English: Lotus leaves

Chinese: 荷叶

Parts used: Dried leaf

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire and/or clear Summer Heat

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Organ affinity: Liver Spleen Stomach

Scientific name: Nelumbo nucifera

Other names: Indian lotus, Sacred lotus, Bean of India, Egyptian bean, Héyè

Use of He Ye (lotus leaves) 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: The leaf is slightly moistened with water, shredded and dried

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Relieves Summer Heat. Lifts the Spleen Yang. Halts bleeding caused by Heat or Stagnation.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which He Ye may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Diarrhea Fever Summer Heat Nosebleed Hematochezia Bloody sputum

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used when there is a Cold Deficiency pattern.

Common TCM formulas in which He Ye is used*

Qing Luo Yin

Source date: 1798

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Resolves Summer-Heat. Clears the Lungs.

Conditions targeted*: HyperthermiaHeatstroke and others

He Ye is a king ingredient in Qing Luo Yin. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Qing Luo Yin, He Ye clears and cools Summer-Heat, facilitates the ascent of clear Yang, and is an important herb for treating head symptoms like dizziness, headache, and fuzziness due to Dampness obstructing the sensory orifices.

Read more about Qing Luo Yin

Key TCM concepts behind He Ye's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), He Ye belongs to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire and/or clear Summer Heat' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Internal Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an Excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire treat the latter and as such tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category He Ye is Neutral in nature. This means that He Ye 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 He Ye means that you don't have to worry about that!

He Ye also tastes Bitter. 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 He Ye tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such He Ye is thought to target the Liver, the Spleen and the Stomach. In TCM the Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions. 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 He Ye

Some benzylisoquinoline alkaloids and flavonoids were isolated from the leaves of Nelumbo nucifera (Lotus), and identified as anti-HIV principles. These compounds can serve as new leads for further development of anti-AIDS agents.1

The pharmacological mechanism of the anti-obesity effect of Nelumbo nucifera leaves extract (NNE) were investigated on mice and rats. NNE impaired digestion, inhibited absorption of lipids and carbohydrates, accelerated lipid metabolism and up-regulated energy expenditure. Consequently, NNE is beneficial for the suppression of obesity.2

Sources:

1. Y Kashiwada, A Aoshima, Y Ikeshiro, YP Chen et al (2005). "Anti-HIV benzylisoquinoline alkaloids and flavonoids from the leaves of Nelumbo nucifera, and structure–activity correlations with related alkaloids" Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry. Volume 13, Issue 2, Pages 443-448

2. Y Ono, E Hattori, Y Fukaya, S Imai, Y Ohizumi (2006). "Anti-obesity effect of Nelumbo nucifera leaves extract in mice and rats" Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Volume 106, Issue 2, Pages 238-244

Use of He Ye as food

He Ye is also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Lo Mai Gai (Steamed Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf).