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Black Plum (wu mei)

What is black plum? What is it used for?

The black plum is a small, fleshy fruit native to Japan and China. It grows on tall trees that bloom in the spring, with scented flowers. In China, black plums are grown primarily in the Zhejiand, Fujian and Yunnan provinces.

The plums are harvested while the fruit has yet to ripen. They are baked at a low temperature until the skin of the fruit turns black; at that point the plum stone, or seed, is removed, and the fruit is stored in a sealed container for later use.

In traditional Chinese medicine, black plum has sour and neutral properties, and is associated with the Spleen, Lung and Large Intestine meridians. Its main functions are to stop prolonged, phlegmy coughs, restrain the intestines, and promote the production of body fluids. Black plum is high in citric acid, an important substance that the body uses for energy and to fight fatigue. In vitro experiments conducted in China show that black plum extracts and decoctions can fight the production of several types of bacteria, including meningococcus, typhoid bacillus, and bacillus anthracis. Other experiments have shown that black plum can stimulate the immune system and promote digestion. It can be decocted or taken with other herbs to treat different conditions.

How much black plum should I take?

The typical dose of black plum ranges from 3 to 10 grams, depending on the condition being treated. Lower doses are given if black plum extracts are being used; larger doses can be used if it is being applied externally. Typically, the fruit is mashed or charred, then ground down into a powder.

What forms of black plum are available?

Whole black plums can be found at many herbal shops and Asian markets. Some stores also sell concentrated black plum extracts or plum powders.

What can happen if I take too much black plum? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Black plum should not be taken by patients who are diagnosed with exterior syndrome, or who have an accumulation of excessive heat internally. In addition, any plum that is very bitter should not be consumed due to the fact that it may have significant amounts of hydrogen cyanide. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide can stimulate respiration and improve digestion, but extremely large amounts can cause respiratory failure. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with black plum. As always, make sure to speak with a licensed health care provider before taking black plum or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


References

  • Editorial Committee of Chinese Materia Medica. State Drug Administration of China. Chinese Materia Medica. Shanghai: Science and Technology Press, 1998.
  • Chen XC, et al. Journal of TCM 1998;26(1):36-37.
  • Wan HJ, et al. China Journal of TCM Science and Technology 1998;5(4):218-219.
  • Wang BX (ed). Modern TCM Pharmacology. Tianjin: Science and Technology Press, 1997.
  • Zhou X, et al. Shanxi Journal of TCM 1999;15(1):34-35.
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