Jiang Huang (Turmeric) in Chinese Medicine

English: Turmeric

Chinese: 姜黄

Parts used: Dried rhizome

TCM category: Herbs that invigorate the Blood

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Liver Spleen

Scientific name: Curcuma longa

Other names: Jiāng huáng

Use of Jiang Huang (turmeric) 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: Wash and remove impurities, slightly soak in water, cut in thick slices and dry

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Moves Blood and unblocks Stasis. Facilitates the movement of Qi and eases pain. Clears the meridians, expels Wind and moves Blood to relieve pain.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Jiang Huang may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Chest pain Amenorrhea Abdominal bloating Rheumatism Abdominal pain Rheumatoid arthritis Irregular menstruation Gallstones

Contraindications*: This herb should be avoided during pregnancy; it should not be used when there is Blood Deficiency with signs of Stagnation of Blood or Qi.

Common TCM formulas in which Jiang Huang is used*

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

Jiang Huang is a deputy ingredient in Pai Shi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Pai Shi Tang, Jiang Huang invigorates Blood, smooths the Liver by removing Stagnation and reduces associated pain. It also clears Heat in the Liver and Gallbladder. 

Read more about Pai Shi Tang

Juan Bi Tang

Source date: 1178 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies and harmonizes the Protective and Nutritive Qi. Dispels Wind. Eliminates Dampness.

Conditions targeted*: Periarthritis of the shoulderRheumatoid arthritis and others

Jiang Huang is an assistant ingredient in Juan Bi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Juan Bi Tang, Jiang Huang invigorates the Blood and moves the Qi. It is specific for spasms and pain in the shoulders and upper arms.

Read more about Juan Bi Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Jiang Huang's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Jiang Huang belongs 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 Stagnation when it causes certain tumors, cysts and hardened clots.

Furthermore Jiang Huang is Warm in nature. This means that Jiang Huang tends 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 Jiang Huang can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Jiang Huang also tastes 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 Jiang Huang 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 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 Jiang Huang is thought to target the Liver and the Spleen. In TCM the Liver 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. The Spleen on the other hand assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body.

Research on Jiang Huang

Regular ingestion of turmeric reduces plasma malondialdehyde and increases red blood cell catalase activity and plasma albumin levels in hemodialysis patients.1

Gargling with turmeric by head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy provided significant benefit by delaying and reducing the severity of mucositis.2

Co-ingestion of turmeric with white bread increases working memory independent of body fatness, glycaemia, insulin, or Alzheimer's disease biomarkers.3

Sources:

1. Pakfetrat M, Akmali M, Malekmakan L, Dabaghimanesh M, Khorsand M. (2015). Role of turmeric in oxidative modulation in end-stage renal disease patients. Hemodial Int. , 19(1):124-31. doi: 10.1111/hdi.12204. Epub 2014 Aug 16.

2. Rao S, Dinkar C, Vaishnav LK, Rao P, Rai MP, Fayad R, Baliga MS. (2014). The Indian Spice Turmeric Delays and Mitigates Radiation-Induced Oral Mucositis in Patients Undergoing Treatment for Head and Neck Cancer: An Investigational Study. Integr Cancer Ther. , 13(3):201-10. doi: 10.1177/1534735413503549. Epub 2013 Oct 28.

3. Lee MS, Wahlqvist ML, Chou YC, Fang WH, Lee JT, Kuan JC, Liu HY, Lu TM, Xiu L, Hsu CC, Andrews ZB, Pan WH. (2014). Turmeric improves post-prandial working memory in pre-diabetes independent of insulin. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. , 23(4):581-91. doi: 10.6133/apjcn.2014.23.4.24.

Use of Jiang Huang as food

Jiang Huang is also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Indian curries or Moroccan tajines.