Liu Huang – Sulfur – “Sulfur Yellow”

Nature: sour, toxic, warm

Enters: Kidney, Large Intestine

Topical Actions: Kills parasites; eases itching; relieves toxicity.

Topical Indications:

• Scabies, eczema, ringworm, Yin furuncles, damp festering sores, ulcers, carbuncles, itching, acne.
• Used as powder or paste. Also available in soap form (e.g., Thylox) for acne.
Hong-Yen Hsu (Oriental Materia Medica): Dissolves corneous skin, can cause hair to fall out.

Internal Actions:  Tonifies kidney Yang (strengthens Ming Men fire); promotes bowel movement.

Internal Indications:

• Yang deficiency, internal cold: asthma, impotence, painful lower back and knees
• Cold: constipation, especially in the elderly (works by helping the Yang to pass the stool and also by irritating the wall of the gut by forming sulfides – more pronounced effect when there is an abundance of fatty substances in the gut).
Hong-Yen Hsu (Oriental Materia Medica): Antifungal, purgative.

Internal Dose: 1-6g (pills and powders)

Lu Feng Fang – Hornet Nest

Nature: sweet, toxic, neutral

Enters: Lung, Stomach

Topical Actions: Relieves toxicity, expels wind, alleviates pain.

Topical Indications:

• As an ointment or wash for rashes, itching, scabies, ringworm, sores, carbuncles, swollen glands.
• As a gargle: use warm for a severe toothache that feels “as if a worm is burrowing in the tooth.”

Internal Actions:  Expels wind, dries dampness.

Internal Indications:

• Wind-damp Bi.
• Wind rashes.
• Recent use in the treatment of a variety of tumors.
• Shortens blood coagulation time.
• Mastitis: In one study, 3g of dry-fried Lu feng fang was given with wine every 4 hours for 3 days. 23 of 26 cases were cured (in an average of 2 days) and 1 was improved. No side effects or toxic effects were noted. This form of therapy is not effective for suppurative mastitis.
• Toxic: large doses cause nephritis.

Internal Dose: 6-12g (1.5-3g directly as powder)

Ma Qian Zi – Strychnos nux-vomica seeds – Nux-vomica – “Horse Money Seeds”

Nature: bitter, cold, very toxic

Enters: Liver, Spleen

Actions:  Unblocks the channels, disperses clumps, reduces swelling, alleviates pain.

• Internal or external for abscesses, sores, yin-type ulcers, and swelling and pain due to trauma.
• Wind-damp Bi, paresthesias, spasms.
• Recently used in the treatment of various types of tumors.
• Facial paralysis: the herb was applied locally as a paste in over 15,000 cases, with effective results in 80% of the cases.
• Contains strychnine. Overdoses in humans have been recorded with as little as 50 mg of the herb. Overdosage presents with a crawling sensation in the cervical area, difficulty in swallowing, and irritability. The progresses to convulsions of great force.
• Used externally in powders for local application, including insufflation into the throat.
Rudolf Weiss (Herbal Medicine): In small doses, the herb is a bitter tonic. This herb is the leading nervous system stimulant. Indispensable as a major nerve tonic. The drug of choice when one needs powerful and lasting stimulation of the nervous system. Often used for the elderly, and for pale children lacking an appetite (good with galanga). For nervous stomach conditions, it also reduces sensitivity to pain.
• According to Weiss, this herb is safer than stated. “Really good results are achieved only with relatively large doses: 10-20 drops of the tincture in a glass of water three times daily.”
[Other sources (Potter’s Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations) are much more cautionary – strychnine can be fatal.]
Hong-Yen Hsu (Oriental Materia Medica): Promotes blood circulation and breathing; can induce muscular tetany; increases intestinal peristalsis.

Dose: 0.3-0.9g internally in pills and powders

Ming Fan – Bai Fan – Alum – Basic Potassium Aluminum Sulfate – also Ku Fan, the prepared form

Nature: sour, cold

Enters: Lung, Liver, Spleen, Stomach, Large Intestine.

Topical Actions: Eliminates toxicity; kills parasites; dries dampness; eases itching; stops bleeding.

Topical Indications:

• As a wash for scabies, ringworm, carbuncles, damp/damp-heat rashes – eczema.
• Bleeding: epistaxis, hemorrhoidal bleeding, bleeding gums, bleeding due to external injury.
• Swollen and painful throat or eyes.
• Ear drops for chronic otitis media.
• For external use, Ku fan (the prepared form) is preferred for sores and abscesses, oral sores, eye problems.

Topical Dose: 15-30g

Internal Actions:  Stops bleeding and diarrhea; clears heat and phlegm; dried dampness.

