Malva Nut (Pang Da Hai)

Sterculia scaphigeraAs for what to eat with a sore throat, for most of Chinese the answer will probably be malva nut, which is a commonly used Chinese herb also known as Pang Da Hai in mandarin-speaking world. Thanks to its awesome healing and preventive properties, many people consider it as an ideal tea for sore throat since they are accustomed to boiling and drinking it once they feel there’s something wrong with their throats. Besides, it works to bleeding gums, voice loss, cough, and other ailments too. But the uses of it vary by time, person, situation, and place. For instance, some of them use it simply because of throat discomfort that is caused by dry environment especially in winter; professionals, including teachers, singers, and announcer, love it as they have to use the voice too much; some smokers drink it for the reason of suffering from chronic pharyngitis.

One of the best cures for sore throat as it is, it is necessary to point out that caution should be exercised in long-term consumption of malva tea in spite of its mentioned medicinal uses. Otherwise, it may lead you to some unnecessary troubles. Want to get rid sore throat but minimize its side effects? Read on if you are interested in knowing more about this natural sore throat medication.

What is malva?

Malva, as a matter of fact, refers to a genus in the family called Malvaceae. Based on the statistics there are around 25 to 30 species of plants in this genus, which share the name mallow with a number of other members in the family Malvaceae. However, medicinally malva nut refers to the mature seeds from Sterculia lychnophora Hance or Sterculia scaphigera Wall, which is a member in the family Sterculiaceae. Hence, other names of this herb include Boat Sterculia Seed, Boat-fruited Scaphium Seed, sterculia Scaphigera Seed, semen scaphii lychnophori, sterculia seed, Semen Sterculiae Scaphigerae, Malva nut tree seed, Taiwan sweet gum tree seed, and more. As you can see now, malva and sterculia are different genera. So, don’t confuse this medicinal plant with Malva alcea, Malva verticillata, and other Malva plants even though its nuts are named after malva. Malva nuts are mainly produced in Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and India. It is usually collected from April to June when the fruits become ripe and cracked. And the seeds are token and dried in the sun.

Sterculia lychnophora is a deciduous tree which is from 30 to 40 meters in height. Rough bark is slightly striate. Alternate leaves are with 5-15cm petiole; blade is leathery, smooth and hairless, oval or elliptical-lanceolate, 10 to 20cm long, 6 to 14cm wide, and with obtuse or acute apex, rounded or almost truncate base, and entire margin. It has male, female, and perfect (hermaphrodite) flowers, which form acrogenous or axillary panicles; bell-shaped calyx is persistent and with lanceolate lobes; astroid flowers stretch; male flowers are with 10-15 stamens, or up to 30 in rare case; female flowers are with 1 pistil and ovary, which consists of 5 tomentose carpels. Follicles are 1 to 5, grown in stems, 18 to 24cm long, initially puberulous but soon glabrous, and with boat-like 5-6cm base that cracks before the maturity. Seeds are fusiform or obovate, 18 to 25mm in diameter, dark brown, and with rugose surface; large cotyledons are 12mm in length, 10mm in width, semicircular, and with rich endosperm.

Outer layer of seed contains bassorin. Peel contains 15.06% galactose and 24.7% pentaglucose (mainly arabinose).

Nut of malva benefits

Medicinally it is first recorded in Ben Cao Gang Mu Shi Yi (Supplements to Compendium of Materia Medica). It is named Pang Da Hai, literally “fat sea”, because its cracked rind will expand and almost fill the entire cup once it is placed in boiling water. So, plenty of water is required when this nut is cooked or soaked.

From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, it has two major healing properties. On the one hand, it can relax the bowels, especially constipation caused by internal fire; on the other hand, it cools and disperses lung qi. Because of that, firstly it can be used for the treatment of acute pharyngitis and tonsillitis induced by wind-heat attacking the lung. In this case, 3 to 5 nuts soaking and making tea is highly recommended. Secondarily, it relieves sore throat after flu shot or wind-heat cold induced fever, scratchy sore throat, dry cough without phlegm, voice loss, and mild or extremely swollen sore throat, and so on. In this case, making tea with 5 nuts and 3 grams Gan Cao (licorice root) is a good try. Besides of making tea, it can be still made into refreshing summer desserts and iced drinks for sore throat, chronic pharyngitis, phlegm, voice loss, etc. By the way, keep in mind to stop it no matter it works or not after it has been drunk for 2 straight days.

Modern pharmacological actions of malva nut

1. Bassorin contained can result in the contraction of vascular smooth muscle, improve mucosal inflammation, and relieve spastic pain;
2. Its water extract can promote bowel movements and act as a laxative. And the kernel is with the strongest effect;
3. Its kernel solution, made from dry fat-free powder, has a hypotensive effect on cat.

Sample recipes of malva nuts on herbal remedies

Chinese Pharmacopoeia says that it is sweet in flavor and cold in nature and it goes to meridians of lung and large intestine. Key functions are to clear heat and moisten lung, relieve sore throat and internal heat, and relax bowel. Essential malva herb uses and indications include lung-heat induced husky voice, dry cough accompanied with no phlegm, dry sore throat, constipation caused by heat accumulation, headache, and red eyes. Recommended dosage is from 2 to 3 pieces in soaking in boiling water for tea or decoction.

1. Stewing 5 nuts and 5 grams licorice for tea can be a cure for voice loss, dry cough, dry sore throat, and painful swollen gums that is caused by exogenous pathogenic factors. (Shen De Tang Fang “Recipes from Shendetang”).

2. The tea, by soaking a few nuts with boiling water and rock sugar, can cure blood in stool due to heat. (Yi Jie Chun Qiu “Annals of Medical Community” (1):93, 1936).

Nut of malva side effects and contraindications

Modern pharmacological studies have found that malva nut is with some toxicity and long-term use of it is inadvisable. Other studies show that it can promote the peristalsis of the small intestines and then result in laxative effect, which may do harm to those who are prone to diarrhea; it has antihypertensive effect. Therefore, long-term use may lead to the risk of low blood pressure in people who have normal blood pressure or low blood pressure; the water extract of its peel, soft shell, and kernel are found with a certain analgesic effect. Currently the mechanism remains unknown. But one thing’s for certain that long-term use of it is also potentially dangerous if the analgesic effect comes from inhibition of the nerve center. Also, clinically a few people were found with an allergic reaction, which is manifested as systemic itching, diffuse flushing, large papules and wheal all over the body, lip swelling, dizziness, palpitation, chest tightness, nausea, fall of blood pressure, etc.

TCM wise, although considered a common remedy for sore throat it is not suitable for the following situations:

1. Deficiency-cold in spleen and stomach. The signs and symptoms include decreased appetite, cold pain in abdomen, abdominal pain relieved by warmth, pressure-relieved abdominal pain, preference for hot drinks, loose stool, and so on;
2. Wind-cold induced coughing and sore throat. Other signs and symptoms are aversion to cold, sensation of chill, physical weakness, coughing up white phlegm, etc.;
3. Cough due to lung-yin deficiency. It is also manifested as dry cough without sputum and hoarseness. However, this scenario is mostly chronic respiratory disease.

One thought on “Malva Nut (Pang Da Hai)

  1. Deepak Kumar mohanta

    I am suffering from gastric disease before fifteen years. So how to use it to me.please Reply


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