Plum flowers

Chinese: 梅花

Pinyin: Méi Huā

Parts used: Dried flowers

TCM category: Herbs that regulate Qi

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sour

Meridian affinity: StomachLiverLung

Scientific name: Prunus mume

Other names: Chinese plum or Japanese apricot

Use of plum flowers (Mei Hua) 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: Collect flowers and dry them at low temperature

Dosage: 3 - 5 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Regulates the Stomach and Spleen function and soothes the Liver Qi. Resolves Phlegm and detoxifies.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which plum flowers may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Depression Ulcers Scrofula Stomach rumble Phlegm

Key TCM concepts behind plum flowers (Mei Hua)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), plum flowers are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that regulate Qi' category. Herbs in this category typically treat a TCM condition called 'Qi Stagnation'. Concretely it means that Qi is blocked in the body's Organs and Meridians, most typically the Stomach, Liver, and to a lesser extent, the Lungs. In modern medicine terms, Qi Stagnation often translates into psychological consequences such as depression, irritability or mood swings. It's also frequently associated with conditions such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopausal symptoms, the development of breast swellings as well as various digestive disorders.

Furthermore plum flowers are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that plum flowers typically don'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 plum flowers means that you don't have to worry about that!

Plum flowers also taste Sour. 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. Sour ingredients like plum flowers help with digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such plum flowers are thought to target the Stomach, the Liver and the Lung. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. 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. 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 plum flowers (Mei Hua)

P. mume extract administered during endurance exercise training may enhance the oxidative capacity of exercising skeletal muscle, and may induce the muscle to prefer fatty acids for its fuel use rather than amino acids or carbohydrates, thus assisting endurance.1

Chlorogenic acid isomers are the key phenolic compounds which are responsible for antioxidant activity of the ethanolic extract from Chinese P. mume flowers.2

Sources:

1. Soyoung Kim, Sung-Hee Park, Hye-Nam Lee, and Taesun Park (2008). Prunus mume Extract Ameliorates Exercise-Induced Fatigue in Trained Rats. Journal of Medicinal Food, 11:3, 460-468.

2. Jiayi Shi, Jinyan Gong, Ji'er Liu, Xiaoqin Wu, Ying Zhang (2009). Antioxidant capacity of extract from edible flowers of Prunus mume in China and its active components. LWT - Food Science and Technology, Volume 42, Issue 2, Pages 477-482. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lwt.2008.09.008.