If you’re walking in an orchard during the late summer and looking for Chinese herbs, chances are that you’re looking for plants growing on the ground. However, for this month’s herbs, you’ll find them if you look up in the trees, in the form of peaches and apricots. The kernel from each of these stone fruits are a part of the Chinese herbal formulary, each with very different properties.
Peach kernel is called Tao Ren in Chinese. It’s a commonly used herb to treat a condition called blood stasis, which is when the circulation of blood is not optimal or has even become blocked in some way. This type of impairment to blood circulation, associated with Tao Ren, is not usually life threatening but will cause uncomfortable symptoms. Some common types of blood stasis include a build-up due to hemorrhage, congestion of some kind, blood clots, bruises and ischemia (when vessels are pinched or cut off). Blood stasis is commonly associated pain that is deep, sharp or has a throbbing quality.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tao Ren breaks up blood stasis. A common use for this herb is to treat menstrual disorders, endometriosis, dysmenorrhea (cramping) and to promote menstruation. It can also be included in formulas that treat abdominal pain, traumatic injuries, abscesses and abdominal masses, such as enlargement of the liver or spleen, pelvic tumors and cysts. Because Tao Ren is also considered to be moistening, it’s a useful herb in treating constipation because it can moisten your intestines and unblock your bowels.
Apricot kernel is called Xing Ren. Its main action is to stop coughing and wheezing. However, because the effects of this herb is focused on treating symptoms, it’s usually paired with other herbs in formulas that address the underlying cause of the symptoms. For example, it may be combined with herbs to treat cold or flu, strengthen your lungs, clear heat (from infection or a fever) or warm your body when the cough is caused by internal cold.
The only similarity this herb has to Tao Ren is that it’s also moistening. That makes Xing Ren a good choice to treat a dry cough, but it can also moisten your intestines and treat constipation like Tao Ren.
Apricot kernel can be toxic if very large amounts (60 or more kernels) are ingested. However, most herbs, including Xing Ren need to be prepared correctly before use. This practice of preparing Chinese herbs is a profession in its own right, called pao zhi. After an herb is harvested, cut and dried, a practitioner of pao zhi prepares it to optimize its effects. Pao Zhi techniques may be employed to reduce the herb’s side effects, increase its potency or alter its properties for a specific use. In the case of Xing Ren, pao zhi involves cooking it, removing the outer coating of the kernel or preparing the herb with a type of sugar to reduce its toxicity and make it safe for use.
According to Chinese food therapy, both peaches and apricots have a flavor combination of sweet and sour, and the flesh of both fruits nourish your body’s Yin, like a moistening coolant. However the kernels of each of these fruits are commonly used herbs with very different actions. If you’d like more information on Chinese herbal medicine, we’re happy to answer your questions! Just give us a call.