Internal Indications:

• Hematemesis, epistaxis, hemafecia, chronic diarrhea, uterine bleeding, vaginal discharge. Ulcerative colitis.
• Jaundice.
• Wind-phlegm/phlegm-heat: epilepsy, irritability, delirium, depression, mania, cough with difficult-to-expectorate sputum.
• Ming fan has a strong stimulatory effect on the body’s tissues. Overdose can cause ulceration, vomiting, diarrhea, shock.
• The cumulative effect of long term ingestion of aluminum may not be healthy (Alzheimer’s?).
• Crush before using.

Internal Dose: 0.6-3g

Peng Sha – Borax – Sodium Borate / Sodium Tetraborate Decahydrate

Nature: sweet, salty, cool.

Enters: Lung, Stomach.

Topical Actions: Dries dampness, relieves toxicity, prevents putrefaction.

Topical Indications:

• Blisters between toes caused by damp-toxicity.
• Sores, including nasal, pharyngeal, vaginal sores.
• Used internally or externally for pain and swelling in the throat, open sores in the mouth (canker sores), white draining vaginal lesions (e.g. severe candidiasis).

Internal Actions: Clears heat; dissolves phlegm; transforms stones, relieves toxicity, prevents putrefaction.

Internal Indications:

• Phlegm-heat obstruction with difficult-to-expectorate sputum.
• Painful urinary dysfunction with stones.
• Used internally or externally for pain and swelling in the throat, open sores in the mouth, white draining vaginal lesions (e.g. severe candidiasis).
• In the Bensky/Clavey/Stoger Materia Medica, this substance is classified as “obsolete,” which the authors claim is due to its toxicity. I have not seen Peng sha referred to as toxic in other resources on Chinese herbs. However, in the Wikipedia entry on borax, its toxicity is discussed at length. Here is an excerpt:
“Borax, sodium tetraborate decahydrate, is not acutely toxic. Its LD50 (median lethal dose) score is tested at 2.66 g/kg in rats: a significant dose of the chemical is needed to cause severe symptoms or death. The lethal dose is not necessarily the same for humans.
“Sufficient exposure to borax dust can cause respiratory and skin irritation. Ingestion may cause gastrointestinal distress including nausea, persistent vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Effects on the vascular system and brain include headaches and lethargy, but are less frequent. ‘In severe poisonings, a beefy red skin rash affecting palms, soles, buttocks and scrotum has been described. With severe poisoning, erythematous and exfoliative rash, unconsciousness, respiratory depression, and renal failure.’
“Borax was added to the Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) candidate list on 16 December 2010. The SVHC candidate list is part of the EU Regulations on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals 2006 (REACH), and the addition was based on the revised classification of Borax as toxic for reproduction category 1B under the CLP Regulations. Substances and mixtures imported into the EU which contain Borax are now required to be labelled with the warnings “May damage fertility” and “May damage the unborn child”.”

Internal Dose: 1.5-3g

She Chuang Zi – Cnidium seed – “Snake’s Bed Seeds”

Nature: acrid, bitter, warm

Enters: Kidney

Topical Actions: Dries dampness; kills parasites; stops itching.

Topical Indications:

• Dampness: eczema, any itching, weeping skin lesion especially of the external genitalia region.
• Scabies.
• Ringworm.
• Use as a wash, powder, or ointment.

Topical Dose: 15-30g

Internal Actions: Tonifies kidney Yang; disperses wind, cold; dries dampness.

Internal Indications:

• Kidney deficiency or cold womb: impotence, male or female infertility.
• Cold and dampness: leukorrhea, trichomonal vaginitis.
• Dampness (especially wind-cold-damp): lumbar pain.
Hong-Yen Hsu (Oriental Materia Medica): Antifungal; antiviral; anthelmintic; sex-hormone-like action – prolongs sexual intercourse in mice and can induce copulation in castrated mice.
Heiner Fruehauf: A Sha Chong (kill worms or parasites) herb, important in Gu Zheng (Gu parasites) formulas.

Internal Dose: 3-10g

Wa Leng Zi – Ark shell – Cockle shell

Nature: salty, neutral

Enters: Lung, Stomach, Liver

Topical Actions: Regenerates tissue for ulcers.

Internal Actions: Resolves phlegm; promotes blood circulation and dispels blood stasis; softens and resolves masses and lumps; neutralizes stomach acid; alleviates pain.

