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Adzuki Beans (Chi Xiao Dou)

Adzuki Beans (Chi Xiao Dou)

What is Adzuki Beans (Chi Xiao Dou)?

Adzuki Beans (chi xiao dou, 赤小豆), also known as Vigna umbellata, Rice Bean or Semen Phaseoli, are beans that come from the plant Phaseolus calcaratus, a warm-season annual vine legume with yellow flowers and small edible beans. Said to have originated in Asia, Phaseolus calcaratus is grown in India and central China. It was first introduced in Egypt by the Arabs. It is now being cultivated in Asia, Australia, USA, and tropical Africa. 

Regarded as a minor food and fodder crop, Phaseolus calcaratus is often grown as intercop or mixed crop with maize, sorghum and cowpea, as well as a sole crop in a very limited area on the uplands. Grown mainly as a dried pulse, Phaseolus calcaratus is also important as a green manure and a vegetable. This plant grows well on a large range of soils, where it establishes rapidly and has the potential to produce large amounts of nutritious animal fodder and high quality grain.

Adzuki Bean is oblong, slightly flattened, has a purplish-red exterior and a slightly sweet taste. These beans are usually gathered in the fall and dried under the sun for medicinal usage.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Adzuki Bean falls under the category of ‘Herbs that drain Dampness’. Such herbs are typically diuretics, which means that they can promote urination to remove Dampness that has accumulated in the body. Neutral in nature, Adzuki Bean does not affect the yin-yang balance in your body.

Sour and sweet in taste, Adzuki Bean can aid digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating. The herb can also slow down acute reactions, detoxify the body and has a tonic effect on the body by replenishing qi and blood. In particular, Adzuki Bean targets the Heart and the small intestine.

Functions and Benefits of Adzuki Beans (Chi Xiao Dou)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Adzuki Bean has the following health benefits.

Adzuki Bean can induce diuresis and alleviate edema. This herb is thus indicated for symptoms such as abdominal swelling and fullness caused by edema, swollen feet, as well as urinary difficulty. Also, Adzuki Bean can clear Damp-Heat, and is used to alleviate jaundice and obesity caused by Damp-Heat.

Adzuki Bean is effective in dispersing Blood Stasis, which reduces Fire toxicity, swelling and dispels pus. Thus, Rice Bean is often indicated for the treatment of sores, carbuncles and furuncles.

Today, Adzuki Bean has been attracting attention owing to its good nutritional potential, anti-inflammatory properties and adaptability to grow in less fertile lands. With anti-inflammatory properties, Rice Bean can address inflammatory conditions and boost one’s immune system.

Rich in dietary fibre, Adzuki Bean can aid digestive health by regulating bowel movements and promoting absorption of water and nutrients. Containing Vitamin B1 (thiamine), Adzuki Bean may also protect heart health by preventing heart failure and regulating cholesterol levels.

Adzuki Bean (Chi Xiao Dou) in a wooden bowl
Adzuki Bean (Chi Xiao Dou) is commonly consumed to help with water retention issues.

How to Use Adzuki Beans (Chi Xiao Dou)

The amount of Chi Xiao Dou to be taken depends on the condition being treated. Be it used for consumption or external application, do consult your healthcare provider on the suitable dosage for your condition. For edema and jaundice, the typical dosage of Chi Xiao Dou is between 1.5g – 4.5g, when powdered and taken with other herbs as a decoction. Larger doses of 10 – 30g may be used when Chi Xiao Dou is applied to the skin.

Chi Xiao Dou can be found in many Asian markets and herbal stores. Chi Xiao Dou is also available in supplement forms such as powders, infusions and decoctions.

Cautions and Side Effects of Adzuki Beans (Chi Xiao Dou)

Chi Xiao Dou should not be used by individuals who are not experiencing signs of Dampness. Also, do note that frequent ingestion of Chi Xiao Dou may cause Dryness or miscarriage. Rice Bean should be used with caution by patients taking diabetes medication as well.

We strongly encourage you to consult your healthcare provider before deciding to add Adzuki Beans (Chi Xiao Dou) to your healthcare routine!


Here is a summary for Adzuki Beans (Chi Xiao Dou):

  • Herb name (Chinese): 赤小豆
  • Herb name (Pin Yin): chì xiǎo dòu
  • Herb name (English): Rice Bean / Adzuki Bean
  • Herb name (Botanical): Semen Vignae
  • Origin of species: Vigna umbellata Vigna angularis
  • Part(s) of herb used: Seed
  • Geo-specific habitat(s): Zhejiang, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Jiangxi, Guizhou, Yunnan
  • Taste(s) & Properties: Sweet, sour; Neutral; Administrates the Heart, Small Intestine Meridians
  • Actions: Eases symptoms of water retention in the body, especially in the lower limbs; Aids in detoxification, and facilitate discharge of pus

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