White mustard seeds

Chinese: 白芥子

Pinyin: Bái Jiè Zǐ

Parts used: The seeds, dried

TCM category: Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: StomachLung

Scientific name: Sinapis alba

Use of white mustard seeds (Bai Jie Zi) 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: We use the mature seeds of the plant , extract them and stir-fry until deep yellow

Dosage: 3-9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Warms the lungs. Eliminates Phlegm and regulated Qi. Dissipates nodules and unblocks the Meridians to relieve pain.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which white mustard seeds may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Asthma Chronic bronchitis Obstructive pulmonary disease Sores

Contraindications*: Contraindicated for those with chronic cough due to Lung Deficiency and for those with Yin Deficiency with Heat signs.

Key TCM concepts behind white mustard seeds (Bai Jie Zi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), white mustard seeds are plants that belong to the 'Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough' category. In TCM Phlegm is a condition of Stagnation of Fluids which tends to start in the Spleen and then goes to the Lungs. If this overly accumulates it thickens and becomes pathological Phlegm. Phlegm, being a form of Stagnation, often starts as being Cool and transforms to Hot as the condition progresses. The herbs in this category are Cold in nature so they treat the later stages of the Stagnation: Hot and Dry-Phlegm with symptoms such as cough, goiter or scrofula.

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

White mustard seeds also taste Bitter. 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. Bitter ingredients like white mustard seeds tend 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 white mustard seeds are thought to target the Stomach 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. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body.