English: Pricklyash Seeds

Chinese: 椒目

Parts used: Seeds

TCM category: Herbs that drain Dampness

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Bladder Spleen

Scientific name: Zanthoxylum bungeanum

Other names: Pepper eye seeds

Use of Jiao Mu (pricklyash 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: Collect the seeds, remove impurities and pan-fry.

Dosage: 1.5-6g

Main actions according to TCM*: Promotes and regulates urination so as to reduce. Clears Phlegm and relieves dyspnea.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Jiao Mu may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Edema Abdominal edema Asthma Dyspnea

Contraindications*: It is contraindicated for patients with Yin Deficiency with Empty Fire Rising.

Common TCM formulas in which Jiao Mu is used*

Shu Zao Yin Zi

Source date: 1253 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Purges and drives out Water. Clears Wind. Releases from the Exterior .

Conditions targeted*: Nephritis with EdemaIncreased intracranial pressure and others

Jiao Mu is a deputy ingredient in Shu Zao Yin Zi. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Shu Zao Yin Zi, Jiao Mu is indicated for Abdominal distention in addition to its Diuretic effects.

Read more about Shu Zao Yin Zi

Ji Jiao Li Huang Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Drives out water. Reduces distention. Scours out thin mucus. Moves the Qi.

Conditions targeted*: Cirrhosis with ascitesNephritis with edema and others

Jiao Mu is an assistant ingredient in Ji Jiao Li Huang Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ji Jiao Li Huang Wan, Jiao Mu acts with Stephania root to promote urination and remove Qi Stagnation. 

Read more about Ji Jiao Li Huang Wan

Key TCM concepts behind Jiao Mu's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Jiao Mu 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 Jiao Mu is Cold in nature. This means that Jiao Mu typically helps 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 Jiao Mu can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Jiao Mu also tastes Bitter and Pungent. 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. Bitter ingredients like Jiao Mu tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients tend to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Jiao Mu is thought to target the Bladder and the Spleen. In TCM the impure water collected by the Kidneys that cannot be used by the body is sent to the Bladder for storage and excretion as urine. The Spleen on the other hand assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body.