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Jineijin and Digestive Enzymes

How to best promote digestion?

by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon

Jineijin is the inner lining of the chicken gizzard, which has a yellowish-gold color (ji = chicken; nei = inner; jin = gold). This substance has been in use for about 2,000 years, and was mentioned, along with other parts of the chicken also used medicinally, in the Shennong Bencao Jing (ca. 100 A.D.). At that time, jineijin was described as a treatment for diarrhea (1). Later, it developed a reputation for promoting digestion and astringing fluid discharge, which are therapeutic approaches used in the treatment of diarrhea, but these can also be applied to alleviating nausea, vomiting, and indigestion, as well as astringing excess urination, seminal emission, or leukorrhea. The claimed digestion promoting effect has been broadened to indicate that jineijin aids not only meat digestion, which was one of the early attributions, but also digestion of grains, and it is said to alleviate chronic digestive disorders, such as stomach ulcers, atrophic gastritis, and stomach prolapse. An additional property was attributed to jineijin: breaking down masses, being used for any kind of stagnation in the internal organs, for lower abdominal masses in women, for gallstones and kidney stones, and for tumors.

jineijin, the inner lining of the chicken gizzard

Its digestion-promoting activity has been the primary focus of its use in traditional Chinese medicine. As described by Yang Yifan (2); "Jineijin not only reduces the stagnation of meat, but also aids digestion of all other kinds of food. Its action in relieving food stagnation is quite strong and it is very effective in treating fullness in the stomach, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea." According to the famous physician Jaio Shude (3): "Jineijin primarily disperses food…used to fortify the spleen and open the stomach, disperse water and grain, and assist movement and transformation." The Advanced Textbook on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology (4) notes that jineijin "is effective for treating dyspepsia, food stasis, and infantile malnutrition…for spleen dysfunction in transformation and transportation marked by loss of appetite." In comparing jineijin with other substances used for promoting digestion, this text indicates that it has a "strong effect."


The gizzard lining has trace amounts of digestive enzymes in it, but these cannot be a major source of the action of this substance. In our digestive process, there is a release of digestive juices with enzymes in quantities far higher than one would obtain from jineijin. The active component that has been isolated from the gizzard lining is called ventriculin. This substance was used in modern medicine during the early 20th century, at which time it was derived from hog stomachs. It had been primarily prescribed as a treatment of pernicious anemia, a condition which often resulted from poor absorption of vitamin B12, and for atrophic gastritis (also called chronic gastritis), one of the main causes of pernicious anemia in adults. Ventriculin was later replaced by other drugs.

Ventriculin was developed into a drug at the Simpson Memorial Institute for Medical Research, a center at the University of Michigan opened in 1926 and specifically created to identify a cure for pernicious anemia. At that time pernicious anemia had become a serious problem, with a particularly high rate in Michigan. The money to set up this center was donated in 1924 by a leader in the iron industry, Thomas Simpson, who suffered from this disease, which was incurable and deadly. Even before a director could be appointed, a treatment for pernicious anemia was identified in 1926 through research at other laboratories, for which the discoverers were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1934. That treatment involved consumption of massive quantities of liver extract.

Dr. Cyrus Sturgis was appointed as inaugural director of the Simpson Institute, and his research in 1929 led to the development of Ventriculin. This substance may have functioned by two mechanisms: providing a missing intrinsic factor secreted by the stomach lining that is needed for B12 absorption and stimulating secretion of gastric acid and digestive enzymes, such as pepsin, which help release essential nutrients from food, including vitamin B12. The University arranged with Parke-Davis, a Michigan company that had opened a factory in Detroit during the 1870s, to produce the drug. Later, it was determined that atrophic gastritis was primarily caused by H. pylori bacterial infection or an autoimmune disorder, leading to other approaches to therapy. In relation to the use of jineijin for digestive weakness, the potential for ventriculin to stimulate the secretion of gastric digestive substances is the main area of interest.

