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Chinese: 麦芽

Pinyin: Mài Yá

Parts used: Dried germinated ripe fruit

TCM category: Herbs that relieve Food Stagnation

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach

Scientific name: Hordeum vulgare

Other names: Germinated barley, Barley sprouts

Use of malt (Mai Ya) 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: Wash the germinated barley sprouts and dry them

Dosage: 9 - 15 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Assists the Stomach to move Food Stagnation. Strengthens the Spleen. Stops the flow of mother's milk. Assists in the smooth flow of Liver Qi.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which malt may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Loss of appetite Galactostasis Indigestion Abdominal pain Abdominal colic Abdominal bloating

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used during pregnancy, by nursing mothers who do not wish to reduce their milk volume or those without Food Stagnation.

Common TCM formulas in which malt (Mai Ya) are used*

Key TCM concepts behind malt (Mai Ya)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), malt are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that relieve Food Stagnation' category. These herbs typically possess digestive and Food moving properties as they relate to the Stomach and Spleen. Some of these herbs are high in digestive enzymes and have varying specific abilities to help with the digestion of food.

Furthermore malt are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that malt typically don'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 malt means that you don't have to worry about that!

Malt 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 malt 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 malt 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 malt (Mai Ya)

Germinated barley foodstuff promotes defecation, produces bacterial short chain fatty acids, especially butyrate, without adverse effects, and is a safe foodstuff for humans.1

Germinated barley foodstuff appeared to be effective and safe as a maintenance therapy to taper steroid dose and prolong remission in patients with ulcerative colitis.2


1. Mitsuyama K, Saiki T, Kanauchi O, Iwanaga T, Tomiyasu N, Nishiyama T, Tateishi H, Shirachi A, Ide M, Suzuki A, Noguchi K, Ikeda H, Toyonaga A, Sata M. (1998). Treatment of ulcerative colitis with germinated barley foodstuff feeding: a pilot study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. , 12(12):1225-30.

2. Hanai H, Kanauchi O, Mitsuyama K, Andoh A, Takeuchi K, Takayuki I, Araki Y, Fujiyama Y, Toyonaga A, Sata M, Kojima A, Fukuda M, Bamba T. (2004). Germinated barley foodstuff prolongs remission in patients with ulcerative colitis. Int J Mol Med. , 13(5):643-7.

Use of malt (Mai Ya) as food

Malt are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Beer or Malted milkshake.