Shiny-leaf prickly-ash

Chinese: 两面针

Pinyin: Liǎnɡ Miàn Zhēn

Parts used: Dried leaves, roots and rhizomes

TCM category: Herbs that invigorate the Blood

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: StomachLiver

Scientific name: Zanthoxylum nitidum

Use of shiny-leaf prickly-ash (Liang Mian Zhen) 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: Remove impurities, wash, soak in water, cut in thick slices and dry.

Dosage: 5 - 10 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Promotes the flow of Qi to relieve pain. Activates Blood to eliminate Blood stasis. Dispels Wind and clears Meridians. Dispels toxicity and reduces swelling.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which shiny-leaf prickly-ash may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Traumatic swelling Stomach rumble Toothache Snake bites Burns Rheumatism

Contraindications*: This plant is mainly used externally. Care should be taken in its use as the plant is slightly toxic. The plant should not be consumed together with sour taste food.

Key TCM concepts behind shiny-leaf prickly-ash (Liang Mian Zhen)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), shiny-leaf prickly-ash are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that invigorate the Blood' category. Like the name indicates these herbs tend to stimulate the Blood flow. In TCM they're used to help the circulation of Blood in cardiovascular conditions or menstrual irregularities as well as to treat acute pains caused by Blood Stagnation. They can also be used to treat Blood Stasis in the case of certain tumors, cysts and hardened clots.

Furthermore shiny-leaf prickly-ash are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that shiny-leaf prickly-ash 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 shiny-leaf prickly-ash means that you don't have to worry about that!

Shiny-leaf prickly-ash also taste Bitter and Pungent. 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. Bitter ingredients like shiny-leaf prickly-ash tend 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 shiny-leaf prickly-ash are thought to target the Stomach and the Liver. 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.

Research on shiny-leaf prickly-ash (Liang Mian Zhen)

Alkaloids isolated from the roots of Zanthoxylum nitidum showed in vitro antiviral effect against hepatitis B virus and demonstrated marked antimitotic and antifungal activity.1

Sources:

1. Yang, G. and Chen, D. (2008), Alkaloids from the Roots of Zanthoxylum nitidum and Their Antiviral and Antifungal Effects. Chemistry & Biodiversity, 5: 1718-1722. doi:10.1002/cbdv.200890160