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Hyacinth beans

Chinese: 白扁豆

Pinyin: Bái Biǎn Dòu

Parts used: Dried ripe seeds

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach

Scientific name: Dolicho lablab

Other names: Bonavist bean, Bonavist pea, Dolichos bean, Seim bean, Lablab bean, Egyptian kidney bean, Indian bean, Bataw, Australian pea

Use of hyacinth beans (Bai Bian Dou) 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 fruits when mature, sun dry them and collect the seeds

Dosage: 3 - 6 beans

Main actions according to TCM*: Treats Summer Heat. Strengthens the Spleen and clears Damp-Heat. Relieves diarrhea and vomiting.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which hyacinth beans may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Loss of appetite Diarrhea Leukorrhea Vomiting Chest congestion

Contraindications*: Avoid with alternating fever and chills and Cold disorders.

Common TCM formulas in which hyacinth beans (Bai Bian Dou) are used*

Shen Ling Bai Zhu San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Augments the Qi. Strengthens the Spleen. Leaches out Dampness. Stops diarrhea.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic gastritisEnteritis and others

Bai Bian Dou is a deputy ingredient in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, Bai Bian Dou strengthens the Spleen and stops diarrhea.

Read more about Shen Ling Bai Zhu San

Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang

Source date: 1827 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Supports Kidney Yang. Supplies Spleen Qi. Expels Cold and Dampness from the Uterus.

In Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang, Bai Bian Dou protects the Penetrating Vessel (Chong Mai)

Read more about Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang

Key TCM concepts behind hyacinth beans (Bai Bian Dou)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), hyacinth beans are plants that belong to the 'Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Qi tonics are typically sweet and they tend to enter the Spleen and Lungs because these Organs are most involved with the production of Qi.

Furthermore hyacinth beans are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that hyacinth beans tend 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 hyacinth beans can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Hyacinth beans also taste 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 hyacinth beans 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 hyacinth beans are thought to target the Spleen and the Stomach. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids 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.

Research on hyacinth beans (Bai Bian Dou)

An antifungal protein, purified from the seeds of Dolichos lablab, exhibited antifungal activity and was capable of inhibiting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) reverse transcriptase and α- and β-glucosidases which are glycohydrolases implicated in HIV infection.1


1. X. Y. Yea, H. X. Wangab, T. B. Nga (2000). Dolichin, a New Chitinase-like Antifungal Protein Isolated from Field Beans (Dolichos lablab). Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. Volume 269, Issue 1, Pages 155-159

Use of hyacinth beans (Bai Bian Dou) as food

Hyacinth beans are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Roasted Lablab Beans or Hithik Avare.