Japanese cornelian cherry, also known as Japanese Dogwood or Shan Zhu Yu in Pinyin, is one of commonly used medicinal herbs in Traditional Chinese medicine. It has a long history of medicinal uses in the east, which can be found in Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (The Holy Husbandman’s classic on roots and herbs) and there it was listed as one of medium-grade items. Praised as a mild tonic, medicinally it has been characterized as tonifying Yang but stirring up no fire, nourishing Yin but causing no stagnation to the spleen-stomach, promoting astringency but letting no pathogen stay. Thanks for that, no wonder it has been favored by generations of medical practitioners. And Jin Kui Shen Qi Wan (Golden Book Teapills), the most famous cornelian cherries based herbal formula invented by Zhang Zhongjing, is the most popular medication for liver and kidney deficiency since it is good at tonifying liver-kidney, arresting seminal emission, and stopping sweating.
What is Japanese cornelian cherry?
Medicinally it mainly refers to the dried ripe fruit pulp of Cornus officinalis Sieb. et Zucc. (Macrocarpium officinale), which is a medicinal plant and food plant in the family Cornaceae. Other names of this herb include Medicinal Cornel, Dogwood, Medical Dogwood, Asiatic Cornelian Cherry Fruit, Japanese Dogwood, Fructus Corni, Common Macrocarpium, Cornus fruit, Japanese Cornelian Cherry, the Cornelian Cherry Fruit, cornus Officinalis Fruit, cornelian cherry dogwood, Japanese Cornal Dogwood, Japanese Cornal, Cornelian cherries, sansuyu, sanshuyu, and so on. So, don’t confuse it with dogwood varieties like European cornel (Cornus mas). In China, it is mainly produced in Zhejiang, Anhui, Henan, Shaanxi, and Shanxi. It is basically harvested in the late autumn and early winter. And the rest processing steps are to bake on gentle heat or slightly scald by boiling water, timely squeeze out the stones, and then dry in the sun or at the fire.
Cornus officinalis is a small deciduous tree, about 4 meters in height, and with gray-brown branch bark and glabrous twigs. Simple leaves are opposite; blade is oval or oblong, 5 to 7cm long, and 3 to 4.5cm wide, and with narrow long pointed apex, rounded or broadly cuneate base, entire margin, nearly smooth or occasionally pubescent upper side, and white hairy lower side; petiole is about 1cm long. Flowers bloom before the leaves and form umbels, which cluster at twig tip and are with a number of bud-scale bracts; small flowers are with 4 inconspicuous calyxes; petals are 4 and yellow; stamens are 4; ovary is inferior. Oblong drupe is 1.2 to 1.5cm long, about 7mm in diameter, hairless, and red after it is ripe; stalk is 1.5 to 2cm long. Seeds are oblong, and blunt at both ends. Bloom time is from May to June and fruiting time is from August to October. Main habitats are forest edge or forest at an altitude of 4000 meters.
Edible fruit contains cornuside, morroniside, ursolic acid, 7-O-methylmorroniside, loganin, sweroside, gallic acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, provitamin A, and saponins, tannins and the like.
Cornelian cherry benefits
Ancient Chinese have used it for many purposes, such as sacrifice, accessories, medicine, and apotropaion. Hence, the so-called dogwood customs thereby form. Medicinally it is widely used for the treatment of aching lower back and knees, vertigo, tinnitus, spermatorrhea, frequent urination, liver-deficiency chills and fever, persistent sweating due to deficiency, palpitations, scattered pulse, neurasthenia, menstrual disorders, and more. There is a long list of popular herbal formulas that are based on Asian cornelian cherry fruit, for example, Jin Kui Shen Qi Wan (Golden Book Teapills), Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan (Eight Flavor Formula), Qi Ju Di Huang Wan (Lycium Rehmannia Teapills), Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan (Eight Immortals Longevity Pills), and more. Besides, people are also accustomed to making medicinal liquor, preserved fruit, canned goods, and health drinks by combining sugar, honey, and wine. The brewing of dogwood wine can date back to the Song Dynasty and then it was considered such a rare tonic that it was listed as a tribute.
