Chinese plum, also known as Prunus mume fruit and Japanese apricot, is a popular fruit. And I don’t think many of you are aware that it is also a Chinese herbal medicine, which is called Wu Mei in Pinyin. As a matter of fact, it has long been there and deserves a position in the world of TCM thanks to its amazing medicinal properties. Just like any other seasonal fruits, mume fruit is no exception. In order to help better preserve it, people come up with many ways, of which drying and then sealing is the most popular and simplest method. Since then many people like to use it to make cold drink or keep them handy as snack.
What is Chinese plum?
Medicinally it refers to the nearly ripe fruits of Prunus mume Sieb. et Zucc. This is a species in the family Rosaceae. Other common names include ume, meizi, maesil, mume, umeboshi, Mume fruit, Black Plum, Fructus Mume, Ume Plum Fruit, and more. In China it is primarily produced in Zhejiang, Fujian, and Yunnan. The fruits are collected in summer when they are nearly ripe. And then they are baked at a low temp and covered tightly until they are wrinkled and black. Medicinally it is used pit-removed, raw or carbonized by stir-frying.
Prunus mume tree is a member in the Armeniaca part of the genus Prunus. It is such a distinct tree species because it is between apricot and the plum trees. However, botanically it is considered much closer to the apricot rather than the plum even though it is named after it. This is a small deciduous tree that can be up to 10 meters high, with pale gray bark, slender twigs, alternate leaves, elliptic ovate blade, white or pink aromatic flowers, and nearly spherical fruits. Its flowers (meihua) are known to the west as “plum blossom” or “flowering plum.” This flower is favored by many people and given special meanings in poems because of its early blossom and defying snow.
And here it is the nutrition facts of this fruit. It contains citric acid, malic acid, oxalic acid, succinic acid, and fumaric acid. The total acids, mainly the first two, account for about 4% to 5.5%. And it still contains 5-hydroxymethyl-2-furaldehyde, which is colorless oil and basically composed of volatile components like terpinen-4-ol 3.97%, benzyl alcohol 3.97%, and hexadecanoic acid 4.55 %. The seeds contain amygdalin. And another report also says that it contains picric acid and superoxide dismutase (SOD).
Modern pharmacological actions of Chinese plums decoction
1) It is proved with inhibition on a variety of pathogenic bacteria and skin fungi in vitro;
2) It can inhibit the movement of isolated rabbit intestine;
3) It has mild contraction to the gallbladder, which can promote the bile secretion;
4) In vitro it inhibits roundworms;
5) It antagonizes milk-induced allergic reaction and histamine shock. But it is with no antagonism to histamine-induced asthma;
6) It can enhance immune function.
Chinese plum benefits
As one of popular fruits, it can be found everywhere in China, in particular in south of the Yangtze River. Each of them is about the size of a lychee, with a slight yellow color. Since it tastes sweet and mixes with a sour tinge, it is often served as a good appetizer. But there is a lot more to come yet. Here are its top 8 health benefits.
1) Protecting the stomach. It sterilizes and prevents the food from corruption in the stomach;
2) Relieving constipation. The malic acid directs proper amount of water to the large intestine and help a bowel movement;
3) Whetting appetite. Long-term loss of appetite is the result of dysfunction of some organs, like stomach and large intestine. In addition, illness can cause a loss of appetite as well. But you need to eat more to help a quick recovery. So, eating a plum a day can make a difference to your appetite problems;
3) Prevent getting older. Aging stands in the way of a true longevity. Eating plum stimulates the secretion of parotid gland hormone, which can prevent aging;
4) Purifying blood. Modern people love refined foods, such as refined grains, refined white bread, refined white flour pasta, refined sugar, chemical seasonings and meats. Unfortunately these foods may cause a dramatic increase of buildup of toxins in blood. As time goes by, the deterioration of blood circulation will lead to the occurrence of acid. Eating a plum a day can help clean the blood to normalize the blood flow, and get rid of excess acid;
5) Dealing with pregnancy nausea and vomiting. This is quite normal that many pregnant women desire sour food instead of greasy foods and sweets. This is because when women get pregnant their blood acidity becomes a little higher, followed by reduced energy and the stomach and liver function. When pregnant women’s body is acidic, something bad, like loose teeth and volatile moods, will just come. And the plum seems to be helpful in this regard;
6) Easing the symptoms of hangovers. It can bring relief to bad breath and hangover. Sucking down a few extra drinks is quite common when celebrating the festive season. But the hangover is absolutely unpleasant when you wake up the following day. If you feel splitting headache, Prunus mume can be a great comfort.
