Sword beans (Dāo Dòu) in Chinese medicine

Sword beans

Chinese: 刀豆

Pinyin: Dāo Dòu

Parts used: Dried seeds

TCM category: Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: StomachKidney

Scientific name: Canavalia gladiata

Other names: Dāodòu

Use of sword beans (Dāo Dòu) 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: Harvest mature fruits, strip the seeds and dry them. Crush before use

Dosage: 6-9g

Main actions according to TCM*: Warm body core, relieves bloating, relieves hiccups

Primary conditions or symptoms for which sword beans may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Vomiting Hiccups Abdominal bloating

Key TCM concepts behind sword beans' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), sword beans are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold' category. Herbs in this category are used for Internal Coldness with Qi and Yang Deficiency. In the Yin and Yang system of thought (see our explanation on Yin and Yang) Yang is Hot in nature. A deficiency of Yang will therefore lead to Internal Coldness since there will as a result be more Yin (Cold in nature) than Yang. In extreme cases this can lead to so-called 'Yang collapse' with convulsions or coma and these herbs are particularly indicated to treat such scenarios.

As suggested by its category sword beans are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that sword beans tend 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 sword beans can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Sword beans also taste Sweet. 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. Sweet ingredients like sword beans tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such sword beans are thought to target the Stomach and the Kidney. 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 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.

Research on sword beans

4-O-methylgallic acid isolated from the seed of Canavalia gladiata is a compound having potential for being an antiangiogenic agent.1

Sources:

1. KS Jeon, HJ Na, YM Kim, HJ Kwon (2005). "Antiangiogenic activity of 4-O-methylgallic acid from Canavalia gladiata, a dietary legume" Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. Volume 330, Issue 4, Pages 1268-1274

Use of sword beans as food

Sword beans are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Sword Beans or Broad Beans Poriyal.