Pearls  (Zhen Zhu) in Chinese medicine

Pearls

Chinese: 珍珠

Pinyin: Zhēn Zhū

Parts used: Whole pearl

TCM category: Herbs that nourish the Heart and calm the Spirit

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): SaltySweet

Meridian affinity: HeartLiver

Scientific name: Calcium carbonate

Use of pearls (Zhen Zhu) 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: Take the pearl and smash it into power.

Dosage: 0.3 - 0.9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Calm the spirit and brighten the eyes.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which pearls may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Dizziness Headache Impaired vision Palpitations Tinnitus Insomnia

Contraindications*: Not for Cold conditions.

Common TCM formulas in which pearls are used*:

  • For a restless Heart Spirit with symptoms of irritability and anxiety combine pearls with honey (Feng Mi).

Key TCM concepts behind pearls (Zhen Zhu)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), pearls are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that nourish the Heart and calm the Spirit' category. These herbs are substances that tranquilize the mind and treat symptoms such as restlessness, palpitations, anxiety or insomnia. They tend to have sedative properties by tonifying Heart Yin and Blood as in TCM it is believed that the Heart is the store of the mind.

Furthermore pearls are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that pearls 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 pearls can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Pearls also taste Salty and 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. Salty ingredients like pearls tend to have a draining effect in the body because they clear accumulations, remove phlegm and soften hard lumps. On the other hand Sweet ingredients 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 pearls are thought to target the Heart and the Liver. In addition to regulating blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the "spirit" which basically refers to someone's vitality. 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 body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on pearls (Zhen Zhu)

Calcium supplementation with calcium carbonate is a simple and effective treatment in premenstrual syndrome, resulting in a major reduction in overall luteal phase symptoms.1

Calcium carbonate is an effective phosphate binder in the treatment of hyperphosphatemia in patients with chronic renal failure.2

Sources:

1. Susan Thys-Jacobs, Paul Starkey, Debra Bernstein, Jason Tian (1998). Calcium carbonate and the premenstrual syndrome: Effects on premenstrual and menstrual symptoms. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Volume 179, Issue 2, Pages 444-452. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-9378(98)70377-1.

2. Slatopolsky E., Weerts C., Lopez-Hilker S. et al. (1986). Calcium Carbonate as a Phosphate Binder in Patients with Chronic Renal Failure Undergoing Dialysis. New England Journal of Medicine, 315(3):157-161. DOI: 10.1056/NEJM198607173150304