7) Increasing energy. When blood is purified, the metabolism will be thus enhanced and the body’s energy restored naturally. Citric acid helps in the absorption of vitamins and enzymes, let alone prevents disease and reduces fatigue.
8) Weight loss. It is edible and available in the forms of dried plums, sweet plum, salted plums, and others. It can help lose weight because its dietary fiber contains water-soluble dietary fiber and insoluble fiber. The advantage of water-soluble dietary fiber is that it takes a long time to be digested. That’s to say, it takes longer time to feel hungry again after that the mume has been consumed. The strength of water-insoluble dietary fiber is its chewy nature, which can give people the illusory feeling of a full stomach actually it isn’t. So, it can prevent people from binge. What’s more, water-insoluble dietary fiber not only absorbs water to make people feel full, but also promote the body’s detoxifying ability.
Sample Chinese preserved plums recipes on herbal remedies
The “Chinese Pharmacopoeia” reports that it is sour in flavor and astringent and neutral in nature. It goes to meridians of liver, spleen, lung, and large intestine. Normal functions include astringing the lung, astringing intestine to stop diarrhea, promoting the secretion of saliva or body fluid, and calming ascaris. Basic Chinese plum uses and indications are chronic cough due to lung deficiency, lingering dysentery caused by lubricating intestines, deficient diabetes, vomiting and abdominal pain caused by ascaris, and ascariasis. Recommended dosage is from 6 to 12 grams. And other available related products include Chinese plum wine, sauce, candy, extract, juice, jam, powder, jelly, and more.
1) Wu Mei Wan from Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief). It is coupled with Huang Lian (Coptis Root) to treat epidemic diarrhea and loss of appetite;
2) Wu Mei Wan from Shang Han Lun (Treatise on Cold Pathogenic Diseases). It is combined with Xi Xin (Herba Asari), Gan Jiang (Dried Ginger Root), Dang Gui (Dong Quai), Fu Zi (Aconite), Ren Shen (Ginseng), etc. to cure ascariasis of biliary tract and protracted dysentery;
3) Yi Fu San from Shi Yi De Xiao Fang (Effective Formulas from Generations of Physicians). It is formulated with poppy capsules, almonds, etc. to heal deficiency-type chronic cough with little phlegm or dry cough with no phlegm;
4) Gu Chang Wan from Zheng Zhi Zhun Sheng (The Level-line of Patterns & Treatment). It is matched with poppy capsules, He Zi (Haritaki Fruit), etc. to treat chronic diarrhea or dysentery;
5) Yu Quan San from Shen Shi Zun Sheng Shu (Master Shen’s Writings on Respecting Life). It is equipped with Tian Hua Fen (Trichosanthes Root), Mai Men Dong (Ophiopogon Tuber), ginseng, etc. to heal diabetes due to deficiency heat.
Chinese plum side effects and contraindications
Chinese plum is edible. But it shouldn’t be used in the following situations:
1) Patients who are with excessive pathogen;
2) Patients who are with colds and fever. It is inadvisable to be eaten by cold sufferers, in particular accompanied by cough, excessive phlegm, stuffy feeling in chest and other symptoms;
3) Patients of bacillary dysentery and the initial stage of enteritis. Or it will make it worse;
4) Pre and postnatal women;
5) Women during normal menstrual period;
6) Children. Children’s bodies are basically at the growth stage. Their gastric mucosa is far from developed to resist the corrosion from consuming too many acidic Prunus mume fruits.