Herbs & Botanicals

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Massa Fermentata (shen qu)

What is massa fermentata? What is it used for?

Also known as medicated leaven, massa is not just one herb, but actually a mixture of several herbs and grains. Typically, massa consists of a mixture of wheat flower, bran, and the fresh aerial parts of xanthium, polygonum and other herbs. Sometimes, it is made with mashed apricot kernels and artemisia. The mixture is covered, fermented for a period of one week, cut into small pieces, then dried in the sun. It can be used raw or after being parched.

In traditional Chinese medicine, massa has sweet, pungent and warm properties, and is associated with the Spleen and Stomach meridians. Its main functions are to eliminate food retention and harmonize the stomach. Massa is used to treat conditions such as diarrhea, abdominal distension and lack of appetite, and to move food through the intestines. It is often taken with hawthorn fruit and malt, or germinated barley.

How much massa should I take?

The typical dosage of massa is between 6 and 15 grams, decocted in water.

What forms of massa are available?

Dried pieces of massa can be found at some Asian markets and specialty stores. There is also a variation of massa called "medicinal fermented mass," which usually contains orange peels and different herbs.

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

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


  1. Lu HY, et al. New usages of jian pi wan. Journal of New TCM 1992;24(11):44-45.
  2. Wang GJ. Treating 33 cases of duodenal stasis with jian pi wan. National Journal of Medicine Forum 1995;10(5):41.
  3. Xiong ZF. Treating 300 cases of child diarrhea with modified jian pi wan. Journal of Chengdu College TMC 1986;(3):29-30.
  4. Yu WP. Comparative experimental research in jian pi fang and vitamin E's effect on fruit fly life span. Jiangsu Journal of TCM 1991;12(8):33-34.
  5. Zhang J, et al. Using jian pi wan to treat 27 cases of dysfunction of the spleen and stomach among the elderly with bone impairment. Gansu Journal of TCM 1997;10(1):27-28.

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