English: Sargassum

Chinese: 海藻

Parts used: Dried alga

TCM category: Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): BitterSalty

Organ affinity: Kidney Liver Stomach

Scientific name: Sargassum pallidum or Sargassum fusiforme

Other names: Herba sargassi

Use of Hai Zao (sargassum) 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 impurities, wash and dry.

Dosage: 6 - 15 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Heat and reduces hardening associated with Phlegm-Heat. Encourages urination and lessens edema. Expels phlegm from the lungs.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Hai Zao may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Goiter Scrofula Testicular pain Edema Bronchitis

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Coldness due to Spleen and Stomach Deficiency.

Key TCM concepts behind Hai Zao's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Hai Zao belongs to the 'Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough' category. In TCM Phlegm is a condition of Stagnation of Fluids which tends to start in the Spleen and then goes to the Lungs. If this overly accumulates it thickens and becomes pathological Phlegm. Phlegm, being a form of Stagnation, often starts as being Cool and transforms to Hot as the condition progresses. The herbs in this category are Cold in nature so they treat the later stages of the Stagnation: Hot and Dry-Phlegm with symptoms such as cough, goiter or scrofula.

As suggested by its category Hai Zao is Cold in nature. This means that Hai Zao 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 Hai Zao can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Hai Zao also tastes Bitter and Salty. 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 Hai Zao 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 Salty ingredients tend to have a draining effect in the body because they clear accumulations, remove Phlegm and soften hard lumps.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Hai Zao is thought to target the Kidney, the Liver and the Stomach. 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. 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.

Research on Hai Zao

Various compounds extracted from a range of seaweeds (including from the Sargassum genus) have been shown to prevent or suppress the progression of some types of cancers like colon and breast cancers.1


1. Moussavou G, Kwak DH, Obiang-Obonou BW, Maranguy CA, Dinzouna-Boutamba SD, Lee DH, Pissibanganga OG, Ko K, Seo JI, Choo YK. (2014). Anticancer effects of different seaweeds on human colon and breast cancers. Mar Drugs. , 12(9):4898-911. doi: 10.3390/md12094898.

Use of Hai Zao as food

Hai Zao is also eaten as food.