For the elderly, there are many awkward moments and senile urinary incontinence is one of them. It will make older people feel very painful when the urine can’t help overflow from the urethra and wet the pants just because of sneezing, coughing, laughing or abdominal pressure. Therefore, it will seriously affect the health of the elderly due to the enormous physical and psychological pain and pressure. From the perspective of TCM, urinary incontinence in the elderly is mainly caused by the sinking of qi of middle-jiao. As you may know, your kidney qi tends to become weaker as you get older. So, this disease actually involves the spleen, lung, kidney and liver although the affected part is the bladder. And the corresponding remedy is to tonify kidney qi and elevate middle-jiao energy while regulating the function of various organs. And dogwood is that herb that can help.
Modern pharmacological actions of cornelian cherry berries
1) Its decoction in vitro has different degrees of inhibition on Shigella, Staphylococcus aureus, trichophyton violaceum, influenza viruses, and more;
2) Its injection can improve the function of the heart, raise blood pressure, inhibit platelet aggregation, and prevent thrombosis;
3) Its alcohol extract has a significant hypoglycemic effect on diabetes induced by alloxan, adrenergic and streptozotocin (STZ) in rats;
4) Its fluidextract has a diuretic effect on anesthetized dogs;
5) It can enhance non-specific immune function and in vitro tests it can inhibit ascites tumor cells;
6) It can resist experimental liver injury;
7) It can elevate the decreased white blood cell count induced by radiotherapy;
8) It has antioxidative effect;
9) It has a weak excitatory effect on the parasympathetic nerves;
10) Tannin contained has astringent effect.
Sample cornelian cherry fruit recipes on herbal remedies
The Chinese Materia Medica says that it is sour in flavor and slightly warm in nature. And it goes to meridians of liver and kidney. Primary functions are tonifying liver and kidney, astringing the intestines and checking diarrhea, and stopping the bleeding. Main Asiatic cornelian cherry uses and indications include impotence, lower back pain and weak knees, dizziness, deafness, tinnitus, night emission, frequent urination, excessive deficiency-type sweating, and uterine bleeding. Recommended dosage is from 5 to 10 grams. And it can be used in other forms like cornelian cherry extract, sauce, syrup, liqueur, juice, juice concentrate, jam, pills, powder, and more.
1) Cao Huan Dan from Fu Shou Jing Fang (Essential Prescriptions of Longevity and Life Preservation). It is combined with Po Gu Zhi (Fructus Psoraleae), Dang Gui (Dong Quai), and She Xiang (Musk) to benefit kidney-yang, tonify Promordial Qi, secure Promordial Jing, and strengthen Promordial Shen.
2) Cui Shi Ba Wei Wan from Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer). It is formulated with Gan Di Huang (Rehmannia), shu Yu (Chinese yam), Ze Xie (Water Plantain Root), Fu Ling (Poria), Mu Dan Pi (Tree Peony), Gui Zhi (Ramulus Cinnamomi), and Fu Zi (Aconite) to treat lower abdomen numbness due to beriberi upward attacking.
3) Di Huang Wan from Xiao Er Yao Zheng Zhi Jue (Key to the Therapeutics of Children’s Diseases). It is matched with Shu Di Huang (Prepared Rehmannia), Chinese yam, etc. to treat dizziness, backache, tinnitus, nocturnal emission, and more.
4) Lai Fu Tang from Yi Xue Zhong Zhong Can Xi Lu (Records of Heart-Felt Experiences in Medicine with Reference to the West). It is joined with Long Gu (Dragon bones), Mu Li (Oyster Shell), Gan Cao (Licorice Root), Ren Shen (Ginseng), etc. to heal collapse due to profuse sweating or chronic illness.
5) Jia Wei Si Wu Tang from Fu Qing Zhu Nu Ke (Fu Qing-zhu’s Gynecology). It is equipped with Prepared Rehmannia, Bai Shao (White Peony Root), Dong Quai, etc. to treat uterine bleeding and menorrhagia due to liver-kidney deficiency and chong-ren debility in women.
Asiatic cornelian cherry side effects
Eating cornelian cherry has tons of health benefits. And the acute toxicity test of cornelian cherry dogwood fruit pulp and stones shows that both of them are with very low toxicity – the LD50 of pulp is 53.55g (crude drug)/kg and the LD50 of stones is 90.8g (crude drug)/kg. TCM wise, it shouldn’t be used in cases of flaming fire of the life gate, persistent erection of penis, chronic damp-heat, and painful and difficult urination. According to Ben Cao Jing Ji Zhu (Explanation of Canon of Materia Medica), it dislikes Jie Geng (Balloon Flower Root), Fang Feng (Radix Saposhnikoviae), and Fang Ji (Stephania Tetrandra).