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Tsaoko Fruit (cao guo)

What is tsaoko fruit? What is it used for?

Tsaoko fruit comes from a perennial herb related to the ginger family. The plant thrives in the world's rain forests and tropical regions, with brightly colored flowers, long leaves and slender stems.

In China, tsaoko fruit is produced mainly in the Yunna, Guangxi and Guizhou provinces. The fruit is gathered in the autumn when ripe, cleaned, then dried in the sun. Once dried, the outer shell of the fruit is removed, as are the fruit's seeds.

Tsaoko fruit contains an essential oil comprised of numerous chemicals, including cineole, geraniol, and camphor. The essential has been shown to exhibit antibacterial and antifungal properties in a laboratory setting.

Tsaoko fruit is considered acrid and warm, and is affiliated with the Spleen and Stomach meridians. It is often used to treat common digestive disorders, ranging from stomach pain and flatulence to excessive belching, indigestion, and nausea. Small amounts of tsaoko fruit will promote urination. In addition, it can treat some types of malaria, often in conjunction with betel nuts, anemarrhena, and dichroa root.

How much tsaoko fruit should I take?

The typical dosage of tsaoko fruit is between 3 and 6 grams per day, decocted with water for oral administration. The outer shell of the fruit and the seeds are removed, after which the fruit is pounded into a pulp or powder.

What forms of tsaoko fruit are available?

Dried tsaoko fruit can be found at some Asian markets and herbal shops. Tsaoko fruit is also available in powder, pill and capsule forms. Some shops may sell a tincture containing the fruit's essential oil.

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

Tsaoko fruit is considered safe; it has been given a class 1 rating by the American Herbal Products Association, which means it can be safely consumed when used appropriately. However, tsaoko fruit should not be taken by patients diagnosed with yin deficiency.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions associated with tsaoko fruit. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking tsaoko fruit or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Chen JK, Chen TT. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry, CA: Art of Medicine Press, 2004, pp. 374-375.
  • Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C (eds.) PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, 2000, p. 540.
  • Lin J, Zheng Y, Xu Y, et al. Analysis of essential oil from amomum tsaoko by extraction of supercritical CO2 fluid. Zhong Yao Cai March 2000;23(3):145-8.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 9.
  • Zhang L, He J, Zhai S. Effect of tsaoko-anemarrhenae decoction on intracerebral c-fos, c-jun mRNA expression in interrupting pentylentetrazol kindled epileptic rat model. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi August 2000;20(8):606-7.
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