Although it is not frequently noted in the Chinese Materia Medica, there are a few herbs that contain gluten, such as Fu Xiao Mai, Mai Ya and Shen Qu. These herbs must be avoided when prescribing to a patient that suffers from a Coeliac disease (coeliac sprue) or a non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. However, there are some gluten-free herbs that are processed with wheat bran that Coeliac’s need to be aware of.
Coeliac disease and gluten intolerances are becoming more prevalent in western society. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition whereby the body’s immune system attacks its own gut cells when gluten is eaten. This causes damage to the lining of the gut and leads to Intestinal Permeability (also known as leaky gut) and this impaired absorption of nutrients from food. Coeliac disease is not a food allergy or intolerance, but an autoimmune disease. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, wind, nausea, tiredness, intestinal permeability, anaemia, nutrient deficiencies and unexpected weight loss.
Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is similar to coeliac disease whereby the symptoms are comparable such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, depression, muscle and joint pain, brain fog and more. However, the intolerance is not associated with the IgA tissue transglutaminase antibody (tTG), but evidence of inflammation and intestinal permeability have been present.1
Gluten is a collective name for the proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. Oats do not naturally contain gluten but cross-contamination can occur as grain-based products are often manufactured in the same facility. Furthermore, the avenin proteins in oats have a similar structure to the gliadin in gluten-containing foods, so coeliac patients are often advised to avoid oats too.
Yi Yi Ren
Yi Yi Ren is also recognised as job tears or coix seeds and is known for benefiting the spleen, stomach and lungs as it resolves damp, tonifies qi and clears heat. It is primarily grown in the provinces of Fujian, Hebei, Liaoning and Zhejiang in altitudes of up to 200
0m. Good quality Yi Yi Ren usually looks like a large white seed with a deep brown furrow. For many years, it has been favoured in China as an official health food.
Fu Chao processing
Yi Yi Ren is gluten-free. However, it is commonly processed with wheat bran (Fu Chao) known to enhance the digestive system. As wheat bran contains gluten, any herbs that are processed with this method must be avoided if your patient has Coeliac disease so we advise only using unprocessed Yi Yi Ren. Shan Yao is also commonly known to be processed with bran so we advise all patients with a gluten allergy to also only use unprocessed Shan Yao.
At Phoenix, we supply a range of dry herbs and concentrated herbal granules. With the exception of naturally occurring gluten in the above herbs, our herbal products do not contain any added gluten. However, if you would like to know more about gluten-containing herbs and granules, please visit our statement on gluten or contact us at email@example.com
 Hollon, J., Puppa, E., Greenwald, B., Goldberg, E., Guerrerio, A. and Fasano, A. (2015). Effect of Gliadin on Permeability of Intestinal Biopsy Explants from Celiac Disease Patients and Patients with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. Nutrients, 7(12), pp.1565-1576.