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Tangerine peel

Chinese: 陈皮

Pinyin: Chén Pí

Parts used: Dried pericarp of the ripe fruit

TCM category: Herbs that regulate Qi

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Lung

Scientific name: Citrus reticulata

Use of tangerine peel (Chen Pi) 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, spray water, shred and dry.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Warms the Spleen and regulates the Middle Burner Qi. Dries Dampness and disperses Phlegm from the Lungs and Middle Burner. Reduces the potential for Stagnation caused by tonifying herbs.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which tangerine peel may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Loss of appetite Vomiting Diarrhea Coughing Phlegm Abdominal bloating

Contraindications*: Should not be used when there is cough with Yin or Qi Deficiency; this could manifest as Dry cough or coughing blood. It should also be avoided when there is sticky yellow phlegm.

Common TCM formulas in which tangerine peel (Chen Pi) are used*

Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm. Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen).

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsChronic bronchitis and others

Chen Pi is a king ingredient in Er Chen Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Er Chen Tang, Chen Pi disperses stagnant Qi and Cold as well as dries Dampness. It assists the Spleen and Stomach in removing Phlegm by promoting flow of Qi in these two Organs.

Read more about Er Chen Tang

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.

Conditions targeted*: AnorexiaPeptic ulcers and others

Chen Pi is a deputy ingredient in Liu Jun Zi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Liu Jun Zi Tang, Chen Pi is a drying herb that directs the Qi downward and helps remove obstruction in the Middle Burner by Phlegm-Dampness. This is characterized by Rebellious Qi of the Stomach and Lungs with symptoms like nausea, vomiting (for the stomach part) and coughing sputum (for the Lungs).

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang

Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang

Source date: Qing Dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and relieves acute conditions of the Gallbladder. Relieves acute Damp-Heat syndromes. Resolves Phlegm. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Conditions targeted*: CholecystitisIcteric hepatitis and others

Chen Pi is a deputy ingredient in Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang, Chen Pi , together with Crow-dipper rhizome (Ban Xia) and Bitter orange, other deputies of this formula, drains Gallbladder and Stomach Heat, directs rebellious Qi downward, harmonizes the Stomach, and transforms Phlegm.

Read more about Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang

Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1575 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Resolves Damp-Phlegm. Nourishes Blood.

Chen Pi is a deputy ingredient in Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang, Chen Pi revives the Spleen and facilitates the flow of Qi in the Middle Burner. Its acrid flavor disperses Stagnated Qi while its bitter warmth disperses Cold and dries Dampness. By removing the obstruction to the flow of Qi, the functions of the Spleen and Stomach are assisted. By dispelling Cold Dampness, Phlegm is eliminated. The restored movement of Qi induced by Chen Pi promotes the spontaneous resolution of phlegm. 

Read more about Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Source date: 1247

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner). Raises the Yang. Detoxifies. Lifts what has sunken.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic hepatitisArrhythmia and others

Chen Pi is an assistant ingredient in Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, Chen Pi facilitates the digestion of the formula's tonifying herbs and therefore increases their effectiveness.

Read more about Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Source date: 1602

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. Alleviates pain. Harmonizes Blood.

Conditions targeted*: HepatitisChronic gastritis and others

Chen Pi is an assistant ingredient in Chai Hu Shu Gan San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Chai Hu Shu Gan San, Chen Pi works together with Bitter orange seeds , another assistant, to regulate the Qi of the Stomach and the Intestines. Also they together direct Qi downward to help remove the excess buildup of it in the chest and th Middle Burner (what creates the symptoms of distention and a sensation of fullness). 

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Xing Su San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Dry-Cold. Disseminates the Lung Qi and relieves cough. Transforms thin mucus.

Conditions targeted*: Common coldBronchitis and others

Chen Pi is an assistant ingredient in Xing Su San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Xing Su San, Chen Pi , together with the 2 other assistants in this formula (Poria-cocos mushrooms and Crow-dipper rhizome), addresses the problem of thin mucus that patients suffer from in the patterns treated by this formula. To do so, the three herbs regulate the Qi of the Middle Burner, which in turn helps transform the Phlegm.

Read more about Xing Su San

Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang

Source date: 1732 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Dries and dissolves Phlegm. Strengthens the Spleen. Smoothes the Liver and calms Liver Wind (antispasmodic).

Conditions targeted*: Meniere's diseaseHypertension and others

Chen Pi is an assistant ingredient in Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang, Chen Pi regulates the Qi by directing excessive Qi downward, transforming and eliminating Phlegm.

Read more about Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Hot-Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder heat. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Conditions targeted*: HypertensionAngina and others

Chen Pi is an assistant ingredient in Wen Dan Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Wen Dan Tang, Chen Pi dries Dampness and expels Phlegm while regulating the Qi and harmonizes its circulation in the Stomach.

Read more about Wen Dan Tang

Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan

Source date: 1584 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Phlegm. Directs Rebellious Qi downwards. Stops coughing.

Conditions targeted*: PneumoniaChronic bronchitis and others

Chen Pi is an assistant ingredient in Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan

Wu Pi Yin

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Reduces edema, diuretic. Regulates and strengthens Spleen Qi.

Conditions targeted*: Pre-eclampsiaProtein-deficiency edema and others

Chen Pi is an assistant ingredient in Wu Pi Yin. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Wu Pi Yin

Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood. Nourishes the Heart. Calms the spirit.

Conditions targeted*: AnemiaNonhealing ulcers and others

Chen Pi is an assistant ingredient in Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang, Chen Pi is acrid and warming. It enters the Lungs and Spleen to move the Qi and harmonize the Stomach, preventing the cloying characteristics of the tonifying herbs from obstructing the Qi movement.

Read more about Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang

Wan Dai Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies the Middle Burner. Removes Dampness. Stops vaginal discharge. Strengthens the Spleen.

Conditions targeted*: PreeclampsiaOtitis media and others

Chen Pi is an assistant ingredient in Wan Dai Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Wan Dai Tang, Chen Pi moves and regulates the Spleen Qi to ensure that the tonifying function will not cause Stagnation.

Read more about Wan Dai Tang

Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan

Source date: 1817 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Resolves Dampness and Phlegm.

In Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, Chen Pi moves Qi and eliminates Qi Stagnation which will help to resolve Phlegm

Read more about Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan

Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1675 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Spleen and Stomach Qi. Removes Dampness. Moves Qi. Alleviates pain.

In Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang, Chen Pi is a drying herb that directs the Qi downward and helps remove obstruction in the Middle Burner by Phlegm-Dampness. This is characterized by Rebellious Qi of the Stomach and Lungs with symptoms like nausea, vomiting (for the stomach part) and coughing sputum (for the Lungs).

Read more about Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang

Key TCM concepts behind tangerine peel (Chen Pi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), tangerine peel are plants that belong 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 tangerine peel are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that tangerine peel 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 tangerine peel can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Tangerine peel also taste Bitter and 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. Bitter ingredients like tangerine peel 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 tangerine peel are thought to target the Spleen and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.

Research on tangerine peel (Chen Pi)

Treatment by Chinese medicine consisting of Pericarpium Citri Reticulatae to promote blood circulation get a favorable result.1

Sources:

1. Xu RS, Zong XH, Li XG. (2009). Controlled clinical trials of therapeutic effects of Chinese herbs promoting blood circulation and removing blood stasis on the treatment of reflex sympathetic dystrophy with type of stagnation of vital energy and blood stasis. Zhongguo Gu Shang, 22(12):920-2.

Use of tangerine peel (Chen Pi) as food

Tangerine peel are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Tangerine Creme Brulee.