English: Lepidium seeds

Chinese: 葶苈子

Parts used: Seeds

TCM category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Bladder Lung

Scientific name: Lepidium apetalum or Descurainia sophia

Other names: Pepperweed Seeds, Descurainia Seeds, Tingli Seeds, Tansymustard Seeds, Wood Whitlow Grass Seeds

Use of Ting Li Zi (lepidium 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: Collect the seeds around April or May when their color become yellow-green. Remove impurities and keep in dry environment.

Dosage: 3-10g

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Lung Fire and Phlegm so as to calm coughing and wheezing. Promotes Body Fluid circulation and reduces Edema.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Ting Li Zi may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Cough Wheezing Dyspnea Edema Sputum Facial edema Swollen eyes Urinary difficulties

Contraindications*: This herb is very cold and it is contraindicated for patients with Deficiency or during pregnancy.

Common TCM formulas in which Ting Li Zi is used*

Ji Jiao Li Huang Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Drives out water. Reduces distention. Scours out thin mucus. Moves the Qi.

Conditions targeted*: Cirrhosis with ascitesNephritis with edema and others

Ting Li Zi is an assistant ingredient in Ji Jiao Li Huang Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ji Jiao Li Huang Wan, Ting Li Zi is bitter, acrid, and cold. It clears Dampness and Qi Stagnation from the Intestines along with Rhubarb. 

Lepidium seeds also focus on the Lungs, which are the upper source of water. If the Lung Qi flows smoothly, the waterways will be unimpeded. Lepidium seeds drains Lung Qi by forcefully breaking up Stagnation and promoting urination.

The Lungs and the Large Intestine are the paring Zang Fu Organs. When the Lung Qi descends properly, it clears bowel passage and facility bowel movement. 

Read more about Ji Jiao Li Huang Wan

Key TCM concepts behind Ting Li Zi's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ting Li Zi 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 Ting Li Zi is Cold in nature. This means that Ting Li Zi typically helps people who have too much 'Heat' in their body. 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 Ting Li Zi can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Ting Li Zi also tastes Bitter and 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. Bitter ingredients like Ting Li Zi tends 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.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Ting Li Zi is thought to target the Bladder and the Lung. In TCM the impure water collected by the Kidneys that cannot be used by the body is sent to the Bladder for storage and excretion as urine. 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.