What is Cassia Twig?
Cassia Twig (gui zhi, 桂枝), also known as Cinnamon Twig and Cinnamomum Cassia, is made from the dried inner bark of an evergreen tree. A very common spice and flavouring agent in foods, Cassia Twigs are also often used in medicine to treat diabetes, prediabetes and obesity.
Falling under the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Category of ‘Warm/acrid Herbs that Release the Exterior’, Cassia Twig has a ‘Warm’ nature and comes with a pungent and sweet taste. The sweet taste of Cassia Twig suggests that it targets our Heart, Lung, and Spleen. Its pungent taste also suggests that it helps to promote the circulation of qi and body fluids in our body.
Herbs that release the Exterior aim to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, eyes, nose, throat and skin. In TCM, it is believed that external diseases such as colds can only invade the body if the external environment overwhelms our wei qi (immune system). Hence, Cassia Twig can help to battle such invasion by increasing the flow of sweat to our capillary pores to induce sweating, which then expels the disease from the body and prevents further invasion.
For individuals who have a Yin Excess or Yang Deficiency, Cassia Twig may help to restore a harmonious balance between their yin and yang to maintain their health.
Functions and Benefits of Cassia Twig
In TCM, Cassia Twig is believed to have the following functions:
Firstly, as mentioned above, Cassia Twig can induce sweating to relieve Wind-Cold from Yang Deficiency.
Secondly, Cassia Twig can warm the channels and collaterals in your body to battle body aches caused by Wind-Cold and Dampness. It is especially useful for pains such as arthritic complaints in your shoulders, as well as gynecological conditions such as menstrual cramps and endometriosis symptoms.
Thirdly, Cassia Twig can improve the flow of yang qi in your chest to tackle conditions such as chest pain, palpitations, edema, dysuria and abdominal fullness.
Fourthly, Cassia Twig strengthens our Spleen, which helps to pull more qi from the foods that we eat and deliver it to the rest of our body. Other than improving our sleep quality by managing sleep disorders through promoting the circulation of qi, Cassia Twig also promotes the circulation of other body fluids such as blood to improve the functions of our Lungs, Heart and muscles.
Modern research also suggests that Cassia Twig benefits include effectively reducing sugar levels in the body, which is why it is often used to treat Type 2 diabetes. It also helps to maintain a healthy digestive system, promote urination and detoxify the body.
How to Use Cassia Twig
Cassia Twig is usually available in thin slices or thick pieces sourced from small branches of the tree. It is commonly consumed in foods. It is considered safe to consume doses of 1-2g Cassia Twig daily for up to three months.
To prepare Cassia Twig, you can remove impurities from the herb by washing it before soaking it in water. Cut the twig into thick slices and dry afterwards.
Cassia Twig is a very common ingredient in tonic herbal blends and classic Chinese formulations such as Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan (桂枝茯苓丸) and Gui Zhi Tang (桂枝汤). It is also often used in teas and commercially added to preparations as an herbal supplement.
When using the whole bark or twig slices in home brews or tonic tea formulas, it is vital to decoct or simmer them on very low heat. If not, over-boiling will compromise its flavour by producing bitterness.
Cautions and Side Effects of Cassia Twig
It is likely to be unsafe if Cassia Twig is taken in doses larger than 6g daily for a long period of time. As the herb contains a chemical called coumarin, consuming large amounts of it may cause liver damage in some individuals, especially for individuals with liver disease.
The pungent flavour and warm nature of Cassia Twig can also compromise the yin in your body and affect blood circulation. Individuals who have warm pathogen diseases, Yin Deficiency, or are bleeding heavily should avoid the usage of Cassia Twig.
Cassia Twig is also strictly not suitable for individuals with heat-related illnesses, internal body heat symptoms such as night sweating, hot flushes, or constant thirst, or blood spots under the skin, nose bleeding, blood in faeces or urine.
Also, as Cassia Twig might lower blood sugar and interfere with your blood sugar levels, individuals should avoid taking Cassia Twig at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery. This also means that taking Cassia Twig along with diabetes medications might cause blood sugar to drop to dangerously low levels. Do monitor your blood sugar closely and discuss with your healthcare provider before consuming Cassia Twig if you have to regularly take diabetes medication.
If used on skin, Cassia Twig might cause skin irritation and or allergic skin reactions too.
Pregnant women and those with heavy menstrual discharge should consult a physician before consuming this.
Here is a summary for Cassia Twig:
- Herb name (Chinese): 桂枝
- Herb name (Pin Yin): guì zhī
- Herb name (English): Cassia Twig
- Herb name (Botanical): Ramulus Cinnamomi
- Origin of species: Cinnamomum cassia Presl
- Part(s) of herb used: Twig or young branch
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan
- Taste(s) & Properties: Pungent, Sweet; Warm; Administrates the Heart, Lung and Bladder meridians
- Actions: Eases symptoms of influenza or related respiratory ailments; Ideal herb for individuals experiencing cold and frequent pain in the extremities; Relieves symptoms of poor fluid circulation in the body; Eases symptoms of irregular heartbeats.
Gutierrez, J. L., Bowden, R. G., & Willoughby, D. S. (2016). Cassia cinnamon supplementation reduces peak blood glucose responses but does not improve insulin resistance and sensitivity in young, sedentary, obese women. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 13(4), 461-471. [Accessed on 12th September 2022]
Sun, L., Liu, L., Zong, S., Wang, Z., Zhou, J., Xu, Z., … & Kou, J. (2016). Traditional Chinese medicine Guizhi Fuling capsule used for therapy of dysmenorrhea via attenuating uterus contraction. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 191, 273-279.[Accessed on 12th September 2022]
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