Notes on This Category

• These herbs are to be used only for excess conditions (heat, toxicity, phlegm, etc.). They are forbidden for Yang or Qi collapse.
• These herbs are very acrid and have the potential to damage the Qi.
• Also consider: Niu huang, Zao jiao, Yu jin, Yuan zhi, herbs that resolve phlegm (Bai fu zi, Dan nan xing…)
• These herbs are commonly combined with:
A. Herbs that clear heat and eliminate toxicity when loss of consciousness is due to (Xue level) heat and toxicity.
B. Herbs that disperse cold and promote Qi circulation when loss of consciousness is due to cold phlegm (this is not common).

An Xi Xiang – Benzoin – (Resin of Styrax benzoin and other Styrax species) – “Peaceful Rest Fragrance”

Nature: acrid, bitter, neutral

Enters: Heart, Liver, Spleen

Actions: Opens the orifices; promotes Qi circulation; promotes blood circulation.

• Delirium or coma with a stifling sensation and focal distention in the chest and abdomen.
• Qi and blood stagnation: pain in the chest and abdomen.
• Tinctures of the herb have been shown to directly stimulate the mucosa of the respiratory tract and promote expectoration.
• Difficult to procure in the U.S.
Hsu: Stimulates CNS; stimulating expectorant – when dissolved in hot water and inhaled, directly stimulates the mucosa of the respiratory tract, increases secretions, promotes discharge of phlegm.
• Inhaling too high a concentration can irritate the nose, eyes, and throat.
PCBMP: Antiseptic, expectorant, astringent.
• Topical: on wounds, ulcers (including of the mouth) to protect and disinfect.
• Inhale for coughs, bronchitis, colds.

Dose: 0.3-1.5g (in pills and powders)

Bing Pian – Borneol – (Natural form is extracted from Dryobalanops aromatica or Blumea balsamifera) – “Ice Slice”

Nature: acrid, bitter, slightly cold

Enters: Heart, Spleen, Lung

Actions: Clears heat; relieves pain; dissipates nodules and stagnant fire; alleviates itching; aromatically opens the orifices, revives the spirit.

