Chuan Shan Jia – Pangolin scales – “Penetrate Mountain Scales”

Pangolins are remarkable creatures and they are endangered. Attempts to raise them in captivity have failed.

Like certain other (usually animal-derived) Chinese medicines, their legendary status is inflated. Furthermore, the market is flooded with plastic fakes.

No one needs pangolin scales in order to get well. Any trained herbalist can create an effective formula using other blood movers instead. If you buy this product, you fuel the demand for more. Stop using pangolin scales. 

I provide the following information just for historical reference, and to understand, if you ever encounter Chuan Shan Jia in a prescription, what the intended action is, so that you can choose a suitable alternative. 


Nature: salty, slightly cold

Enters: Liver, Stomach

Actions: Promotes blood circulation and dispels blood stasis from the channels; promotes lactation; relieves swelling; drains pus; unblocks menstruation; expels wind-dampness from the channels.

Historical Indications:
• Blood stasis: amenorrhea, masses, Bi syndrome, early stage carbuncles/boils or with pus that does not drain, lumps, dysmenorrhea. Alternatives to consider: Hong hua, Chi shao, Chuan xiong, Mu dan pi, Yi mu cao, Dan shen, Tao ren, Wang bu liu xing, Wu ling zhi, Tu bie chong, etc.
• Galactostasis after childbirth. Alternatives to consider: Pu gong ying, Wang bu liu xing, Si gua luo, Mu tong, etc.
• Toxic swellings: abscesses, boils. Can dissolve as yet unformed pus, but it is more useful for suppurative lesions. Can be used topically. Alternatives to consider: Zi hua di ding, Lian qiao, Tian hua fen, Chi xiao dou, Niu bang zi, Zao jiao, Chi shao, Mu dan pi, Xuan shen, Zhi zi, Tu fu ling, etc.
• Wind-damp obstruction of channels: pain, stiffness or spasms in the limbs, pain that prevents bending and stretching. Alternatives: see herbs that expel wind-dampness (Wei ling xian, Xi xian cao, Hai tong feng, Qin jiao, Du huo, Qiang hup, Mu gua, Wu jia pi, etc.)
• When the patient lacks breast milk and is Qi deficient, do not count on this herb to promote lactation.
• Hemostatic in surgery.
• Has been used for the treatment of hematuria.
• Traditionally this herb is powdered and taken directly. Too expensive to cook.
• Contraindicated in pregnancy.
• The unprepared form is black. The prepared form has been fried until yellowish.
• Though sometimes referred to as “anteaters,” pangolins are not true anteaters.

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