English: Sichuan chinaberries

Chinese: 川楝子

Parts used: Dried ripe fruit

TCM category: Herbs that regulate Qi

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Organ affinity: Spleen Liver Small intestine

Scientific name: Melia toosendan

Other names: Jin Ling Zi

Use of Chuan Lian Zi (sichuan chinaberries) 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 and dry the fruit. Smash before use.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Damp Heat. Circulates Qi. Relieves chest, epigastric and abdominal pains. Expels parasites.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Chuan Lian Zi may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Epigastric pain Abdominal pain Chest pain Hernial pain Parasites Athletes' foot Tinea Intestinal parasites

Contraindications*: Slightly toxic: an overdose can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dyspnea and heart irregularities. Not for Cold Deficiency of the Stomach and Spleen.

Common TCM formulas in which Chuan Lian Zi is used*

Jin Ling Zi San

Source date: 992 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Formula key actions: Moves Liver Blood and Liver Qi. Drains Liver Heat or Fire. Stops pain.

Conditions targeted*: Peptic ulcersChronic gastritis and others

Chuan Lian Zi is a king ingredient in Jin Ling Zi San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Jin Ling Zi San, Chuan Lian Zi clears Heat from the chest, hypochondrium, and groin area by draining it through the urine. When the Heat has been removed, and the Fire Stagnation resolved, the Liver can once again carry out its regulating function.

Read more about Jin Ling Zi San

Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang

Source date: 1918 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Sedates the Liver. Axtinguishes Wind. Nourishes the Yin. Anchors the yang.

Conditions targeted*: HypertensionRenal hypertension and others

Chuan Lian Zi is an assistant ingredient in Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang, Chuan Lian Zi smoothes the movement of Liver Qi and drains Liver Yang Excess. This reinforces the actions of pacifying, controlling, and sedating the Liver yang.

Read more about Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang

Pai Shi Tang

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Discharge Gallstones. Clear Damp-Heat. Facilitate urination.

Conditions targeted*: Hepatic calculusCommon Bile Duct Stone and others

Chuan Lian Zi is an assistant ingredient in Pai Shi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Pai Shi Tang, Chuan Lian Zi clears Damp-Heat, circulates Qi as well as relieves pain in chest, epigastric and abdomen. 

Read more about Pai Shi Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Chuan Lian Zi's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Chuan Lian Zi belongs 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 Chuan Lian Zi is Cold in nature. This means that Chuan Lian Zi 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 Chuan Lian Zi can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Chuan Lian Zi also tastes Bitter. 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 Chuan Lian Zi tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Chuan Lian Zi is thought to target the Spleen, the Liver and the Small intestine. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in 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. Like the Stomach, the Small Intestine has a digestive role, extracting the "pure" part of what we injest to the Spleen and the "impure" down to the Large Intestine.