• Used topically (especially for heat) for eye, throat, skin, and mouth problems: toothache, sore throat, pain and swelling of the throat, mouth ulcers, carbuncles, eczema (with Qing dai, Shi gao, sesame oil), sores, scabies, neuralgia, photophobia, excessive tearing. Commonly used topically to regenerate flesh.
• Loss of consciousness and convulsions due to various causes, primarily heat and toxicity.
• Mildly stimulates the peripheral sensory nerves.
• Has a stimulatory effect on the higher centers of the brain.
• Similar in action to She xiang, but weaker.
• Never cook or expose to heat.
• Natural borneol is Mei pian. It is safe, most effective, but difficult to procure. Most borneol is synthetic and should probably not be taken internally, except perhaps in very small doses.
Hsu: Antibacterial, antifungal; stimulates CNS.
SD: The Chinese traditionally obtained their borneol (as an isolate) mainly from Dryobalanops aromatica and from Blumea balsamifera. The latter is used as the herb Ainaxiang (fragrant herb that looks like artemisia), which is rich in borneol and also contains limonene, camphor, and other terpenoid compounds. The extracted borneol (longnaoxiang; fragrant dragon’s brain; also known as bingpian [ice slice] referring to the appearance of the finished product) is considered to be suitable for abdominal and chest pains, intestinal parasites, phlegm congestion, and fevers. Blumea is in the same plant family (Labiatae) as capillaris, chrysanthemum, and saussurea, which also contain important terpenes.
Borneol and bornyl acetate are ingredients in the following herbal materials: cardamon, magnolia, nutmeg, turmeric, ginger, liquidambar, lindera, camphor oil. These herbs are all used in the treatment of pain syndromes.
Three forms of borneol were mentioned in the Bencao Gangmu: aifen (powdery borneol), the crude product aipian (the refined substance, now known as bingpian), and aiyu, a by-product of distillation. The material was obtained from Blumea grown in the southern part of China, primarily Hainan Island (near Canton), or from imported material (from Borneo in Indonesia) derived from Dryobalanops. Borneol was originally used as a carminative to reduce fevers and alleviate digestive distress. It was also said to inhibit worms. Another name given to borneol was longnaoxiang (dragon camphor fragrance), referring to its alchemical applications (the term “nao” also means brain).
Today borneol is classified as an agent for opening blocked orifices, and is described as pungent, bitter, and slightly cold. It is indicated for severe obstruction of the orifices (that may cause coma or convulsive diseases), for heat syndromes, and for pain. Although not often mentioned as useful for this purpose, borneol is a common addition to treatments for lung diseases in modern clinical practice. It is also applied topically (usually with other substances) for a wide range of conditions, mainly for swelling in the throat, mouth sores, ear infections, cervical erosion, psoriasis, boils, pain, and eye diseases.
Because the resin is strongly aromatic and, partly, because of its historically high price (which has been reduced in recent years, in part due to the availability of the synthetic version), the recommended dosage is quite small. Many herb guides list the internal dosage as 30 to 100 mg, taken in powders or pills (if added to a decoction, it will all evaporate). The Pharmacopeia of the PRC indicates 150 to 300 mg per day. It appears that Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica by Bensky and Gamble has an error in reporting of dosages, indicating 300 to 900 mg per day, a higher recommendation than virtually all other sources.
Borneol is used in greater frequency for topical applications than for internal use. Those applications are numerous, but especially apply to injuries, burns, rheumatic pains, hemorrhoids, skin diseases, and ulcerations of the mouth, ear, eye, and nose. Borneol (or camphor) is almost always used in complex formulas, and typically comprises 1.6 to 8.5 percent of the total prescription. Because topical preparations are often difficult to make in convenient form on the spot, they are frequently used as patent remedies.
In the English-Chinese Encyclopedia of Practical Traditional Chinese Medicine, vol. 4, a recipe for treating purulent otitis media is:
borneol 20% , dragon bone 33%, alum 20%, kaempheria (camphor root) 27% , one pig gallbladder. The powdered materials are applied in the ear once per day. Kaempheria (shannai) is a relative of ginger that contains borneol and camphor. Traditionally, kaempheria is used topically for toothache and internally for warming the spleen and stomach to treat cold pain in the abdomen, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The Manual of Dermatology in Chinese Medicine provides the following examples of special preparations with borneol for application to the skin:
Luhui Binz Zhu Weifu Ji: 1 fresh aloe-vera leaf, 0.3-1.0 grams borneol, a pinch of pearl powder: mash the ingredients together and apply 1-2 times daily for herpes zoster sores.
Bing Shi Dan: 30g calcined gypsum powder, 0.6g borneol powder: combine and apply to herpes zoster pustules.
Di Yu Er Cang Hu Gao: 18g each of phellodendron, red atractylodes (cangzhu), and xanthium, 36g sanguisorba, 3g menthol, and 1.5g each of calomel and borneol: grind to powder, combine with petroleum jelly, and apply to skin 2-3 times daily for atopic dermatitis.
Dong Chuang You: combine 5g borneol and 15g camphor with 100g dried chili peppers: grind the borneol and camphor into powder and add to a hot water extract of chili pepper (steep peppers in hot water for 10 hours in closed container, string and then add alcohol to precipitate solids that are removed). Add glycerine and apply the ointment 3-4 times daily to the affected area (but not ulcerated lesions) for treating frostbite.
Qing Liang Fen: combine powdered talcum (120g), licorice (20g) and borneol (12g): sprinkle on affected area 3-5 times daily for treatment of sunburn causing erythema, wheals, or itching.
Dahuang Bingpian Fang: combine 100g rhubarb powder and 20g borneol in 250g table vinegar: let steep for 7 days; apply to affected sites 3 times daily for seborrheic dermatitis.
Dingxiang Bingpian San: combine 30g cloves with 6g borneol: grind to powder and apply to underarms 1-2 times daily to treat sweat odor.
The California Health Department, Food and Drug Branch, has raised concerns about the safety of borneol in patent remedies. Guanxin Suhe Wan, because it is currently available in the form of small capsules, might be accidentally taken in some overdose, but it seems unlikely that anyone would consume several times the 3 capsule recommended amount.
For references purposes, borneol is included in the amount of either 1% or 2% in some of the Seven Forests herb formulas made available from ITM for prescription by practitioners. In 700 mg tablets, this corresponds to 7-14 mg of borneol per tablet. With daily dosing of 6-18 tablets (the upper dose being the highest recommended in the ITM literature and twice the highest amount suggested on the label), the amount of borneol taken in one day can range from 42 mg (6 tablets, 1%) to 252 mg (18 tablets, 2%). The amount of borneol is either below or within the range suggested by the Chinese Pharmacopoeia (100-300 mg), and corresponds well with recommendations in various Materia Medica guides (which have dosages as low as 30 mg). The Seven Forests formulas, used as examples of traditional-style prescriptions, have about the same concentration of borneol (1-2%) as does ordinary cardamon seed. Cardamon, including sharen and baidoukou, commonly used as a medicinal as well as food spice, typically contains 2-3% essential oil, for which borneol and camphor, as well as closely related chemical compounds, are the primary constituents.
The concern about borneol apparently stems from a worry about camphor oil.

