Gardenias are popular flowers with a strong floral smell, often used in candles and lotions. However, most people don’t know that its flowers, roots, and leaves have a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
This plant belongs to the Rubiaceae plant family and is native to parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands, including China and Japan. Depending on the exact species used, the products go by many names, including Gardenia jasminoides, Danh Danh, Gardênia, Gardenia augusta, Gardenia florida. Gardenia radicans, Cape Jasmine, Cape Jessamine.
The generic name is believed to be named in the in honor of Alexander Garden (1730–1791), a botanist, zoologist and physician who helped develop the classification of gardenia genus/species.
Gardenia plants are dark green evergreen shrubs that grow in warm climates throughout the year. They produce fragrant white flowers that can turn yellow, beige or orange. They grow up to three to six feet high and become rather wide.
Nowadays, the ethanol extract of gardenia fruit and flowers is still used in herbal medicine and aromatherapy. Gardenia plants can be of over 250 different types, but the essential oil is made from one type known as Gardenia jasminoides Ellis.
Gardenias also offer potent natural antibacterial, analgesic, antifungal, diuretic, antiseptic, detoxicant and antispasmodic properties.
Throughout history, gardenias have been known as symbols of purity, love, devotion, trust, and refinement.
The most widely available extract type used for medicinal purposes is gardenia essential oil, used in the treatment of tumors and infections. Its seductive aroma promotes relaxation and is added to lotions, perfumes, body wash, and many other topical applications.
Gardenia plants and essential oil treat the following issues:
- Brain fog and fatigue
- Infections, including bladder and urinary tract infections
- Anxiety and depression
- Fighting free radical damage and formation of tumors, thanks to its antiangiogenic activities
- Muscle spasms
- Insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, obesity, and other risk factors tied to diabetes and heart disease
- Low libido
- Acid reflux, vomiting, gas IBS and other digestive issues
- Bloody urine or stools
- Menstrual pains
- Poor milk production in nursing women
- Slow-healing wounds
- Liver damage, liver disease, and jaundice
Gardenia contains numerous antioxidants and at least 20 active compounds, including benzyl and phenyl acetates, linalool, terpineol, ursolic acid, rutin, stigmasterol, crociniridoids (including coumaroylshanzhiside, butylgardenoside, and methoxygenipin) and phenylpropanoid glucosides.
Here are some of the benefits of gardenia extracts, flowers, and essential oil:
1. Ingredients isolated from Gardenia jasminoides, including ursolic acid and genipin, have been found to offer strong antigastritic activities, antioxidant activities and acid-neutralizing properties that treat various gastrointestinal issues, such as gastritis, acid reflux, ulcers, lesions and infections caused by H. pylori action.
Genipin also supports the digestion of fats by improving the production of certain enzymes.
2. Gardenia essential oil is rich in antioxidants that fight free radical damage, as well as two compounds called geniposide and genipin which exhibit powerful anti-inflammatory actions.
Therefore, it is beneficial in the case of high cholesterol, insulin resistance/glucose intolerance and liver damage, diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.
3. Gardenia flowers promote relaxation, fight depression, anxiety, and restlessness, and lower stress levels, so they were included in numerous herbal formulas and aromatherapy in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The extract (Gardenia jasminoides Ellis) showed rapid antidepressant effects via instant enhancement of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression in the limbic system, which is the “emotional center” of the brain.
4. Gardenia extracts were found to boost memory, especially among older memory-deficit populations, including patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Geniposide and gardenoside were found to suppress the expression of immune-related genes in the brain.
5. The natural antibacterial, antioxidant and antiviral compounds of gardenia fight colds, respiratory/sinus infections and congestion, and the essential oil promotes healing and fights infections when applied topically.
6. Gardenia extracts, oil and tea effectively fight pains, aches, and discomfort due to headaches, PMS, arthritis, and injuries like sprains and muscle cramps. This flower has been traditionally used to fight chronic pains, fatigue and various illnesses.
Follow these instructions to learn about its use and recommended dosage:
Gardenia Essential Oil: Always use 100 percent pure organic gardenia essential oil. It can be diffused in the home, applied topically to the skin when diluted when a carrier oil such as coconut, almond, or jojoba oil, or added to baths, lotions, body sprays, and perfumes.