Internal Indications:

• Stagnation of blood, Qi, and/or phlegm: fibroids, cirrhosis of the liver, immobile or mobile abdominal masses.
• Chronic pain in the pit of the stomach (such as ulcer pain) or blood stasis pain accompanied by vomiting with acid reflux.
• Ulcers: In one clinical trial, 124 patients with gastric and duodenal ulcers were treated with a powder of 5 parts Wa leng zi and 1 part Gan cao. Treatment periods ranged from 29 to 56 days. 59 cases were cured and another 48 showed significant improvement.
• The raw herb should be used for promotion of blood circulation and dissolution of phlegm, while the calcined form is preferred for the neutralization of stomach acid, acid reflux (GERD), heartburn.
• Requires precooking. The herb should be broken into pieces or ground into powder before cooking.
• Bensky and Gamble classify this herb as a blood mover. The herb is also commonly classified among herbs that resolve phlegm (a categorization Guohui Liu also agrees with).

Internal Dose: 9-15g

Xiong Huang – Realgar – Arsenic Sulfide – “Male Yellow”

Nature: acrid, bitter, warm, toxic

Enters: Heart, Liver, Stomach

Topical Actions: Eliminates toxicity; kills parasites.

Topical Indications:
• Carbuncles, snake bites, scabies, ringworm, damp rashes, abscesses, suppurative inflammation of the soft tissue, ulcerations.
• Very commonly used in soaks for any skin itching.
• As a paste for neurodermatitis/shingles.
• Because it is absorbed through the skin, the herb should not be applied to large areas.

Internal Actions: Kills worms; dries dampness; expels phlegm; checks malarial conditions.

Internal Indications:
• Worm parasitism in the intestines: pain – especially for roundworms, and particularly with signs of accumulation.
• Dampness/phlegm accumulation: wheezing; seizures; malarial conditions.
• Do not calcine. Calcination produces the extremely toxic As2O3.

Internal Dose: 0.15-0.6g in pills and powders

Xue Jie – Dragon’s Blood – Resinous secretion of Daemonoropis draco or Dracaena cambodiana

Nature: sweet, salty, neutral

Enters: Heart, Liver

Topical Actions: Promotes regeneration of tissue; stops bleeding.

Topical Indications:
• Bleeding due to external trauma.
• Non-healing skin ulcers: protects the surface of the ulcer, prevents decay, and generates flesh.
Weng Weiliang, et. al.:
• Ulcer after tumor operation: Xiao Du San: xue jie, feng fang tan, bi hu, 10g each; bing pian 5g, honey of proper amount. The drugs were grounded into fine powder and applied to the ulcer which was surrounded by honey later, then the honey was applied on top of the drug powder. 33 cases of ulcer after tumor operation were treated, and scab formed after 6.5 days averagely.
• Primary liver cancer: Pu Tuo Gao made of xue jie, quan xie, wu gong, shui hong hua zi, bai jiang can, mu bie zi, da feng zi, zhe cong, bing pian was applied externally for 5~7 days. Change the dressing after 3 days’ interval, 12 times as a course of treatment. 67 cases of primary liver cancer were treated, and the pain alleviating rate was 96.7%.
• Bedsore: san qi, xue jie, hong hua, ze lan, dang gui wei, ru xiang, mo yao, zhi ma qian zi, hu po, sheng da huang, tao ren, xu duan, gu sui bu, zhe chong, zi ran tong, su mu, qin jiao, zao xiu. All drugs were soaked in wine for 3~6 months. The infusion could be used to treat bedsore and had swelling relieveing, tissue regenerating effect.

Topical Dose: 6-9g


Internal Actions: Promotes blood circulation, dispels blood stasis, alleviates pain.

Internal Indications:
• Blood stasis: trauma, swelling, pain, symptoms related to injury from falls, fractures, contusions, sprains, endometriosis.
• Similar to San qi, but weaker than San qi at promoting blood circulation or stopping bleeding.
• Contraindicated in patients without blood stasis.
• Bensky and Gamble classify this herb as a blood mover.
Eric Brand:
Xue Jie (Daemonoropis Resina) is a fascinating substance. Also known as Dragon’s Blood, Xue Jie has been used for hundreds of years in many different cultural contexts. Xue Jie is a tree resin that has been used as a medicine, incense, and dye since ancient times. It was recorded in Greece by Dioscorides and appeared for the first time in Chinese medicine in the Lei Gong Pao Zhi Lun (Master Lei’s Treatise on Drug Processing), written in the Northern and Southern Dynasties period (420-589 CE). It later appeared in the Tang Ben Cao (Tang Materia Medica), the first Imperial textbook on materia medica.
Xue Jie is used for a diverse range of purposes. In Chinese medicine, it is said to quicken the blood, stanch bleeding, and engender flesh. It is a major medicinal in traumatology and is also used to treat bleeding in the upper GI tract. Beyond injuries and bleeding, if we look at its applications in modern Chinese medical gynecology, we find that Xue Jie is an incredibly important medicinal in empirical formulas to treat endometriosis.
The importance of Xue Jie in endometriosis is evident when examining modern Chinese textbooks on TCM gynecology. Its claim to fame lies in expelling old blood stasis so that new blood can be engendered; in fact, its Chinese name literally means “exhausted (spent) blood.” Looking at the treatments for endometriosis relative to traditional TCM disease categories such as painful menstruation or concretions and conglomerations (zheng jia), we see that the formulas selected for the same patterns are consistent but nearly all the endometriosis formulas add in Xue Jie. Thus, clearly the experts in China know something about Xue Jie that most of us do not.
Xue Jie in the treatment of Endometriosis
Hong-Yen Hsu (Oriental Materia Medica): Antibacterial, hemostatic.