According to Chinese studies, as relayed in the summary book Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica (5), a large dose of jineijin could even affect people with normal digestion:

45-60 minutes following ingestion of the roasted jineijin powder (5 g) in healthy individuals, the gastric secretion was increased by 30-37% compared with the control group; two hours later the condition was normalized. The acidity of the gastric juice was also greatly increased. The free acid and total acid generally began to rise 1 hour after the medication, peaking in 1-2 hours; the condition was gradually restored to normal after 3 hours….The onset of the incremental effect on the digestive juices was slow, but the effect was prolonged. Gastric motility was also markedly increased as shown by the prolongation of peristalsis and accentuation of peristaltic waves, resulting in rapid emptying of the stomach. Since jineijin itself contains only a very small amount of pepsin and amylase, the increase of gastric secretion and motility following medication was believed to be due to stimulation of the gastric neuromuscular receptors as mediated by the humoral factor.

The research cited above was from 1963, and there have been few detailed studies since. According to a 1973 clinical report relayed in the same summary, it was noted that jineijin (usually as an ingredient in an herbal formula) "was especially suitable for dyspepsia and gastric discomfort due to insufficient digestive enzymes. It reduced abdominal distention, abnormal intestinal fermentation, halitosis, and mushy stool, etc." In a 1975 report, one researcher considered that the mechanism of action was mainly due to increased gastric secretion promoted by ventriculin.

Although roasting is a common process for preparing jineijin, roasting likely damages some of the ventriculin, so using the raw material may be superior. The original purpose for roasting it was to enhance the treatment of diarrhea. Roasted herbs, with ginger and atractylodes as typical examples, are commonly used for that purpose. Roasting produces adsorption sites in carbon-based materials to bind up fluids, bacteria, and toxins; this is the same reason that activated charcoal is used for treatment of diarrhea. Roasting isn't a required step for promoting secretion of digestive fluids.

The absence of significant amounts of digestive enzymes in jineijin is also the case with commonly used Chinese herbs employed for treating indigestion, such as crataegus, raphanus, atractylodes, and citrus. Sprouted barley (maiya) does contain some amylase (for breaking down starch). This is a heat-labile enzyme, so that decocting maiya reduces the amylase activity by one-third compared to using just the powdered herb; it is reduced by half again if the herb is roasted as is often done in China. A study conducted in 1964 (5) suggested that maiya "mildly promoted the secretion of gastric acid and pepsin in humans. Mild cases of indigestion could be treated with a decoction of 9-15 grams of the herb." The fermented wheat or barley product called shen-chu (shenqu) also contains some protease and amylase derived from the yeast fermentation, and the situation is similar: a substantial dose in decoction form is needed to treat mild indigestion.

The potential benefits to having additional digestive enzymes-particularly at a higher level than available through Chinese herbs for treating cases of indigestion-is evident. Modern technology makes it possible to get a sufficient amount of these enzymes in a small volume, such as in a capsule or tablet. These substances can be obtained from fungal/yeast, plant, or animal sources and are then concentrated to varying extents. Enzyme supplements have become a popular method of therapy.


The Institute for Traditional Medicine prepared Galletaine, a combination of gallus powder (jineijin) and isolated digestive enzymes (and other digestive aids), which has received numerous informal reports of benefit for indigestion. Its formulation is instructive and presented here. Each tablet provides:

Jineijin 500 mg
Betaine HCl 125 mg
Pancreatin (from pig pancreas) 100 mg
Pepsin (from pig stomach) 50 mg
Papain (from papaya fruit) 50 mg
Bromelain (from pineapple fruit) 50 mg
Cellulase (from fermentation of Trichoderma fungus) 50 mg
Ox bile (from cattle gallbladder) 50 mg
Lactase (from fermentation of Aspergillus fungus): 3 mg

The suggested use is 1-2 tablets at one meal and this dosing may be applied for each meal.


A table comparing the dosage of the ingredients present in Galletaine (1 or 2 tablets) to that provided with commonly available enzyme supplements is presented following brief description of the role of each ingredient. As explained above, jineijin helps the stomach to produce more of its own digestive juices. It is common in China to use fried jineijin, which then has less activity than the powdered material used here, allowing a somewhat lower dosage than routinely recommended in China. To further promote the digestive functions, one can add to a regimen of Galletaine another source of jineijin, Gallus-Malt Tablets (Seven Forests), which includes in each tablet 350 mg of jineijin and 210 mg sprouted barley. These can be taken several tablets at a time to get a substantial amount of these two digestive aids.

