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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March 23 WHMonth CHINESE HERBOLOGY: Akebia

TO CELEBRATE WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH (WHM), during the month of March ~ in addition to my weekly postings ~ I will be making DAILY postings of time tested herbal and medicinal foods used from a Medicine Woman's bag, which holds many, many herbs, generating many, many formulas, as one herb used for a cold (mullein), when combined with totally different herbs, can be used as an antispasmodic for inflammation or as an expectorant to relieve asthma or general lung congestion.

This week will be dedicated to Chinese herbs. For the 30 years that I have traveled around the country treating health imbalances with herbs and teaching herb courses and holding workshops, Chinese herbs have always made up a very large percentage of my inventory, and the success I've had with the efficacy of Chinese herbs are unmatched.

The akebia fruit comes from the akebia vine (also known as the clematis). Native to Korea and Japan, different parts of the plant are used for different purposes.  The fruit is edible, between two and three inches long, and turns dark violet when ripe, with numerous red-brown seeds. Typically, akebia fruit is harvested just before turning ripe, then dried. The seeds are usually left intact with the fruit for use in herbal remedies.

The therapeutic properties of Akebia are antibiotic, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, diuretic, galactagogue.

Drains dampness, clears heat, promotes urination, promotes menstruation and lactation, controls sleep apnea, calms irritability, and treats insomnia. Traditional Chinese herbalists use this herb to treat acute urinary tract infections, edema, and amenorrhea; rheumatic conditions; as well as to calm the mind; and to promote sleep. it has recently been used for tumors of the breast and digestive tract.

According to the principles of Chinese medicine, akebia fruit is bitter and cold, and is associated with the Liver and Stomach meridains. Its main actions are to regulate the flow of liver qi, to promote blood circulation and relieve pain, and to promote the flow of urine. It is used to treat epigastric conditions such as a distended stomach and abdominal pain, along with amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea. Some practitioners have used akebia fruit to reduce masses such as tumors and cysts that may be caused by qi stagnation.
File:Akebia quinata RJB.jpgThe fruits are sausage-shaped pods which contain edible pulp is littered with seeds but have a sweet flavor, so they used to be enjoyed by children playing out in the countryside in the olden days in Japan. The rind, with a slight bitter taste, is used as vegetable, e.g., stuffed with ground meat and deep-fried. The vines are traditionally used for basket-weaving.

In China, A. quinata is referred to as 木通 ("mù tōng" (Pinyin) or "mu tung" (Wade-Giles)) meaning "perforated wood". In the Chinese pharmacopoeiait is believed to be therapeutic as a diuretic, antiphlogistic, galactagogue and analgesic The principal use of the herb in China is as a traditional remedy for insufficient lactation in nursing mothers. The medicinal part of the plant is the woody stem which is sliced in transverse sections and prepared as a decoction. The stem contains approximately 30% potassium salts thus giving the diuretic action.

Whole, dried akebia fruits can be found at many Asian markets and specialty stores. Some shops also sell akebia extracts. 

Akebia fruit should not be given to women who are pregnant. In addition, it should not be given to patients diagnosed with yin deficiency. Large doses may lead to intestinal problems such as colic and diarrhea, due to the fruit�s high saponin content. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking akebia fruit or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.