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Man Jing Zi - The Tonic

by Heiko Lade

After nearly twenty years of practice I found that there is still room to adjust and bend some of the ingrained ideas that I have learnt about Chinese herbs. It came about as I was researching Man Jing Zi (Fructus Viticis) in its relation to treating dampness in the limbs as outlined in Bensky and Gamble (p60).Thinking it may be useful for multiple sclerosis as an adjunct herb to address symptoms such as stiffness and heaviness I wanted to refer to what Li Shi Zhen had to say about it. Following then, is a direct translation of Man Jing Zi from Li Shi Zhen's Ben Cao Gang Mu provided by John Black a New Zealand based TCM practitioner .

Man Jing

"Man" means vine in Chinese, and "Man Jing" is a kind of vine which grows
to three meters long. It grows in swampy areas. New leaves appear on the
old branches in spring, by May they have taken on the appearance of apricot
leaves. It blossoms in June, having red and white flowers with yellow
pistil and stamens. The fruit appears in September and has black spots
on its shell.

In recent times have used "Xiao Jing", mistaking it for Man Jing. The real
Man Jing has subsequently mistakenly been called "Mu Jing". The real Mu
Jing, in fact is a tree which grows to about 1.5 meters tall, it's leaves
growing in paired opposites like Xiao Lian (another kind of tree). The
flowers of Mu Jing are light red, with yellow and white pistil and stamens,
and a green calyx. It fruits in autumn.

Preparation: The calyx, and white membranous material from the skin are
soaked in wine [presumably Chinese medicinal wine] for 24 hours, steamed
for six hours then sun dried, and crushed for use.

Properties: bitter, slightly cool, non toxic, the yin within yang, it
enters the Tai Yang meridians. Contraindicated when stomach problems exist,
it may create phlegm in such patients.

Main Uses: Treatment of heat and cold between tendons and bones, damp bi
type cramps, brightens the eyes, and strengthens the teeth. It regulates
the nine orifices and expels "bai chong" ["chong" as indicated by the
Chinese character indicates some kind of worm, bug, parasite etc. All I can
find on that is "bai chong bing" in a medical dictionary which translates
as "teniasis" whatever that is.] Prolonged use of this herb can prevent
aging. Both Xiao Jing and Man Jing can treat headache caused by wind,
ringing in the head, lacrimation and benefit qi. It can enliven and
brighten the spirit, and has been said to be able to expel pathogenic qi
and help the hair [head hair] to grow. It has also been said to be able to
free up the joints, treat epilepsy, red eyes, tai yang type headache

It can treat heaviness in the head [and implies some state bordering on
unconsciousness]brighten the eyes, disperse pathogenic wind, cool menstrual
blood, treat aching eyes, soothe liver wind, treat headache caused by wind,
darken head hair and treats mastitis in the early stages.

After reading it I was intrigued about the statements such as:

  • Strengthens eyes and teeth
  • Prevents aging
  • Makes hair grow longer
  • Blackens hair

Having spent most of my career working in Chinese herb dispensaries in Sydneyís Chinatown, I was wondering why no one had ever told me about these uses. Either no one knew about it or if they had read about it didnít believe the claims. Perhaps it was because He Shou Wu (Radix Polygoni Multiflori) could fetch a better retail price than Man Zing Zi so He Shou Wu remained the herb of choice for blackening the hair!

So naturally I would have to investigate this further. Experimenting on myself and taking it as a single herb in the vicinity of 9 grams once per day I first noticed that it made my beard grow stronger and faster. This happened only after two days of taking it. The fact that it made the beard grow made me think back to a discussion of the chong mai in Extraordinary Vessels by Matsumoto and Birch. Their quote from the Ling Shu reads:

If the qi and blood are sufficient, the skin becomes healthy

and the flesh has heat. If only the blood is sufficient, the

blood moistens the skin and makes the body hair. Prenatally,

women have sufficient qi ,but not enough blood. The ren mai

and chong mai cannot nourish the mouth and lips sufficiently,

which is why women do not have moustaches or beards . In

the eunuch ,having the zong muscle {penis and testicles} cut

off damages the chong mai. The beard and moustache do not

grow because the chong mai cannot nourish around the mouth.(Matsumoto &Birch p85)

If women do not have enough blood to grow a beard and Man Jing Zi made my beard grow, could Man Jing Zi influence the blood and the chong mai?

A little further reading in the Zhong Yao Da Ci Dian confirmed my experience as this book referred to another book, the Yao Xing Lun which stated that Man Jing Zi does in fact make the beard grow (p5309). If this herb causes the beard grow more strongly, surely then, it must be influencing the chong mai.

