English: Gleditsia thorns

Chinese: 皂角刺

Parts used: Dried thorn

TCM category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Stomach Liver Lung

Scientific name: Gleditsia triacanthos

Other names: Honey locust, Chinese Honey Locust Spine

Use of Zao Jiao Ci (gleditsia thorns) 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: It can be harvested year-round, dried, or sliced fresh and dried.

Dosage: 3-10g

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Toxic and discharges pus. Invigorates Blood and reduces swelling. Expels Wind and kills parasities.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Zao Jiao Ci may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Tinea Leprosy Early stage swelling Parasites Skin pus Mastitis Clogged milk ducts

Contraindications*: Contraindicated for patients with open sores or during pregnancy.

Key TCM concepts behind Zao Jiao Ci's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Zao Jiao Ci belongs to the 'Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough' category. In TCM Phlegm is a condition of Stagnation of Fluids which tends to start in the Spleen and then goes to the Lungs. If this overly accumulates it thickens and becomes pathological Phlegm. Phlegm, being a form of Stagnation, often starts as being Cool and transforms to Hot as the condition progresses. The herbs in this category are Warm in nature so they treat the early stages of the Stagnation: Cold-Phlegm and Wet-Phlegm with symptoms of wheezing, vomiting and nausea.

As suggested by its category Zao Jiao Ci is Warm in nature. This means that Zao Jiao Ci tends 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 Zao Jiao Ci can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Zao Jiao Ci 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 Zao Jiao Ci 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 Zao Jiao Ci is thought to target the Stomach, the Liver and the Lung. 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 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 the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.