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Plantain Seed (che qian zi)

What is plantain seed? What is it used for?

Plantain seeds come from either the Asiatic plantain or the depressed plantain, a perennial herb native to eastern Asia. It grows in the woods and lowlands of China, Japan and Korea, and can reach a height of between 12 and 18 inches.

It can grow in semi-shade or no shade, and requires moist soil. The seeds contain a variety of nutrients, including vitamins A and B, iron, choline, adenine, and mucilage, which acts as a laxative. They are gathered in the summer and autumn when ripe, then fried, either alone or with salt water or brine.

In traditional Chinese medicine, plantain seeds are associated with the Kidney, Liver and Lung meridians, and have sweet and cold properties. Their main functions are to promote the metabolism of water, to stop diarrhea, to clear heat in the liver, and to clear the lung and resolve phlegm. Among the conditions plantain seeds are used to treat are painful urination, frequent urination, edema, distention in the abdomen, blurred vision, cataracts, and coughs.

How much plantain seed should I take?

The typical dosage of plantain seed is between 5 and 10 grams of seeds, decocted in water. The seeds should be strained out of the decoction before oral administration. If a strainer is unavailable, the seeds should be wrapped in cloth before being placed in the water.

What forms of plantain seed are available?

Whole, dried plantain seeds can be found at many Asian markets and specialty stores. Some shops sell plantain seed decoctions and powders. Plantain seed is also a component of many common herbal formulas.

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

Plantain seed has been given a class 2D rating by the American Herbal Products Association. It should not be used by patients who have a bowel obstruction; when taking plantain seeds, patients should consume at least eight ounces of liquid along with the seeds. Patients on any type of medication should take those medications one hour prior to consuming plantain seeds. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking plantain seeds or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Liu Qi, et al. An analysis of trace elements in selected Chinese herbs. Journal of Changchun College of TCM 1993;9(4):52.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 87.
  • Zhang Zhen Qiu, et al. Che qian zi gelatin's effect on constipation in mice. Journal of Shizhen Medicinal Material Research 1996;7(4):209-210.
  • Zhang Zhen Qiu, et al. Che qian zi pharmaceutical effects. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine Material 1996;19(2):87-89.
  • Editorial Committee of Chinese Materia Medica. State Drug Administration of China. Chinese Materia Medica. Shanghai: Science and Technology Press; 1998.
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