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Evodia fruits

Chinese: 吳茱萸

Pinyin: Wú Zhū Yú

Parts used: Dried nearly ripe fruit

TCM category: Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold

TCM nature: Hot

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach Kidney Liver

Scientific name: Tetradium ruticarpum, Evodia rytaecarpa or Evodia rutaecarpa

Use of evodia fruits (Wu 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: Remove impurities, wash and dry the fruit

Dosage: 3 - 6 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Warms the Spleen, expels Cold, relieves pain and helps the Liver. Directs Rebellious Qi downward

Primary conditions or symptoms for which evodia fruits may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Headache Abdominal colic Weakness and edema of legs Dysmenorrhea Epigastric pain Epigastric distention Acid reflux Vomiting Hypertension Mouth ulcers

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Yin Deficiency, especially if Dryness is an issue, as this herb is very Drying and therefore should not be used for extended periods of time. It should not be used with Red sage root (Dan Shen).

Common TCM formulas in which evodia fruits (Wu Zhu Yu) are used*

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

Wu Zhu Yu 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, Wu Zhu Yu is acrid, bitter, and heating. It enters the Liver and Kidney Channels to disperse Cold and stop pain. 

Read more about Wen Jing Tang

Zuo Jin Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Liver Heat. Directs Rebellious Qi downward. Stops vomiting.

Conditions targeted*: EsophagitisGastritis and others

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

In Zuo Jin Wan, Wu Zhu Yu is hot and acrid. It helps with Qi movement and releases Stagnation by dispersing the Liver. It is also very effective in directing Rebellious Stomach Qi downward. Like the king herb Huang Lian, it thereby also kills two birds with one stone.

The hot nature of Wu Zhu Yu is moderated by the cold nature of Huang Lian, whose dosage is six times that of Wu Zhu Yu. The acrid nature of Wu Zhu Yu, on the other hand, ensures that physiological Fire is not drained by the bitter, cold, downward-moving nature of Huang Lian.

Read more about Zuo Jin Wan

Key TCM concepts behind evodia fruits (Wu Zhu Yu)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), evodia fruits are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold' category. Herbs in this category are used for Internal Cold with Qi Deficiency and/or Yang Deficiency. In the Yin and Yang system of thought Yang is Hot in nature. A deficiency of Yang will therefore lead to Internal Coldness since there will as a result be more Yin (Cold in nature) than Yang. In extreme cases this can lead to so-called 'Yang collapse' with convulsions or coma and these herbs are particularly indicated to treat such scenarios.

As suggested by its category evodia fruits are plants that are Hot in nature. This means that evodia fruits typically help 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 evodia fruits can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Evodia fruits also taste Bitter and 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. Bitter ingredients like evodia fruits tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients 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.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such evodia fruits are thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach, the Kidney and the Liver. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Stomach on the other hand 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 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 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 evodia fruits (Wu Zhu Yu)

Evodiamine (the active principle in Evodia fruits) possesses anti-cancer activities both in vitro and in vivo by inhibiting proliferation, invasion and metastasis, inducing apoptosis of a variety of tumor cell lines.1

Sources:

1. Jiang J, Hu C. (2009). Evodiamine: a novel anti-cancer alkaloid from Evodia rutaecarpa. Molecules. , 14(5):1852-9. doi: 10.3390/molecules14051852.