English: Plantain seeds

Chinese: 车前子

Parts used: Dried ripe seeds

TCM category: Herbs that drain Dampness

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Kidney Liver Lung Small intestine

Scientific name: Plantago asiatica or Plantago depressa

Other names: Obako seeds, Arnoglossa seeds

Use of Che Qian Zi (plantain seeds) 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: Remove the impurities and fry the seeds until you hear cracking. Spray salt water on the seeds and dry them.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Encourages urination and clears Heat. Stops diarrhea by expelling water through urination. Brightens the eyes, used in combination either for Deficiency or Heat. Reduces inflammation of infections. Arrests cough and expectorates Phlegm.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Che Qian Zi may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Edema Dysuria Diarrhea Conjunctivitis Phlegm Coughing Urinary tract infection

Contraindications*: Should not be used during pregnancy, constipation, Deficiency of Qi or with signs of Damp Heat.

Common TCM formulas in which Che Qian Zi is used*

Ba Zheng San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and Fire. Promotes urination. Unblocks painful urinary dribbling.

Conditions targeted*: GlomerulonephritisCystitis and others

Che Qian Zi is a deputy ingredient in Ba Zheng San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Ba Zheng San, Che Qian Zi smooths the passage of urine despite any Stagnation in the way.

Read more about Ba Zheng San

Wan Dai Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies the Middle Burner. Removes Dampness. Stops vaginal discharge. Strengthens the Spleen.

Conditions targeted*: PreeclampsiaOtitis media and others

Che Qian Zi is a deputy ingredient in Wan Dai Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Wan Dai Tang, Che Qian Zi releases Dampness through the urine. It should be wine fried. 

Read more about Wan Dai Tang

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

Conditions targeted*: FurunclesPurulent otitis and others

Che Qian Zi is an assistant ingredient in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Yi Huang Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Strengthens the Spleen. Dries Dampness. Clears Heat. Stops vaginal discharge.

Conditions targeted*: CervicitisCervical erosion and others

Che Qian Zi is an assistant ingredient in Yi Huang Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Yi Huang Tang, Che Qian Zi is sweet and cooling. It removes Dampness primarily through the urine.

Read more about Yi Huang Tang

Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Kidney Yang. Strengthens the Essence.

In Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan, Che Qian Zi clear any Heat that can be risen from the tonification of Yang.

Read more about Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan

Shi Wei San

Source date: 1687 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears heat. Promotes the resolution of Dampness. Unblocks painful urinary dribbling. Expels stones.

Conditions targeted*: UrethritisCystitis and others

Read more about Shi Wei San

Key TCM concepts behind Che Qian Zi's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Che Qian Zi belongs to the 'Herbs that drain Dampness' category. These herbs are typically diuretics, meaning that they promotes the increased production of urine in order to remove Dampness that has accumulated in the body. According to TCM Dampness accumulates first in the lower limbs, causing edema and impaired movement. From there, if unchecked, it can move upward and impair digestion and eventually the respiratory system.

Furthermore Che Qian Zi is Cool in nature. This means that Che Qian Zi tends to help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. 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 Che Qian Zi can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Che Qian Zi 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 Che Qian Zi 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 Che Qian Zi is thought to target the Kidney, the Liver, the Lung and the Small intestine. 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. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body. Like the Stomach, the Small Intestine has a digestive role, extracting the "pure" part of what we injest to the Spleen and the "impure" down to the Large Intestine.

Research on Che Qian Zi

In vitro models clearly establish the antioxidant potency of the polysaccharides extracted from Semen Plantaginis.1

Sources:

1. CL Ye, WL Hu, DH Dai (2011). Extraction of polysaccharides and the antioxidant activity from the seeds of Plantago asiatica L. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, 49(4): 466-470. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2011.05.026