English: Terminalia fruits

Chinese: 诃子

Parts used: Dry ripe fruits

TCM category: Herbs that stabilize and bind

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): BitterSour

Organ affinity: Stomach Large intestine Lung

Scientific name: Terminalia chebula

Other names: Chebulic myrobalan

Use of He Zi (terminalia 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: Remove impurities, wash and dry.

Dosage: 3 to 10 g

Main actions according to TCM*: Strengthens the Intestines and Lungs.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which He Zi may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Diarrhea Coughing Sore throat Weak voice Blood in stools Anus prolapse

Contraindications*: Not for cough caused by Exterior syndrome. Also not for Stagnation caused by Internal Damp Heat.

Common TCM formulas in which He Zi is used*

Su He Xiang Wan

Source date: 752 AD

Number of ingredients: 15 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and aromatically opens the sensory orifices. Promotes the movement of Qi. Transforms turbidity.

Conditions targeted*: Cerebrovascular accidentEncephalitis and others

He Zi is an assistant ingredient in Su He Xiang Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Su He Xiang Wan, He Zi restrains the leakage of Qi. It prevents the acrid, aromatic properties of the other ingredients from consuming or dispersing the normal Qi. 

Read more about Su He Xiang Wan

Ke Xie Fang

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Fire. Transforms Phlegm. Preserves the Lungs. Stops coughing and bleeding.

Conditions targeted*: Pulmonary tuberculosisBronchiectasis and others

He Zi is an assistant ingredient in Ke Xie Fang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ke Xie Fang, He Zi is bitter, sour, astringent, and neutral. 

It cools the Lungs while containing
any leakage of Lung Qi and stopping the coughing.

Read more about Ke Xie Fang

Key TCM concepts behind He Zi's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), He Zi belongs to the 'Herbs that stabilize and bind' category. This category of herbs is used for treating abnormal discharges and displacement of Organs. This includes conditions such as diarrhea, discharges from the vagina, penis or rectum as well as prolapse of the Uterus or rectum. It is important to note that herbs in this category only treat symptoms, so one should also use herbs to treat the underlying Deficiency.

Furthermore He Zi is Neutral in nature. This means that He Zi typically doesn'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 He Zi means that you don't have to worry about that!

He Zi also tastes Bitter and Sour. 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 He Zi tends 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 Sour ingredients help with digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of Fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such He Zi is thought to target the Stomach, the Large intestine and the Lung. 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 Large Intestine on the other hand receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. 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.