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Fish-poison yam

Chinese: 萆薢 or 荜解

Pinyin: Bì Xiè

Parts used: Dried rhizome

TCM category: Herbs that drain Dampness

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Organ affinity: Bladder Stomach Liver

Scientific name: Dioscorea hypoglauca or Dioscorea septemloba

Other names: Bi Jie, Bei Xie, Tokoro

Use of fish-poison yam (Bi Xie) 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 the fibrous roots, wash, slice, and dry.

Dosage: 9 - 15 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Encourages urination and eliminates cloudy urine. Eliminates Wind-Damp. Relieves Damp-Heat from the skin.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which fish-poison yam may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Cloudy urine Chronic lower back pain Lower back pain Rheumatism Rheumatoid arthritis Eczema Chyluria Leukorrhea Rheumatic athralgia Knee pain

Contraindications*: Should not be used by those with Kidney Yin Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which fish-poison yam (Bi Xie) are used*

Bi Xie Fen Qing Yin

Source date: 1732 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Warms the Kidneys. Drains Dampness. Separates the clear from the turbid.

Conditions targeted*: Vaginal dischargeCloudy urine and others

Bi Xie is a king ingredient in Bi Xie Fen Qing Yin. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Bi Xie Fen Qing Yin, Bi Xie enters the Bladder, Liver, and Stomach Channels and removes Dampness by separating the turbid from the pure Fluids. Then it directs the turbid fluids out the body through the Bladder. It is thus one of the most important herbs in treating cloudy urinary difficulty or vaginal discharge.

Read more about Bi Xie Fen Qing Yin

Key TCM concepts behind fish-poison yam (Bi Xie)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), fish-poison yam are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that drain Dampness' category. These herbs are typically diuretics, meaning that they promotes the increased production of urine in order to remove Dampness that has accumulated in the body. According to TCM Dampness accumulates first in the lower limbs, causing edema and impaired movement. From there, if unchecked, it can move upward and impair digestion and eventually the respiratory system.

Furthermore fish-poison yam are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that fish-poison yam typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang Excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin Excess. The Neutral nature of fish-poison yam means that you don't have to worry about that!

Fish-poison yam also taste Bitter. 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 fish-poison yam tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such fish-poison yam are thought to target the Bladder, the Stomach and the Liver. In TCM the impure water collected by the Kidneys that cannot be used by the body is sent to the Bladder for storage and excretion as urine. 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 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.