Huo Ma Ren (Hemp seeds) in Chinese Medicine

English: Hemp seeds

Chinese: 火麻仁

Parts used: Dried ripe fruit

TCM category: Laxative herbs that drain downward

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Large intestine Spleen Stomach

Scientific name: Cannabis sativa

Other names: Cannabis seeds, Marijuana seeds

Use of Huo Ma Ren (hemp seeds) 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 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 Huo Ma Ren 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 Huo Ma Ren is used*

Ma Zi Ren Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Moistens the Intestines. Invigorates Qi. Unblocks the bowels. Drains Heat.

Conditions targeted*: Incomplete intestinal obstructionPostoperative ileus and others

Huo Ma Ren is a king ingredient in Ma Zi Ren Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Ma Zi Ren Wan, Huo Ma Ren is rich in oils which can be used to moisten the Intestines and unblock the bowels.

Read more about Ma Zi Ren Wan

Run Chang Wan

Source date: 1773 AB

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Moistens the Intestines . Unblocks the bowels.

Conditions targeted*: ConstipationLong-standing constipation and others

Huo Ma Ren is a king ingredient in Run Chang Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Run Chang Wan, Huo Ma Ren contains a high concentration of oils that moisturize the Intestines and unclog the guts. Hemp seeds along with peach kernels help in situations of constipation caused by Yin Deficiency.

Read more about Run Chang Wan

Zhi Gan Cao Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Augments the Qi. Nourishes Yin. Nourishes the Blood. Restores the pulse.

Conditions targeted*: Irregular heartbeatsSick sinus syndrome and others

Huo Ma Ren is an assistant ingredient in Zhi Gan Cao Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Zhi Gan Cao Tang, Huo Ma Ren nourishes the Yin and moistens the Intestines, which is located at the Lower Burner.

The combination of E Jiao, Huo Ma Ren and Mai Dong assists Sheng Di Huang in enriching the Yin, moistening Dryness, and cooling
Heat from Yin Deficiency.

Read more about Zhi Gan Cao Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Huo Ma Ren's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Huo Ma Ren belongs 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 Huo Ma Ren is Neutral in nature. This means that Huo Ma Ren typically doesn'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 Huo Ma Ren means that you don't have to worry about that!

Huo Ma Ren also tastes Sweet. 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. Sweet ingredients like Huo Ma Ren tends 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 Huo Ma Ren is thought to target the Large intestine, the Spleen and the Stomach. In TCM 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. The Spleen on the other hand assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. 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.

Research on Huo Ma Ren

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


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 Huo Ma Ren as food

Huo Ma Ren is also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Hemp seed tabbouleh or Hempseed hummus.