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Biota Seed (bai zi ren)

What is biota seed? What is it used for?

Biota is a slow-growing tree native to China. It can reach a height of about 45 feet, and grows best in moist soil. When cultivated, biota produces vast quantities of seeds.

Both the seeds and branches are used in healing. In terms of traditional Chinese medicine, biota seed is not to be confused with biota leaf (ce bai ye), which is discussed elsewhere on this website.

In Chinese herbalism, biota seeds are associated primarily with the heart and digestive system. The seeds are usually used as a sedative, and are often a component of various shen, or spirit, tonics. Among the conditions biota seed is used to treat are irritability, insomnia, memory loss, anxiety, constipation and night sweats. Biota seed is sometimes combined with other herbs, such as zizyphus, schizandra and poria, to nourish the heart.

How much biota seed should I take?

Biota seed is usually consumed in very small quantities in combination with other herbs.

What forms of biota seed are available?

Biota seed is widely available either as an extract or encapsulated powder. Whole biota seeds can be found at some specialty stores.

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

Biota seed has been given a class 1 rating by the American Herbal Products Association, meaning that it can be consumed safely when used appropriately. While no undesirable side-effects or drug interactions have been noted, some practitioners suggest that it not be taken by pregnant women. It should also not be used by persons with loose stools or diarrhea. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking biota or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Bown D. Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London, 1995.
  • Davidson T. Biota. Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. New York: Thomson/Gale, 1997.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 88.
  • Molony D. Complete Guide to Chinese Herbal Medicine. New York: Berkeley Books, 1998.
  • Teeguarden R. Radiant Health:The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs. New York: Warner Books, 1998, pp. 201-202.
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