Malva nuts

Chinese: 胖大海

Pinyin: Pàng Dà Hǎi

Parts used: Dried ripe seed

TCM category: Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: Large intestineLung

Scientific name: Sterculia lychnophora, Scaphium affine

Other names: Boat fruited sterculia

Use of malva nuts (Pàng Dà Hǎi) 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 practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities and dry. Careful not to soak in water.

Dosage: 2 to 3 pieces

Main actions according to TCM*: Removes Heat from the Lungs. Cures sore throat. Fights toxicity and relaxes the bowels.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which malva nuts may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Dry mouth Dry cough Sore throat Constipation

Common TCM formulas in which malva nuts are used*:

  • For Lung Qi deficiency with Heat with symptoms of hoarseness and painful red throat combine malva nuts with ningpo figwort roots.

Key TCM concepts behind malva nuts' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), malva nuts are plants that belong to the 'Cool 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 Cold in nature so they treat the later stages of the Stagnation: Hot and Dry-Phlegm with symptoms such as cough, goiter or scrofula.

As suggested by its category malva nuts are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that malva nuts typically help 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 malva nuts can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Malva nuts also taste Sweet. 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. Sweet ingredients like malva nuts 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 malva nuts are thought to target the Large intestine and the Lung. In TCM 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. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body.

Research on malva nuts

Malva nuts contain compounds shown to have a neuroprotective effect against SH-SY5Y cell damage induced by hydrogen peroxide.1

Sources:

1. Wang, R.-F.; Wu, X.-W.; Geng, D. Two Cerebrosides Isolated from the Seeds of Sterculia lychnophora and Their Neuroprotective Effect. Molecules 2013, 18, 1181-1187.

Use of malva nuts as food

Malva nuts are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Nuoc Hot E Duoi Uoi (Thai Basil Seed Drink with Malva Nut).