Hemp seeds (Huǒ Má Rén) in Chinese medicine

Hemp seeds

Chinese: 火麻仁

Pinyin: Huǒ Má Rén

Parts used: Dried ripe fruit

TCM category: Laxative herbs that drain downward

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLarge intestine

Scientific name: Cannabis sativa

Other names: Cannabis seeds, Marijuana seeds

Use of hemp seeds (Huǒ Má Rén) 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 practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Harvest when the fruit is mature, remove impurities and dry

Dosage: 10 to 15g.

Main actions according to TCM*: Moistens the Intestines and unblocks Food Stagnation caused by Dryness. Nourishes the Yin and relieves constipation caused by Yin Deficiency. Cools Heat and aids healing of sores.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which hemp seeds may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Constipation Sores

Contraindications*: It contains muscarine and choline. Do not take in large amounts (60 -120g).

Common TCM formulas in which hemp seeds are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind hemp seeds' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), hemp seeds are plants that belong to the 'Laxative herbs that drain downward' category. The herbs in this category are those whose main purpose is to treat constipation. They're called 'laxative' because they're often rich in oils. This allows them to lubricate the Intestines in order to help it remove the stools from the body.

Furthermore hemp seeds are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that hemp 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 hemp seeds means that you don't have to worry about that!

Hemp seeds also taste 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. Sweet ingredients like hemp seeds 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 hemp seeds are thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach and the Large intestine. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid 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 Large Intestine receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces.

Research on hemp seeds

Hemp Seed Pill is safe and effective for alleviating functional constipation.1

Sources:

1. Cheng CW, Bian ZX, Zhu LX, Wu JC, Sung JJ. (2011). Efficacy of a Chinese herbal proprietary medicine (Hemp Seed Pill) for functional constipation. Am J Gastroenterol. , 106(1):120-9. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2010.305. Epub 2010 Nov 2.

Use of hemp seeds as food

Hemp seeds are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Hemp seed tabbouleh or Hempseed hummus.