When used to relieve stress, as several drops to your bath or diffusing it throughout your room before bedtime.
Gardenia Supplements/Capsules: It is considered safe in doses of three to 12 grams taken by mouth daily. You can find gardenia supplements online or in health stores.
Gardenia Tea: This tea has a light/sometimes sweet taste and natural diuretic effect. You can enrich the taste by adding herbs like rosemary, oregano, basil, and thyme.
Gardenia Powder: The fruit looks like an orange-colored berry that contains a sticky pulp, which is usually dried and ground to make a concentrated powder. On the other hand, the Gardenia resin is made from the plant’s stems/branches.
Potential side effects linked to the use of gardenia capsules or essential oil may include appetite loss, diarrhea or loose stools, skin irritation and inflammation, and possible complication in pregnant/nursing women and with children.
Gardenia in TCM and Ayurveda
In Chinese, gardenia fruit is called Zhi Zi or Sheng Shan Zi, and the Traditional Chinese Medicine maintains that its strong, bitter and cold properties protect the heart, lungs, and stomach.
It is used to treat insomnia, high blood pressure, urinary tract infections, bleeding, swellings and pain. Moreover, it is also used to purge excess heat, dispel damp heat and cool the blood.
It is recommended to take a dosage of about three to 12 grams daily.
In Ayurveda, Gardenia is known as Dakamali and Nahi hingu, and is used to treat indigestion, wounds, stomach pain, fever, and skin diseases.
A common use in Ayurveda is using the resin, either applied to the skin or taken in powder form. In the treatment of intestinal worms, bloating and constipation, coughs, and inflammation of the gums, Ayurveda practitioners recommend taking 200-500 milligrams of powder daily.
The distinctive aroma of gardenia is also used in cooking, so here are some interesting recipes you can try:
Easy Chestnut Kinton For Osechi
- 300 grams Sweet potatoes
- 4 tbsp Chestnut syrup
- 3 tbsp Sugar
- 10 Candied chestnuts
- 2 tbsp Mirin
- 5 tbsp Cooking broth
- 1 Salt
- 2 Dried gardenia fruit
Peel the sweet potatoes thickly, cut them into 2 cm thick round slices, and leave them to soak in water for 10 minutes.
Cut the gardenia fruit in half and wrap in gauze.
In a saucepan, add the sweet potatoes and the dried gardenia fruit, and boil them until soft. Then, remove the gardenia fruit from the pan.
Drain the potatoes, add them to a food processor along with the cooking broth, and half of the chestnut syrup. Blend the mixture until smooth.
Pour the mixture into a saucepan, add the rest of the chestnut syrup, the mirin, and the sugar. Mix everything for a few minutes on low heat. Add in the salt and the candied chestnuts and allow the mixture to simmer for 2 minutes.
Goji berry Hot Drink with Gardenia flower Liquor
- 1 tbsp Dried Goji berry
- 150 cc Boiled Water
- 1 tsp homemade Gardenia liquor
Add Goji berry and boiled water in a cup, and leave them for a few minutes, until the dried goji berry becomes soft. Then add the gardenia flower liquor.
Glossy ‘Kurikinton’ Chestnut Paste
- 500 grams Sweet potato
- 16 Sweet chestnuts in syrup
- 1 Gardenia flower
- 80 ml Candied chestnut syrup
- 100 grams sugar (castor sugar)
- 2 tbsp Mirin
Remove about 1 cm of the sweet potato skin, slice it into rounds, and rinse in water.
Add the water and cracked gardenia seeds, along with the sweet potatoes, and boil over medium heat until they are soft.
Set aside the broth. Take it out of the pot, and make it smooth using a hand mixer, a masher, or a tea strainer.
Then, return it to the pot, add in the syrup and sugar, and boil down until it thickens and becomes amber. Next, remove the pot from heat, stir gently without cracking the candied chestnuts, and serve.
Growing gardenia at home
You can grow your own gardenia plants and bushes at home, but you should always plant fresh gardenia flowers.
They like full sun or light shade, and bloom the best when grown in moist, acidic soil. In case the flowers turn yellow, they might overheat, so find a place with some shade.
Despite using them in all the ways we suggested above, you can also pick the flowers and use them as decoration or leave a row of bushes in the ground to create hedges.