English: Sharp-leaf galangal fruits

Chinese: 益智仁

Parts used: Dried ripe fruit

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Yang Deficiency

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Kidney Spleen

Scientific name: Alpinia oxyphylla

Other names: Sharpleaf Galangal Fruit

Use of Yi Zhi Ren (sharp-leaf galangal fruits) 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: Harvest the fruit when ripe, remove the seed and dry.

Dosage: 3-9 g

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies Kidney Yang and consolidates Kidney Qi. Warms the Spleen and stops diarrhea and salivation.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Yi Zhi Ren may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Diarrhea Abdominal pain Enuresis Spermatorrhea Urinary incontinence

Contraindications*: Not for symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and frequent urination caused by Internal Heat.

Common TCM formulas in which Yi Zhi Ren is used*

Suo Quan Wan

Source date: 1227 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Kidneys. Dispels cold. Reduces urinary frequency. Stops leakage.

Conditions targeted*: Urinary incontinencePostpartum incontinence and others

Yi Zhi Ren is a king ingredient in Suo Quan Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Suo Quan Wan, Yi Zhi Ren warms the Kidneys and helps them grasp the Qi of the Bladder. It also warms the Spleen, which assists in governing Fluids. Lastly it also has a more direct action in stabilizing and binding up urine.

Read more about Suo Quan Wan

Bi Xie Fen Qing Yin

Source date: 1732 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Warms the Kidneys. Drains Dampness. Separates the clear from the turbid.

Conditions targeted*: Vaginal dischargeCloudy urine and others

Yi Zhi Ren is a deputy ingredient in Bi Xie Fen Qing Yin. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Bi Xie Fen Qing Yin, Yi Zhi Ren is acrid and aromatic. It warms the Spleen and the Stomach to harmonize the Middle Burner. It also helps the Kidney Yang to secure the Lower Burner. Thus it reduces the urination frequency and stabilizes the Qi.

Read more about Bi Xie Fen Qing Yin

Tu Si Zi Wan

Source date: 1253 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Kidneys. Prevents abnormal leakage such as urinary incontinence or seminal emissions.

Conditions targeted*: Urinary incontinenceSeminal emission and others

Yi Zhi Ren is an assistant ingredient in Tu Si Zi Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Tu Si Zi Wan, Yi Zhi Ren assists the key herbs in strengthening the Kidney Qi. 

Read more about Tu Si Zi Wan

Key TCM concepts behind Yi Zhi Ren's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yi Zhi Ren belongs to the 'Tonic herbs for Yang Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Yang Tonics are generally used in combination with a small amount of Yin tonics. If Yin is deficient, neither Qi nor Yang herbs alone will be effective. The most common symptoms associated with Yang Deficiency are low libido and impotence. It is worth mentioning that another very effective remedy against Yang Deficiency is regular exercise.

Furthermore Yi Zhi Ren is Warm in nature. This means that Yi Zhi Ren tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition Yi Zhi Ren can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Yi Zhi Ren also tastes 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. Pungent ingredients like Yi Zhi Ren tends 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 Yi Zhi Ren is thought to target the Kidney and the Spleen. 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 Spleen on the other hand assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body.

Research on Yi Zhi Ren

Sharp-leaf galangal fruit has an anti-diarrheal effect.1

Sharp-leaf galangal fruit has a protective effect against bone loss.2


1. Wang S. Zhao Y, Zhang J, Huang X, Wang Y, Xu X, Zheng B, Zhou X, Tian H, Liu L, Mei Q (2015) Antidiarrheal effect of Alpinia oxyphylla Miq. (Zingiberaceae) in experiemental mice and its possible mechanism of action. J Ethnopharmacol 168:182-90

2. Hyunil Ha, Ki-Shuk Shim, Taesoo Kim, Chung-Jo Lee, Ji Hyung Park, Han Sung Kim, Jin Teul Ma. (2014) Water extract of the fruits of Alpinia oxyphylla inhibits osteoclast differentiation and bone loss. BMC Complement Altern Med 14:352

Use of Yi Zhi Ren as food

Yi Zhi Ren is also eaten as food.