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Wild ginger

Chinese: 细辛

Pinyin: Xì Xīn

Parts used: Dried root and rhizome

TCM category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Heart Kidney Lung

Scientific name: Asarum heterotropoides or Asarum sieboldii

Other names: Asari Radix

Use of wild ginger (Xi Xin) 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 soak in water to moisten and dry, ideally under the sun

Dosage: 1 - 3 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Relieves the Exterior and warms the Yang. Expels Cold and relieves pain. Warms the Lungs and reduces Phlegm. Moves the Qi and disperses Phlegm to open the nasal passages.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which wild ginger may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Common cold Headache Toothache Sinusitis Rheumatic athralgia Coughing Dyspnea

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those who are Qi Deficient with sweating nor by those with headache due to Blood or Yin Deficiency. It should also not be used for Lung conditions when there is thick yellow Phlegm. It should be avoided during pregnancy.

Common TCM formulas in which wild ginger (Xi Xin) are used*

Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 15 herbs

Formula key actions: Anti-rheumatic, clears Wind, Cold and Damp Stagnation. Strengthens the function of the Liver and Kidney. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic lower back painSciatica and others

Xi Xin is a deputy ingredient in Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang, Xi Xin scatters Cold in the Channels and scours out Wind-Dampness from the sinews and bones to stop the pain.

Read more about Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Lungs. Transforms congested Fluids.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisChronic asthma and others

Xi Xin is a deputy ingredient in Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang, Xi Xin warms and disperses Cold from the Lungs to transform thin mucus.

Aromatic and piercing, it successfully opens up the clumped Qi, thereby assisting the formula's key herb (Dried ginger - Gan Jiang) to unblock stagnation to facilitate the normal dissemination of Lung Qi and the dispelling of Pathogenic Cold and thin mucus.

Read more about Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang

Xiao Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior. Transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Warms the Lungs. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsBronchitis and others

Xi Xin is a deputy ingredient in Xiao Qing Long Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

Read more about Xiao Qing Long Tang

Da Huang Fu Zi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Interior. Disperses Cold. Unblocks the bowels. Alleviates pain.

Conditions targeted*: Trigeminal neuralgiaPeriarthritis of the shoulder and others

Xi Xin is an assistant ingredient in Da Huang Fu Zi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Da Huang Fu Zi Tang, Xi Xin is a powerful substance for expelling Cold and dispersing accumulation or clumping. It is commonly combined with Aconite to treat pathogenic Cold that lurks deeply in the Yin portion of the body.

Read more about Da Huang Fu Zi Tang

Xiao Tiao Jing Tang

Source date: 1742 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Remove Blood Stagnation. Nourishes Blood. Calms the Mind.

In Xiao Tiao Jing Tang, Xi Xin opens the Mind's orifices thanks to its pungent nature.

Read more about Xiao Tiao Jing Tang

Key TCM concepts behind wild ginger (Xi Xin)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), wild ginger are plants that belong to the 'Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior' category. Herbs that release the Exterior aim to to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the throat or the skin. TCM believes that External diseases such as colds or allergies can only invade the body if the External environment overwhelms our Wei Qi (the TCM version of the immune system). In order to counteract this invasion Warm/Acrid herbs aim to induce sweating by increasing the flow of sweat to our capillary pores. The belief is that this will expel the disease from the body and stop it from invading further.

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

Wild ginger also taste 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. Pungent ingredients like wild ginger 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 wild ginger are thought to target the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung. In addition to regulating Blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. 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. 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 wild ginger (Xi Xin)

Ningxintong Granules (consisting of Xi Xin - Wild Ginger) with Qi-enriching and Blood-activating actions shows favorable effect in treating coronary heart disease patients with left ventricular diastolic dysfunction.1

Sources:

1. Wu TQ, Gu N, Wang FF. (2010). Effect of ningxintong granule in treating patients of coronary heart disease with left ventricular diastolic dysfunction and qi-deficiency blood-stasis syndrome. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. , 30(4):357-60.