Peter Borten, a member of the Chinese herb Academy(USA) provided me with some interesting data on a cousin of Man Jing Zi, the Agnus Castus species, commonly known as "Chaste Berry". He referred to three books on western herbalism, The New Age Herbalist by Richard Mabey, Botanical Medicine by Kenner and Requena and Herbal Medicine by Rudolf Weiss which gave a summarized overview as follows. It treats:

  • Menstrual and menopausal disorders
  • Increased production of lutenizing hormone production
  • Stimulates milk flow
  • Regulates menses
  • Seems to regulate estrogen
  • Fibroids
  • Inflammation of womb lining
  • Re-establishes normal ovulation after cessation of the pill
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Corpus luteum hormone effect
  • Acne

So we have a western cousin, Agnus Castus having quite clear chong mai (and probably ren mai) influence. And we have our little forgotten acrid cooling herb Man Jing Zi treating hair and beard growth, blackening hair and strengthening teeth.

Could Man Jing Zi have other uses apart from wind heat headaches for which it is more well known for?

Li Shi Zhen has informed us that Man Jing Zi does cool menstrual blood and treat mastitis so it confirms some kind of gynecological use. I endeavored to start using this herb in a new light and waited for a clinical opportunity to present itself.

One patient had come to me, recently menopausal and inquired whether Chinese herbs could offer anything for her hair which had lost its "life force" and grew so slowly. Without going into and writing up an in-depth case analysis of her presenting picture I will briefly give an overview. Her main complaint was a frozen shoulder for which she was concurrently getting physiotherapy and acupuncture for and overall presented a pretty fair bill of health without any major zang fu imbalances. I simply prescribed a one month supply of a herb granulated mix containing

Dang Gui (Radix Angelica Sinenis)

Chuan Xiong (Radix Ligusti Wallichii)

Bai Shao (Radix Paeoniae Lactiflorae)

Man Jing Zi (Fructus Viticis)

Gou Qi Zi (Fructus Lycii Chinenis)

Tian Ma (Rhizoma Gastrodia Elatae)

Qiang Huo (Rhizoma et Radix Notoptergii)

Bai Zhu (Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae)

Mai Ya (Fructus Hordei Vulgaris Germinatus)

Chen Pi (Pericarpium Citri Reticulatae)

(even amounts)

The prescription is straight forward with blood tonics, spleen and digestive herbs, Tian Ma and Qiang Huo for the hair as well as Man Jing Zi. She came back after a month to report a strange reaction. Her husband and friends had commented that the vertical wrinkle aging lines that extended upwards from her upper lip had improved.(Her hair had also improved)

My understanding of the reaction lies in the analysis of the chong mai and its function. The chong mai encircles the lips and at menopause the chong mai dries up and hence doesnít supply the area with blood which then contributes to a drying up and wrinkling especially above the top lip. The lips themselves lose their fullness because the liver blood also weakens and therefore doesnít traverse the inside of the lips where the liver vessel runs as part of its course. Man Jing Zi (in my opinion) is probably a tonic for the chong mai which then supplies blood to the surrounding lips area. I presume if really large amounts of the herb (if they could be tolerated) would cause a beard to grow in women. Common doses though of 3-9 grams may just be enough to keep the skin around the lips healthy and possibly more youthful.

Since then, I have started using Man Jing Zi in a variety of gynecological problems where I suspect a deficiency in the chong mai. Further use of Man Jing Zi in multiple sclerosis will be discussed in the December issue of PJOM.

A final note though. It is contraindicated for those with deficient stomach qi (Bensky and Gamble p61).The effect of Man Jing Zi in my experience is similar to He Shou Wu in that it can cause bloating, loose stools, sometimes explosive bowels with those people with a digestive insufficiency. Bai Zhu seems to counteract this well.

The journal of the ACMERC is a "research" journal and I hope that some of the readers may be adventurous enough to try and put Man Jing Zi to the test. Is it only just a humble acrid cooling herb or is it also a long forgotten tonic?

Acknowledgements: Many thanks for the translation of Man Jing by John Black, a member of the New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists Inc and graduate of Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine

: Thanks also to Steve Clavey for supplying the original of Man Jing from the Ben Cao Gang Mu


: Bensky,D and Gamble,A .(1986) Chinese Herbal Medicine, Materia Medica. Seattle, Eastland Press.

: Borten, P (2000) Member of the Chinese Herb Academy, personal communication.

: Matsumoto, K and Birch, S.(1986) Extraordinary Vessels, Brookline, Paradigm Publications.

: New TCM College of Jiang Su (year?) Zhong Yao Da Ci Dian, Shanghai Science Technology Publishing Company.


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