Milkvetch seeds

Chinese: 沙苑子

Pinyin: Shā Yuàn Zi

Parts used: Dried ripe seeds

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Yang Deficiency

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Kidney Liver

Scientific name: Astragalus complanatus

Other names: Sha Yuan Ji Li

Use of milkvetch seeds (Sha Yuan Zi) 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: Extract the seeds from the plant, wash them and dry them (ideally under the sun)

Dosage: 9 - 15 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies Kidney Yang. Consolidates Essence and semen. Strengthens vision.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which milkvetch seeds may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Chronic lower back pain Premature ejaculation Spermatorrhea Urinary incontinence Impaired vision

Contraindications*: Not for symptoms of Heat in the Kidneys or Bladder

Common TCM formulas in which milkvetch seeds (Sha Yuan Zi) are used*

Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Stabilizes the Kidneys. Binds up the semen.

Conditions targeted*: Sexual dysfunctionChyluria and others

Sha Yuan Zi is a king ingredient in Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan, Sha Yuan Zi provides both of the fundamental actions of this formula: it tonifies the Kidneys and benefits the Essence, and stops the leakage of semen by stabilizing the gate of Essence.

Read more about Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan

Key TCM concepts behind milkvetch seeds (Sha Yuan Zi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), milkvetch seeds are plants that belong to the 'Tonic herbs for Yang Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Yang Tonics are generally used in combination with a small amount of Yin tonics. If Yin is deficient, neither Qi nor Yang herbs alone will be effective. The most common symptoms associated with Yang Deficiency are low libido and impotence. It is worth mentioning that another very effective remedy against Yang Deficiency is regular exercise.

Furthermore milkvetch seeds are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that milkvetch seeds tend to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess(because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition milkvetch seeds can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Milkvetch seeds 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 milkvetch seeds 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 milkvetch seeds are thought to target the Kidney and the Liver. According to TCM, the Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. The Liver on the other hand 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.

Research on milkvetch seeds (Sha Yuan Zi)

Semen Astragali Complanati is a valuable TCM herb with multiple pharmacological effects for treating some chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus and cancers.1

Sources:

1. Ng YF, Tang PC, Sham TT, Lam WS, Mok DK, Chan SW. (2014). Semen Astragali Complanati: an ethnopharmacological, phytochemical and pharmacological review. J Ethnopharmacol. , 8;155(1):39-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.06.013. Epub 2014 Jun 13.