Betaine HCl is included as a method of delivering a small amount of hydrochloric acid, a component of the protein digestion system. This amount is small enough that it won't worsen a problem of hyperacidity, but will benefit those who are significantly deficient in HCl in relation to the meal being digested. The stomach secretes pepsinogen which is then converted to pepsin to digest proteins; the stomach acid is necessary for this conversion to pepsin (additional pepsin is provided in the tablet). Stomach pH is maintained at about 2.0 by secreted HCl. The acid also helps dissolve food and it kills microorganisms in the food. Betaine itself is considered a valuable substance. It is liver protective, promotes fat metabolism, and may lower blood homocysteine levels; betaine is one of the active components in the Chinese herb lycium fruit.

Pancreatin is a mixture of enzymes, mainly trypsin (for protein), amylase (for starch), and lipase (for fats) that is secreted by the pancreas into the jejunum to follow-up the stomach digestion of food. The fruit enzymes papain and bromelain aid rapid breakdown of protein to yield amino acids that are readily absorbed. Cellulase helps digest the plant fiber cellulose, which in turn aids the release of plant nutrients. Bile helps solubilize fats to aid in their breakdown and absorption. Lactase converts lactose, the milk sugar that some people find difficult to digest, to glucose and galactose. Thus, Galletaine promotes digestion of carbohydrates (starch, cellulose, and lactose), fats, and proteins.

TABLE: Quantities and Ratings of Galletaine Ingredients and Comparison with Typical Supplements.

Ingredient amount: 1 tab amount: 2 tabs typical supplement levels
Betaine HCl 125 mg [30 mg HCl, 95 mg betaine] 250 mg [60 mg HCl, 190 mg betaine] in complex formulas: 15-150 mg; single or primary ingredient: 325-650 mg Betaine HCl
Pepsin, 10,000 units/gram 50 mg 100 mg complex formulas: 30-60 mg; single or primary ingredient: 75-150 mg
Pancreatin 6x* 100 mg 200 mg complex formulas: 100-200 mg; single or primary ingredient: up to 500 mg
Papain 2,000 USP units/mg** 50 mg 100 mg complex formulas: 5-100 mg; single or primary ingredient: 200-350 mg
Bromelain 2,000 GDU/gram*** 50 mg 100 mg complex formulas: 5-50 mg; single or primary ingredient: up to 500 mg
Cellulase, 30,000 CU/gram**** 50 mg [1,500 CU] 100 mg [3,000 CU] complex formulas 300-3,000 CU [0.6-6.0 WCA]; not used singly
Ox bile 50 mg 100 mg complex formulas: 30-100 mg; single or primary ingredient: up to 500 mg
Lactase, 100,000 ALU/gram 3 mg [300 ALU] 6 mg [600 ALU] complex formulas 250-750 ALU; single ingredient: up to 9,500 ALU
Gallus (jineijin) 500 mg 1,000 mg typical supplements: none TCM medicinal use: 1,500-3,000 mg
*Pancreatin 4x or 6x are used in products (4x means concentrated four times, 6x= six times, compared to the crude preparation); Pancreatin 6x provides 150 USP units/mg protease, 150 USP units/mg amylase, and 12 USP units/mg lipase. **Papain is usually obtained in concentrations of 2,000 USP units/mg; some products now contain an extract with 6,000 USP units/mg or higher to allow smaller quantities to be used in complex formulas. ***Bromelain comes in widely varying concentrations from 80 GDU to 2,000 GDU. The high dosage preparations, such as 500 mg per unit, are mainly used as an anti-inflammatory taken between meals rather than a digestive aid, see White Tiger Bromelgin. ****Cellulase activity is determined in two different units: CU or WCA; these two are not readily converted, but roughly 500 CU = 1 WCA.


  1. Yang Shouzhong (translator), The Divine Farmer's Materia Medica, 1998 Blue Poppy Press, Boulder, CO.
  2. Yang Yifan, Chinese Herbal Medicines Comparisons and Characteristics, 2002 Churchill Livingstone, London.
  3. Mitchell C, et al. (translators), Ten Lectures on the Use of Medicinals from the Personal Experience of Jiao Shude, 2003 Paradigm Publications, Brookline, Mass.
  4. State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Advanced Textbook on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology, (vol. 2) 1995-6 New World Press, Beijing.
  5. Chang HM and But PPH (editors), Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica, 1986 World Scientific, Singapore.

December 2005