1.1 What is a Rhus chinensis?
The Rhus chinensis (synonyms: Rhus javanica auct, or Rhus semialata Murray, also known as Chinese sumac or nutgall tree; Chinese Pinyin: Yan Fu Mu, Simplified Chinese: 盐肤木, is a species of deciduous, flowering, fruit-bearing economic and medical tree species in genus Rhus in the cashew or sumac family, Anacardiaceae. Rhus chinensis is plant of great versatility. Besides the roots, leaves, flowers and fruits, the plant is also grown for its galls, also known as Chinese gall, Galla Chinensis or Chinese Pinyin: Wu Bei Zi (五倍子 in Chinese), which a kind of hydrolysable tannins. The galls or cecidia are a kind of swelling growth on the external tissues of plants caused by infestation by Chinese sumac aphids (Melaphis chinensis Bell).
The flowers of Rhus chinensis are white and in clusters. The edible drupe is round, long and slightly oblate, small in size between 4-5 mm in diameter with reddish skin. The plant can grow up to 10 m tall. Native to China and Japan and extensively cultivated in Asia (Indochina, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and North Korea), habitats of Rhus chinensis include sun-bathed slopes, hillside, valley, open forest and shrubland (usually found from between 170 to 2,700 meters in elevation). Characteristics of Rhus chinensis include ability to withstand cultivation at high altitudes, tolerance for drought and adaptation to barren land.
Other simplified Chinese names for Rhus chinensis include: 五倍子, 盐霜柏, 盐酸木, 敷烟树, 蒲连盐, 老公担盐, 五倍子树, 山梧桐, 五倍柴.
1.2 How is Rhus chinensis used in traditional Chinese medicine?
The roots, leaves, flower and fruits of Rhus chinensis are considered sour, brackish and cool in nature and to be associated with the kidney meridians. It is used as heat-clearing drug, detoxicant, stasis-eliminating drug and hemostatic (stops bleeding drug) in traditional Chinese medicine (CTM) and widely adopted in treating different diseases and health problems, such as injuries from falls, fractures, contusions and strains.
2. Uses, Health Benefits of Rhus Chinensis & Medical Formulas
Studies found out that the tannic acid contained in Chinese galls has little impact on the normal small intestinal movement but its astringency can reduce intestinal inflammation, thus Chinese galls can be used in stopping diarrhea.
2.2 Reducing Inflammation, Swelling And Relieving Pain
[CTM Formula] Calcined aged lime, galla chinensis, gardenia jasminoides (山栀子), flour and vinegar can be mixed and applied externally to treat painful scrotal swelling.
[CTM Formula] Smashed Rhus chinensis roots or leaves can be applied externally to treat injuries from falls, fractures, contusions and strains.
[CTM Formula] A decoction of Chinese galls can be used as a mouth wash to treat acute or chronic stomatitis.
2.3 Skin Health
[CTM Formula] Ointment made with Indigo naturalis powder, calcined gypsum, calcined calamine powder and Galla Chinensis can be applied externally to treat chronic eczema.
[CTM Formula] A mixture of Gelsemium elegans, Angelica root, indigo naturalis, Galla Chinensis, dried alum, Strychnos nux-vomica seeds, Aspidistra lurida Ker Gawl root, resin of kaput wood, rosin (also called colophony or Greek pitch, it is a solid form of resin obtained from pines, Chinese: 松香) and realgar are powdered and used externally to treat mange in humans.
[CTM Formula] A decoction of Chinese galls can be used in hair washing to treat seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp.
2.4 Enuresis And Vaginal Prolapse
[CTM Formula] Chinese gall powder mixed with vinegar are applied externally on the navel to treat vaginal prolapse as well as enuresis (involuntary discharge of urine, esp during sleep).
The Ben Cao Medical Book (also known as Compendium of Materia Medica or Ben Cao Gang Mu; Chinese: 本草纲目) is the most famous and comprehensive medical book ever written in the history of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Compiled and written by Li Shi-zhen (1518~1593), a medical expert of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) over 27 years.
The Ben Cao Medical Book records and describes all the plants, animals, minerals, and other objects that were believed to have medicinal properties in TCM. The book reflects the pharmaceutical achievements and developments of East Asia before the 16th century. On the basis of his predecessors’ achievements in the pharmacological studies, Li contributed further by supplementing and rectifying many past mistakes and misconception in relate to nature of many medicinal substances and causes of various illnesses. Charles Darwin, originator of the biological theory of evolution, regards the book as the “ancient Chinese encyclopedia”.
Disclaimer: The Ben Cao Medical Book is translated by ChinaAbout.net. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of CTM knowledge and information from the research and experience from the author Li Shi-zhen. Kindly be alert that the CTM knowledge and ancient formulas given above are likely NOT medically proven and may contain misconceptions.