English Name: asparagus tuber
Pharmaceutical Name: Radix Asparagi
Medica Category: Yin-Tonifying Herbs
Properties: Tian Men Dong enters the Lung and Kidney channels; it is sweet and bitter in nature and very cold in temperature.
The Chinese Herb Tian Men Dong is the tuber of a climbing plant commonly known as Chinese asparagus (Asparagus cochinchinensis (Lour.) Merr.). It grows naturally in sandy soils off the coasts of Japan, China, and Korea (as it can tolerate the salt) as well as inland in waste/disturbed areas and roadsides. In China it is mainly cultivated in Guizhou, Sichuan and Guangxi provinces for commercial use. The root is harvested late in the growing season after the stems have withered and usually left unprocessed for use as medicine.
Tian Men Dong is both moistening to the Lung (i.e. tonifies yin) and very cold in temperature. This makes it especially useful to address coughs that present with dryness and heat. Clinical indications for use of this herb include non-productive dry cough or cough with sputum, that is sticky, difficult to expectorate, and yellow (perhaps blood-streaked as well).
Tian Men Dong travels to the Kidney channel and to tonify yin and moistens dryness to the whole system when signs of empty heat are more prevalent. It is often used, for example, to help with recovery from febrile diseases in which the fever has damaged the body’s yin (as the fever gradually subsides, full heat signs are replaced by empty-heat signs). It is also very useful in treating xiao ke (wasting and thirsting) syndrome, steaming bones, tidal fever, and night sweats.
The Kidney channel travels through the throat and to the tongue, and so Kidney yin deficiency may manifest in throat swelling and pain (for which Tian Men Dong is indicated to address).
Tian Men Dong moistens the intestines and is useful to address dry stools and constipation caused by heat and dryness.
Contraindicated in cases of diarrhea due to cold and deficiency of the Spleen and Stomach or cases of cough due to wind-cold invasion.