English: Malt

Chinese: 麦芽

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 Mai Ya (malt) 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 Mai Ya 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 Mai Ya is used*

Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang

Source date: 1918 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Sedates the Liver. Axtinguishes Wind. Nourishes the Yin. Anchors the yang.

Conditions targeted*: HypertensionRenal hypertension and others

Mai Ya is an assistant ingredient in Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang, Mai Ya smoothes the movement of Liver Qi and drains Liver Yang Excess. This reinforces the actions of pacifying, controlling, and sedating the Liver yang.

Read more about Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang

Fei Er Wan

Source date: 1156 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Kills parasites. Reduces accumulation. Strengthens the Spleen. Clears Heat.

Conditions targeted*: AscariasisHookworm and others

Mai Ya is an assistant ingredient in Fei Er Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Fei Er Wan, Mai Ya directly reduce Food Stagnation

Read more about Fei Er Wan

Key TCM concepts behind Mai Ya's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Mai Ya belongs 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 Mai Ya is Neutral in nature. This means that Mai Ya 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 Mai Ya means that you don't have to worry about that!

Mai Ya also tastes 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 Mai Ya tends 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 Mai Ya is 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 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 Mai Ya as food

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