Citrus Peel (Chen Pi)

Tangerine PeelShow me your citrus peels? My pleasure! Actually that is also what I am going to do next. Dried citrus peel has been known as one of “three treasures” in Guangdong province. And the most famous delicacies are Cheng Pi chicken, Chen Pi Niu Rou (tangerine peel beef), Chen Pi tea, Chen Pi Mei (tangerine peel plum), and more. However, this herb is more than just an edible spice. In the eye of TCM doctors, this is a useful herb that can cure the sickness to save the patient besides of the food benefits.

What is citrus peel?

Also known as the Pericarpium citri reticulatae, it refers to the dried peels of Citrus reticulata Blanco and its cultivars, one type of rutaceous plants. In China, it mainly grows in Guangdong, Fujian, Sichuan, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and other provinces. The best timing for harvest is when autumn changes into winter. At that time the fruits are ripe enough. Next, dry them in the sun or beside a fire. As far as the quality concerned, the older the better. That is also the reason why it is being called Chen Pi, which translates literally as “the old peels”. And because the product from Xinhui is the best in quality, it is often called Xinhui Pi or Guang Chen Pi. Normally it is cut into shreds before the serving, in the raw form usually.

What is tangerine peel used for?

This herb is deemed as acrid, aromatic, bitter, and warm in nature by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It covers at least three meridians – lung, stomach, and spleen. Its principal functions are to regulate qi-flowing for strengthening spleen and remove dampness to reduce phlegm. Its basic indications and uses include fullness and distention in chest and stomach duct, reduced appetite due to vomiting and diarrhea, and excessive phlegm induced cough. Normal dosage is from 3 to 9 grams, in decoction usually.

Chemical composition

Modern medicine studies have revealed that citrus reticulata peel contains 1.9% to 3.5% volatile oil. The main components include Limonene, α-Thujene, α-Pinene, β-Pinene, β-Myrcene, Sabine-ne, Octanal, α-Phellandrene, α-Terpinene, p-Cymene, Linalool, Thymol, Citronellal, Hesperidin, Neohesperidin, Tangeretin, β-Sitosterol, Synephrine, and so on.

Main Chinese herbal formulas including Chen Pi

Ping Wei San

Ping Wei San is from Tai Ping Hui Min He Ji Ju Fang (Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary). It is a famous formula for the stagnation of spleen and stomach Qi, which mainly manifests abdominal distention and pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other main herbs are Cang Zhu (Atractylodes) and Hou Po (Magnolia Bark).

Bao He Wan

Bao He Wan is from Dan Xi Xin Fa (Dan Xi’s Heart Methods of Treatment). This is a prescription for food retention, Qi stagnation, and abdominal pain and distention. Other primary herbs include Shan Zha (Hawthorn Fruit) and Shen Qu (Medicated Leaven).

Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San

Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San is from Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary. This is a formula that is used for exterior syndrome combined with endogenous damp stagnation, such as abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other principal herbs are Huo Xiang (Patchouli) and Zi Su Ye (Perilla Leaf).

Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang

Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang is from Jingui Yaolue (Synopsis of Golden Chamber). This herbal formula is designed for vomiting and hiccups. Other basic herbs are Sheng Jiang (Fresh Ginger Rhizome), Zhu Ru (Bamboo Shavings), and Da Zao (Chinese Date, Jujube).

Er Chen Tang

Er Chan Tang is also from Tai Ping Hui Min He Ji Ju Fang. This herbal recipe is treating cough due to phlegm-damp obstructing lung. Other basic herbs are Ban Xia (Pinellia Rhizome) and Fu Ling (Poria, China Root).

Potential Chen Pi side effects and contraindications

Toxicological tests have confirmed that citrus peel (Chen Pi) is nontoxic or with little toxic. However, the monomer composition, such as Hesperidin methyl chalcone and mandarin oil, has a certain degree of toxicity. In addition, some side effects, like abdominal pain, vomiting, and fever, might occur in individual cases after administrating the mandarin oil emulsion to the biliary tract.

TCM wise, there is no discomfort found in the conventional doses of decoction. So, it is relatively safe even during the pregnancy. But given the individual variations, consulting a licensed doctor before taking would be highly recommended.

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