Mu Li – Oyster Shell

Nature: salty, astringent, slightly cold

Enters: Liver, Heart, Kidney

Actions: Subdues the liver and suppresses rising liver yang; anchors the Shen; benefits the Yin and anchors floating Yang; softens and disperses hardness, nodules, stagnation of phlegm and fire; astringes and controls body fluids; neutralizes acid (calcined form) and alleviates (stomach) pain.

• Liver yang rising (including with Yin deficiency): restlessness, insomnia, palpitations, dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus, bad temper, red, flushed face
• stagnation of phlegm and fire: masses, lumps, swollen lymph nodes and glands, scrofula, goiter.
• Weak constitution (deficiency only – steaming bone disorder or following a warm febrile disease): seminal emission, leukorrhea, uterine bleeding, spontaneous or night sweats.
• Acidity: heartburn, excessive stomach pain with sour taste (Bensky/Gamble recommends the calcined form for this, while Liu says to swallow 10g uncooked, non-calcined Mu li). Note: Mu li contains a high amount of calcium carbonate. The carbonate acts as a pH buffer in the stomach, but calcium is a stimulus for acid secretion in the stomach (because it is soluble only at a low pH). At best, Mu li is a branch treatment for acidity. As antacids go, Mu li – and all antacids which contain calcium – may be inferior to those comprised of other mineral carbonates (such as sodium bicarbonate – baking soda).
• Muscle cramps: by “softening hardness” – anecdotally useful as a standalone herb, even in the common form of oyster shell calcium pills. Also beneficial for restless legs.
• Useful in treating night sweats due to tuberculosis.
• Weaker than Long gu to quiet the Shen, but stronger than Long gu to subdue liver Yang.
• “Slipperier” than Long gu.
• For astringing body fluids, use the calcined form, Duan mu li. For all other purposes use the unprepared form (note Bensky/Gamble says to use the calcined form for neutralizing acid).
• Cook for 20-30 minutes longer than other herbs.
• Bensky/Gamble classifies with herbs that anchor the Shen.
• Some sources claim Mu li works synergistically with Bei mu, Gan cao, Niu xi, and Yuan zhi, and that it has adverse effects when combined with Ma huang, Wu zhu yu, and Xi xin.
• The nacre in oyster shells is composed primarily of calcium carbonate in a crystal form known as aragonite.
Hsu: Astringent, sedative, analgesic, antioncotic.
• Use 90-120g for neck lymphadenitis.
DY: With Huang qi to supplement Qi, constrain Yin, secure the exterior, and stop perspiration. For indications such as:
– 1. Spontaneous perspiration due to Qi or Yang deficiency. (Mu Li San) Use calcined Mu li.
– 2. Night sweats due to Yin deficiency. (This combination is appropriate for moderate Yin deficiency. In cases of deficiency fire, this pair cannot be used alone.)
– 3. Spontaneous and nighttime perspiration due to Qi and Yin deficiency. (Mu Li San) Use calcined Mu li.

Dose: 15-30g

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