Immature Bitter Oranges

Chinese: 枳实

Pinyin: Zhǐ Shí

Parts used: Dried unripe fruit

TCM category: Herbs that regulate Qi

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): BitterPungentSour

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLarge intestine

Scientific name: Citrus aurantium

Other names: Fructus Aurantii Immaturus

Use of immature bitter oranges (Zhi 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: Pick the fruit when unripe. Dry it and cut in slices

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Regulates the flow of Qi in the Middle Burner and reduces Food Stagnation. Moves Qi downward and helps constipation. Reduces Stagnant Phlegm and lessens distention and pain. For prolapse of organs when used with the appropriate herbs.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which immature bitter oranges may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Indigestion Abdominal bloating Constipation Chest pain Chest congestion Rectal prolapse Uterine prolapse

Contraindications*: This herb should be used with caution during pregnancy, when there is Q! Deficiency or when there is Cold in the Stomach.

Key TCM concepts behind immature bitter oranges (Zhi Shi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), immature bitter oranges are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that regulate Qi' category. Herbs in this category typically treat a TCM condition called 'Qi Stagnation'. Concretely it means that Qi is blocked in the body's Organs and Meridians, most typically the Stomach, Liver, and to a lesser extent, the Lungs. In modern medicine terms, Qi Stagnation often translates into psychological consequences such as depression, irritability or mood swings. It's also frequently associated with conditions such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopausal symptoms, the development of breast swellings as well as various digestive disorders.

Furthermore immature bitter oranges are plants that are Cool in nature. This means that immature bitter oranges tend to help people who have too much "heat" in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much heat in their body are said to either have a Yang excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition immature bitter oranges can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Immature Bitter Oranges also taste Bitter, Pungent and Sour. 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. Bitter ingredients like immature bitter oranges tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing heat, drying dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients tend 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. Lastly Sour ingredients help with digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such immature bitter oranges 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.