Radish, as everyone knows, is a kind of edible root vegetable. How about the radish seeds? Needless to say, they are used for growing radishes. But aside from that most basic function, radish seed, or Lai Fu Zi in mandarin, is also one of effective Chinese herbs mainly for the treatment of indigestion, constipation, phlegm, etc. Its healing ability is so powerful and instant that ancient herbalists often compare its efficacy to the force that can collapse the walls. Zhang Xi Chun, the famous physician in 19th century, was full of praise for this herb and believed that it should be good at transforming qi, instead of breaking qi as it have widely been thought to be.
Radish seeds description
As its name suggested, it refers to the mature seeds of Raphanus sativus L., which is plant in the family Cruciferae. And it is also known as Semen Raphani and Turnip Seeds. It is cultivated all over China. Medicinally the plant is harvested during summertime when its fruits are ripe. After that, dry them in the sun, rub them for the seed, remove the impurities, and dry once again. It is used raw or fried. And remember to smash them first before the decocting.
Raphanus sativus is annual or biennial erect herb, 30 to 100cm in height. Taproot is fleshy, in the shapes of oblong, sphere, or cone, and with green, white, or red skin. Stems are branched, glabrous, and slightly covered with pruina. Basal leaves and leaves on lower stem are pinnatifid, 8 to 30cm long, 3 to 5cm wide, and with ovate lobes and 4 to 6 pairs of lateral lobes. Racemose flowers are acrogenous or axillary; sepals are oblong; petals are 4, white, purple or pink, 1.5 to 2cm in diameter, obovate, 1 to 1.5mm long, and with purple stripes and 5mm claws on the lower part. Seeds are 4, oval, slightly flat, about 3mm long, red-brown, and with fine textures. Flowering time is from April to May and fruiting time is from May to June.
Seeds contain sinapine, 30% fatty oil, raphanin, etc. And oil contains a large number of erucic acid, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, brassicasterol, 22-dehydrocampesterol, and more.
Radish seeds health benefits
Radishes are native to China, in which there is a long history of cultivating and eating this root vegetable. In China you must have come across the old saying of “Radishes in winter and gingers in summer keep the doctor away.” It is so popular, especially in the season of winter, simply because it is high in medical, edible, and nutritional value. So, what are the radish seeds benefits? And its pharmacology can explain it well.
Modern pharmacological actions of radish seed
1. In experiments radish seed extract has mitigatory but sustained antihypertensive effect, which is stable, reproducible and with no obvious toxicity and side effects;
2. The antihypertensive effect of its injection is connected to the drug concentration;
3. It can enhance the rhythmic contraction of isolated rabbit ileum and inhibit the gastric emptying in mice;
4. In vitro it has strong antibacterial activity on a variety of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria;
5. Its raphanin at a concentration of 1mg/ml can significantly inhibit Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli;
6. Its water extract at the ratio of 1:3 in vitro had different degrees of inhibition on 6 kinds of skin fungi like trichophyton concentricum;
7. It destroys bacteria, eliminates phlegm, relieves cough, prevents asthma, improves urinary function, lowers cholesterol, prevents arteriosclerosis, and so on;
8. In Vitro it can neutralize tetanus toxin and diphtheria toxin.
Selected radish seeds recipes on herbal remedies
The Chinese Materia Medica thinks that it is acrid and sweet in flavor and neutral in properties. And it goes to 4 meridians, including spleen, stomach, lung, and large intestine. Main functions are promoting digestion, relieving food stagnation, descending qi, and transforming phlegm. Basic radish seeds uses and indications include dyspepsia, Qi depression, abdominal distention, diarrhea, rectal tenesmus, a cough accompanied by excessive mucus, and wheezing due to inverse qi. Recommended dosage is from 5 to 10 grams in decoction, pills, or powder.
1. Bao He Wan from Dan Xi Xin Fa (Dan Xi’s Experiential Methods). In this formula it works with Shan Zha (Fructus Crataegi), Shen Qu (Massa Fermentata), Chen Pi (Citrus peel), etc. for all dyspepsia.
2. Da An Wan from Dan Xi’s Experiential Methods. In this prescription it combines with Hawthorn Fruit, Medicated Leaven, Fu Ling (Poria), Ban Xia (Pinellia), Lian Qiao (Forsythia), etc. for the treatment of indigestion.
3. San Zi Yang Qin Tang from Han Shi Yi Tong (Han’s understanding of medicine). In this recipe it is used with Zi Su Zi (Perilla Fruit) and Bai Jie Zi (Semen Sinapis Albae) to treat cough in older people, reversed flow of qi, and phlegm obstructing lung.
4. Qing Jin Wan from Yi Xue Ji Cheng (Collected Works of the Studies of Medicine). It couples with ginger juice to cure dyspnea accompanied with gurgling with sputum.
Radish seeds side effects and contraindications
Radish seeds are considered to be relatively low in toxicity. But intravenous injection of 100mg raphanin could cause death in mice. Ancient herbalists believe that it shouldn’t be used along with ginseng as it will undermine the power of reinforcing deficiency. For the same reason, it can neutralize the abdominal distention caused by ginseng. However, experimental studies have shown that the combination of them had no influence on increasing mice’s anti-fatigue, anti-anoxia and anti-stress effects. (Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1996, 5:300). So, use it with care in the cases of qi asthenia, no food stagnation, and phlegm obstruction. In addition, it shouldn’t be used in sloppy diarrhea. Finally, clinical observations confirmed that the compatibility radish seed (Lai Fu Zi), He Shou Wu (Polygonum Multiflorum), and Shu Di Huang (Rehmannia) could cause a rash.