Plum Dragon Herbs

Cao Guo (Fructus Tsaoko)


This aromatic herb is widely used in traditional Chinese cooking and hot pot.  Its use leads to intensification of flavors, especially in soups and braises.  Cao Guo (Fructus Tsaoko) is commonly referred to as Cochin Cardamom Fruit, or Chinese Black Cardamom and is traditionally used to support digestion and relieve gastrointestinal discomfort, such as bloating, gas and indigestion. It also has traditional use to support respiratory health, particularly for conditions such as coughing and chest congestion. Additionally, Fructus Tsaoko is also known for its use to support the immune system and as a natural remedy to help with menstrual cramps and discomfort. It is a strong warming and drying herb and the effect of Cao Guo can be reduced with prepared with ginger.  

High-Quality Cao Guo: What does it look like? 

High-quality Cao Guo (Tsaoko Fruit) can be described as: 

  • Dried fruits that are dark brown in color and have a rough, bumpy surface.
  • The fruits are relatively small, oval-shaped and have a hard, woody texture.
  • The color can vary from dark brown to almost black and may have some white spots on the surface which is caused by crystallized essential oil.
  • The fruits have a distinct, small stem on one end and a small hole on the opposite end which is where the seed would have been.
  • The whole fruit is relatively small and can be easily broken apart to use.
  • The herb should have a consistent color throughout, free from any discoloration or mold.
  • It should be free from any impurities, dust or debris and have a clean appearance.
  • Overall, it should have a consistent visual appearance, indicating that it has been properly processed and stored.

How is Cao Guo prepared and processed?

The more common name for Cao Guo is Black Cardamom, a spice that comes from the fruit of the Tsaoko plant. The Tsaoko plant is native to China and other parts of Southeast Asia, and is typically found in mountainous regions at elevations of 800-3000 meters. It prefers well-drained, sandy or loamy soil, and a warm, humid climate. It is a perennial herb that grows to a height of about 1-1.5 m (3-5 ft). The plant has large leaves and small, white or yellow flowers. The fruit is typically dried and used as a spice in Chinese cooking. It requires full sun and well-drained soil to grow well.

After drying the the mature fruits, Cao Guo is stored in a cool, dry place until they are ready to be used. Cao Guo is also commonly used as a spice in Chinese cooking and is considered to be a safe herb to use. It is often combined with other herbs such as Ren Shen, Fu Ling, and Bai Zhu to enhance its effectiveness when treating gastrointestinal issues. Practitioners must take into account the patient's overall condition and the compatibility of the herbs when making a formula.

Popular Recipe for Cao Guo

A common recipe that includes Cao Guo is a spicy and flavorful stew known as "Cao Guo and Pork Belly Stew", which is a traditional Chinese dish that combines the warming properties of Cao Guo with the rich flavor of pork belly.


  • 1 lb of pork belly, cut into small chunks
  • 1/4 cup of dried Cao Guo (Tsaoko fruit)
  • 2 cups of vegetables (such as carrots, onions, and bell peppers)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp of Szechuan peppercorn
  • 2 tbsp of oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Water or broth to cover the ingredients


  1. Soak the dried Cao Guo in water for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  2. Drain the Cao Guo and rinse them.
  3. Cut the vegetables into small pieces.
  4. In a pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  5. Add the minced garlic and Szechuan peppercorn and stir fry until fragrant.
  6. Add the pork belly to the pot and stir fry until it is browned.
  7. Add the sliced Cao Guo to the pot and stir fry for 1-2 minutes.
  8. Add the vegetables to the pot and stir fry for another 2-3 minutes.
  9. Add enough water or broth to cover the ingredients.
  10.  Bring the stew to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the pork belly is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.
  11. Season the stew with salt and pepper to taste.
  12. Serve the Cao Guo and Pork Belly Stew hot as a main dish with rice.

Note: You can adjust the quantity of Cao Guo to your preference and also add other ingredients such as spices or other vegetables to suit your taste.

Safety Precautions for the use of Cao Guo

While it is considered safe when used as directed, there are some general safety precautions to keep in mind when using Cao Guo:

  • Consult a qualified healthcare professional before using Cao Guo, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have any pre-existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, or a history of allergies.
  • Keep Cao Guo away from children and pets, as it can be dangerous if ingested in large amounts.
  • Avoid using Cao Guo if you have a history of allergic reactions.
  • Cao Guo may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea, if taken in large doses, so it is best to start with a small dose and gradually increase it.
  • Avoid using Cao Guo if you are taking medication for blood pressure, blood thinning or sedative drugs, as it may interact with them.
  • Cao Guo should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care. If you experience any adverse reactions, seek immediate medical attention.

It’s important to note that this is a general guideline and it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional or herbalist to determine the right dosage and usage for you

When handling Cao Guo, it's important to take proper precautions as with any herb or supplement. You should always make sure that your hands are clean and dry before handling the herb. Keep it in a dry and cool place, away from direct sunlight, and avoid storing it in damp or humid areas.

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