Bei Ji Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Formula key actions: Clear Cold Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Postoperative adhesionsIntestinal obstruction and others

Ba Dou is a king ingredient in San Wu Bei Ji Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In San Wu Bei Ji Wan, Ba Dou is a strong, hot, and acrid purgative.

Read more about San Wu Bei Ji Wan

Key TCM concepts behind Ba Dou's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ba Dou belongs to the 'Cathartic herbs that drain downward' category. The herbs in this category are those whose main purpose is to treat constipation. They're called 'cathartic' because they have an especially strong effect and should only be used for severe intestinal blockage or gastrointestinal swelling.

Furthermore Ba Dou is Hot in nature. This means that Ba Dou typically helps people who have too much "Cold" in their body. 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 Ba Dou can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Ba Dou also tastes 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. Pungent ingredients like Ba Dou 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.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Ba Dou is thought to target the Stomach and the Large intestine. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Large Intestine on the other hand receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces.

Research on Ba Dou

Croton fruits have cocarcinogenic principles.1


1. Erich Hecker. Cocarcinogenic Principles from the Seed Oil of Croton tiglium and from Other Euphorbiaceae. Cancer Res November 1 1968 (28) (11) 2338-2348;