Internal Dose: 0.3-1.5g

Zhang Nao – Camphor

Nature: acrid, hot, toxic

Enters: Heart, Spleen

Topical Actions: Expels wind and dampness; kills parasites; promotes blood circulation, alleviates pain.

Topical Indications:
• Scabies, ringworm, itching sores
• Blood stasis: injuries, pain and swelling.
• Used topically as a powder or paste.
• Warming, irritative, and antiseptic effect on the skin. Mildly locally anaesthetic.
Hsu: Irritant effect – promotes blood circulation, increases mucosa secretion.

Internal Actions: Opens the orifices of the heart; expels turbidity.

Internal Indications:
• Delirium, sudden unconsciousness due to hot disorders.
• When taken orally, it irritates the gastric mucosa. In small doses, this causes a comfortably warm feeling. In large doses it causes nausea and vomiting.
Zhang nao stimulates the central nervous system, particularly the higher centers. Normal doses have no effect on respiration, but large doses can stimulate respiration.
• Oral doses of 0.5-1g can cause dizziness, headache, a feeling of warmth and restlessness. Over 2g leads to transient tranquilization followed by stimulation of the cerebral cortex with tonic-clonic spasms. Respiratory arrest can occur. 7-15g is fatal.
Yoga: Karpura: pungent, bitter/slightly heating/pungent; Sattvic.
• K, V-; P+(in excess)
• Expectorant, decongestant, stimulant, antispasmodic, bronchodilator, nervine, analgesic, antiseptic.
• Bronchitis, asthma, pertussis, pulmonary congestion, hysteria, epilepsy, delirium, insomnia, dysmenorrhea, gout, rheumatism, nasal congestion, sinus headache, eye problems, tooth decay.
• This herb is poisonous in excess: aggravates Pitta and Vata
• Increases prana, opens the senses, clears the mind.
• Applied to the eyes (in small amounts): initially burning, but promotes tears and cools and clears the eyes.
• Nasally: for congestion, headache, and to awaken perception.
• Burn as incense during devotional worship to purify the atmosphere and promote meditation.
• Use ONLY genuine, raw camphor internally.
Hsu: Stimulates the CNS; antifungal.

SD: Camphor oil is obtained from a tree (Cinnamomum camphora), and like cardamom, the essential oil of the tree contains a large number of terpenoids (mostly, the same ones as in cardamon, but in different proportions). Camphor was collected at least as early as the 9th Century. In 1676, the trees were brought to Europe for cultivation. In the following century, it was also introduced to several other countries, including the U.S. Prior to World War II, the world use of camphor was about 5,000 tons per year; 80% of this came from Taiwan (the Taiwan camphor tree yields 44% camphor from its leaves, a particularly high level). During the U.S. Civil War, the demand for camphor (used primarily as a medicinal) was so high that the U.S. contracted for the entire Taiwan supply. It was even proposed that an effort be made to purchase Taiwan (then called Formosa) in order to monopolize the camphor trade. It is perhaps for this reason that Japan acquired Formosa in 1895.
Camphor oil was a popular medicinal in the U.S. until about twenty years ago when several instances occurred in which children were fed camphor oil by parents who failed to distinguish it from castor oil. The pure camphor oil is toxic in the doses for which castor oil is used. Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration worried that topically applied camphor oil would penetrate the skin in sufficient amounts that it could cause trouble for persons with cardiac disorders who were taking various medications. As a result, it is no longer possible to purchase camphor oil for household use in the U.S.
Like borneol, camphor has been used as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, cardiac stimulant, respiratory aid, and anthelmintic. It is often used in treating congestive problems such as bronchitis and emphysema. Camphor is also used in preparation of foods, being an ingredient of vanilla and peppermint flavors, and incorporated into formulations of soft drinks, baked goods, and condiments. In modern Chinese medicine, camphor is most often reserved for external application, while borneol is used both internally and externally. Synthetic camphor, often made from by chemically modifying pine tree resins (turpentine), is now widely used as a substitute for the natural product.
Camphor and the chemically related compound camphene are found in: cardamom, saussurea, ginger, magnolia, curcuma, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cyperus.

Internal Dose: 0.1-0.2g in pills or dissolved in wine