Ba Dou – Croton Fruit – Fructus Crotonis

Ba Dou

English Name: croton fruit

Pharmaceutical Name: Fructus Crotonis

Medica Category: Downward Draining Herbs– Purgatives

Properties: Ba Dou enters the Stomach and Large Intestine channels; it is acrid in nature, hot in temperature, and considered toxic according to TCM theory.

What is Ba Dou?:

The Chinese Herb Ba Dou is the dried fruit of Croton tiglium L., a small, tree-like shrub that grows throughout China and other parts of Asia. The seeds of the croton plant are gathered in the autumn, dried in the sun, and ground into powder for use as medicine. It is most often used in its defatted form, in which it is (sometimes) known as prepared Semen Croton Tiglii (Ba Dou Shuang).

Ba Dou is considered the strongest cathartic herb in the Chinese medica in its action of “vigorously” purging cold accumulations. It is said to “chop through the gate and force open the door”, which is a reference to its medicinal action of breaking up thick, stubborn accumulations of (cold) phlegm that are causing significant problems (see section below). It is extremely harsh—it irritates the mucous membranes, induces vomiting, has a laxative effect, and is toxic to the kidney—and thus to be used very carefully and only for specific reasons (ideally under the auspices of a trained TCM practitioner). One other noteworthy item is that some tinctured products containing croton fruit are marketed for aromatherapy purposes —these are essential oils that are very highly concentrated and should never be used internally (i.e. be careful and make sure you know what you are purchasing and using internally).

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Therapeutic Actions of Ba Dou:

Ba Dou strongly unblocks and purges accumulations of cold phlegm in the interior and is indicated for sudden abdominal and epigastric fullness, distention, piercing pain, and constipation. It is also indicated for use with acute intestinal obstruction.

Ba Dou eliminates water accumulation and is indicated for use for late-stage ascites.

Ba Dou eliminates phlegm accumulations in the throat when phlegm is clogging the throat and obstructing the airways, causing wheezing, dyspnea, suffocation, and stifling sensations in the chest (w/profuse sputum).

Ba Dou also clears accumulated phlegm that is “misting the orifices”.

Ba Dou promotes the healing and eruption of abscesses and ulcers that have suppurated but not yet ulcerated.

–safety/clinical notes:

Ba Dou is toxic and a potent cathartic; thus, it should be used with extreme caution and only when necessary.

Avoid ingesting hot liquids with this herb as they will enhance the purgative effect of Ba Dou.

Contraindicated during pregnancy.

Ba Dou antagonizes Qian Niu Zi (morning glory seeds) and according to classical texts, the two are incompatible.

Topical application to the face or genital areas is contraindicated as contact with skin and mucous membranes may result in dermatitis, itching, burning, swelling, and other adverse reactions.