Foxnut seeds

Chinese: 芡实

Pinyin: Qiàn Shí

Parts used: Dried kernels of ripe seeds

TCM category: Herbs that stabilize and bind

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): SourSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenKidney

Scientific name: Euryale ferox

Other names: Fox nut, Gorgon nut, Makhana, Gordon Euryale

Use of foxnut seeds (Qian Shi) 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 mature fruits, remove the peel, remove the seeds, keep the kernels (outer seed shell), wash and dry.

Dosage: 9 - 15 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies the Spleen and stops diarrhea. Strengthens the Kidneys and restrains Essence. Dispels Dampness and relieves leukorrhea.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which foxnut seeds may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Leukorrhea Diarrhea Premature ejaculation Urinary incontinence Spermatorrhea Vaginal discharge Enuresis

Common TCM formulas in which foxnut seeds are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind foxnut seeds (Qian Shi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), foxnut seeds 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 foxnut seeds are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that foxnut seeds 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 foxnut seeds means that you don't have to worry about that!

Foxnut seeds also taste Sour and Sweet. 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 foxnut seeds help with digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such foxnut seeds are thought to target the Spleen and the Kidney. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid metabolism in the body. 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.

Research on foxnut seeds(Qian Shi)

Foxnuts have cardioprotective properties that may be linked with their ability to induce TRP32 and Trx-1 proteins and to scavenge ROS.1

Euryale ferox contains a significant antioxidant activity.2


1. Das, S., Der, P., Raychaudhuri, U. et al. (2006). "The Effect of Euryale Ferox (Makhana), an Herb of Aquatic Origin, on Myocardial Ischemic Reperfusion Injury". Mol Cell Biochem, 289: 55.

2. SE Lee, EM Ju, JH Kim (2002). "Antioxidant activity of extracts from Euryale ferox seed". Experimental & Molecular Medicine volume 34, pages 100–106 doi:10.1038/emm.2002.15

Use of foxnut seeds (Qian Shi) as food

Foxnut seeds are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Roasted Makhana or Phool Makhana Curry.