Euryale (Qian Shi)

fox nutEuryale seed, also called fox nut or Qian Shi in mandarin, is a unique Chinese herb and culinary ingredient from Yangtze River delta. As early as about 2,000 years ago, it was hailed as a top-grade tonic that could help longevity and stay young looking by “The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica”. Hence, it is better known as “the water ginseng” thanks to the high nutritional and medicinal value. And today the medicinal uses of euryale is increasingly being recognized as an effective remedy for various ailments, such as chronic prostatitis, rheumatic arthritis, frequent urination, nocturnal emission, asthma, infantile enuresis, indigestion, neurasthenia, forgetfulness, and so on.

What is Euryale?

The word Euryale has two meanings – the Gorgon in Greek mythology or the genus in the water lily family. Apparently what we are talking about is a flowering plant instead of a three winged monster. Since the medicinal part of Euryale is the seeds, medicinally it mainly refers to the dried mature seeds of Euryale ferox Salisb., which is the only one species in the family Nymphaeaceae or sometimes in a distinct family called Euryalaceae. Hence, other names of this plant include fox nut plant, Makhana, foxnut, ‘thangjing’, Onibas (Onibasu), gorgon plant, etc. And its seeds are also known as Euryale ferox seed, Semen Euryales, Seed of Gordon Euryale, gorgon nut, etc. In China, it is mainly produced in Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui, and Shandong. The ripe fruits are regularly collected in the late autumn and early winter. Before used as a medicine, it still needs to remove the peel, pick the seeds, get rid of hard shell, and dry in the sun. And it is used smashed in the raw or fried form.

In March grown from stem and attached to the surface of the water, Euryale leaves are 1 meter in diameter (bigger than lotus leaves), wrinkled, and with green upper surface and purple lower surface. Both its stems and leaves are with sharp prickles. Petiole and peduncle are stout and up to 25cm long. Petiole is edible after peeled when young and in the middle of it there are holes and threads. Purple flowers bloom in July or August and fruits bear in August or September. Solitary flowers, about 5cm long, open in the day and close at night. Spherical berry is 3 to 5cm in diameter, spongy, and dark purple. Spherical seeds are black and 10mm in diameter. Main habitats are ponds, lakes and paddy fields.

Euryale ferox seeds primarily contain starch, protein and fat. In addition, they still contain calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B1, B2, C, niacin, and carotene.

Euryale ferox benefits

Euryale ferox is also a popular foliage and aquatic plant, which is usually grown for the purpose of landscaping. It used to grow in the wild but now it is extensively cultivated because in recent years people come to realize its potential value on medicine and nutrition. Actually in China it has long been used as a good tonic that can lead to an enhancement of vitality, anti-aging, life extension, weight loss, and youthful-looking skin. This claim are made and supported by tons of evidences, from both western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.

From the point of view of western medicine, it is rich in carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, starch, riboflavin, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B1, B2, niacin and other trace elements. In other words, these nutrients set up a specific physical infrastructure for its medicinal uses. In addition, in terms of taking a tonic, an important principle is to make sure it is not only nutrient-rich, but also easy to digest and absorb. And Euryale seed is that tonic you have been looking for since it is extremely rich in carbohydrates and almost free from fat, which make it very easy to be absorbed by the body. More importantly, the digestive system will become stronger and adapt to other supplements after the regulation made by Euryale.

From the perspective of TCM, Euryale possesses an amazing capability for the diseases featuring depleting or leaking. It works just like a pair of strong hands to lift up and prevent your qi and blood from losing in vain. This effect makes sense to diseases like diarrhea with undigested food in the stool, wet dream, frequent urination at night, and more. Chen Siduo, a famous physician in Qing Dynasty, said it best: “This herb is able to stop pain in lower back and knees, improve eyesight and hearing, and prolong life in long-term use. It looks plain and ordinary but in fact has many health benefits. It not only stops night emission but also increases the sperm count. What’s more, it removes damp-phlegm in spleen and stomach, which in turn helps the production of kidney-essence.” So to speak, it is the perfect solution in terms of invigorating spleen and kidney. And the benefit will be even better if combined with Shan Yao (Chinese Yam).

Euryale seed resembles lotus seed since both of them are nourish herbs. In comparison, the former has stronger astringent, sedative properties. And it is also similar to Chinese Yam on medicinal properties. But the former has a better performance on relieving depletion while the latter is good at tonifying qi and yin. For that reason, they often appear in pair in herbal remedies.

Sample Euryale recipes on herbal remedies

According to Zhong Hua Ben Cao (Encyclopedia of Chinese Materia Medica), it is sweet in flavor and astringent and neutral in nature. It goes to meridians of spleen, kidney, heart, stomach, and liver. Major functions are reinforcing the kidney, controlling nocturnal emission, and tonifying spleen to check diarrhea. Prime Euryale uses and indications include nocturnal emission, gonorrhea, stranguria with turbid discharge, vaginal discharge, urinary incontinence, and diarrhea. Recommended dosage is from 15 to 30 grams in decoction, pills, powder, or porridge.
1. Shan Yao Yi Mi Qian Shi Zhou. This porridge formula handed down from ancient time is recommended by many well-known physicians. As its name implies, it consists of Chinese Yam, Yi Yi Ren (Coix Seed), and Euryale seeds. As an amazing qi-blood tonic, it makes sense to weak old people, low birth weight children, and seriously sick patients. Of course, healthy people can also eat this porridge, which can make people get ruddy complexion and energetic body.

2. Yu Suo Dan from Yang Shi Jia Cang Fang (Yang Family Depository of Formulas). It is combined with Lian Hua Rui (lotus flower stamen), Long Gu (Dragon Bones), and Wu Mei (Mume Fruit) to treat nocturnal emission.

3. Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan from Yi Fang Ji Jie (Wang Ang and his Variorum of medical recipes). It is formulated with Sha Yuan Zi (Astragalus Seed), Lian Xu (lotus tassel), Dragon Bones, and Mu Li (Concha Ostreae) to cure spermatorrhea.

4. Fen Qing Wan from Zhai Yuan Fang (Prescriptions from Zhaiyuan). It is coupled with Fu Ling (Poria) to make pills for the treatment of stranguria with turbid discharge.

5. Yi Huang Tang from Fu Qing Zhu Nu Ke (Fu Qing-zhu’s Gynecology). It is matched with Huang Bai (Amur Cork Tree Bark), Che Qian Zi (Plantain Seeds), etc. to heal damp-heat morbid leucorrhea.

Euryale side effects and contraindications

Euryale seed is usually considered a toxic-free herb. However, it is a strong astringent, which should be used with care in some certain groups of people. Just like consuming Chinese yam and other culinary and medicinal herbs, it requires people to judge in the first place whether or not it is suitable under current condition. In summary, the scenarios that shouldn’t use euryale are listed as follows: babies, severe cold, constipation, heavy turbid qi, difficulty of emptying bowel, difficult urination, postpartum women, indigestion, and children.

2 thoughts on “Euryale (Qian Shi)

  1. Vinod goel

    Excellent narration.Can you please add ,in what form it is used as an ingredient in baby foods and how much of it is used for this purpose.If possible kindly provide details.I am a consultant in government of Inda doing a project work of farmers integration in Gorgon nut value chain In Bihar. If possible kindly indicate the names of institutions in your esteemed country who are working on this subject so that I can write to them to elicit more information
    With very best regards and wam wishes


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