Dose: 0.3-0.9g (taken directly)

She Xiang – Musk (Secretions from the Musk Deer)

Nature: acrid, warm

Enters: Heart, Spleen, Liver

Actions: Promotes blood circulation, relieves pain and swelling, dissipates clumps; intensely opens the orifices, revives the spirit, unblocks closed disorders; induces labor, hastens delivery, facilitates passage of stillborns.

• Heart misted by phlegm or heat, heat entering the pericardium in warm-febrile disease, or other disorders which impair consciousness: loss of consciousness, coma, convulsions, delirium, fainting, stupor, closed disorders, tetanic collapse, phlegm collapse, seizures.
• Blood stasis: pain – acute chest and abdominal pain, Bi syndrome, trauma, toxic sores, carbuncles, immobile palpable masses, coronary artery disease, angina pectoris – comparable to nitroglycerine. For blood stasis disorders, it is used topically (in plasters, compresses) as well as internally.
• To discharge the placenta or fetus, combine with it with Rou gui.
• Powerfully anti-inflammatory.
• Thought to stimulate the CNS in small doses and inhibit it in large doses.
• Strongly stimulates the uterus; stimulates the heart.
• Possesses male hormone-like effects.
• Raises blood pressure.
• Musk deer are endangered and importation is illegal. Most commercially available musk is synthetic or is collected from raised deer.
• Due to its expense, this herb is never cooked.
• This is the most intensely aromatic and penetrating substance in the materia medica.
• Contraindicated in pregnancy and in cases of Yin deficiency heat.
• Helps other herbs cross the blood-brain barrier. Useful for brain conditions such as cancer and migraines.

Dose: 0.6-1.5g

Shi Chang Pu – Acorus rhizome (A. gramineus) – Related to and similar to the American species A. calamus (Calamus, Sweetflag)

Nature: acrid, warm

Enters: Heart, Stomach, Liver

Actions: Opens the orifices; calms the Shen; vaporizes phlegm; resolves damp; adjusts the stomach/harmonizes the middle Jiao; brightens the eyes; improves hearing; benefits muteness; mildly induces resuscitation.

• Damp-phlegm obstruction of the heart and sensory orifices: fuzzy head, loss of consciousness, dizziness, forgetfulness, dull senses, seizures, stupor, phlegm blockage of the ears including deafness.
• Damp accumulation with Qi stagnation: chest, epigastric, and abdominal fullness and pain.
• Damp/phlegm in the middle Jiao which disturbs the mind.
• Used internally or externally for wind-cold-dampness: Bi syndrome, trauma, sores.
• Potential use in ADD/ADHD (e.g., Seven Forests Acorus Tablets).
• Increases digestive secretions, relaxes intestinal spasm.
• Ulcerations of the cornea: with Hu po, Gou qi zi, and Ju hua.
• Hoarseness with accompanying sputum in the throat or swollen, edematous vocal cords: with Jie geng and Shi hu.
• This herb’s ability to open the orifices is secondary to its general, aromatic action in vaporizing phlegm.
• Powdered herb can be blown up the nose in emergency situations.
• Used in Ayurveda to antidote marijuana.
• Contains beta-asarone, which has been show to be carcinogenic to animals in laboratory studies. These studies do not conclusively demonstrate any danger from standard therapeutic doses in humans. Also, beta-asarone is destroyed by prolonged cooking. Traditionally, Shi chang pu is long-cooked with other herbs. Beta-asarone has also been shown to be responsible for some of Acorus’s therapeutic effects. This study showed a benefit from beta-asarone in rats with Alzheimer’s disease. This in vitro study showed benefit against beta-amyloid (AD plaques) from a combination of beta-asarone and CBD.
DY: Some materia medica maintain that Shi chang pu opens the nine portals (the seven sensory orifices plus the anus and urethra). It is particularly effective for sensory or psychological problems such as deafness, tinnitus, nasal obstruction, blurred vision, loss of consciousness, slow-wittedness, loss of memory, dementia, and psychoses.
Shi chang pu is incompatible with meat, lamb’s blood, and Yi tang.
• With Chan tui to effectively rouse the spirit and open the portals. For vertigo, tinnitus, and deafness due to obstruction of the portals.
• With Ci shi to enrich the kidneys, calm the liver, diffuse impediment, open the portals, and sharpen the hearing. For indications such as:
– 1. Tinnitus and/or deafness due to Yin deficiency or deficiency fire. (Use vinegar dip-calcined Ci shi.)
– 2. Headaches, vertigo, heart palpitations, vexation and agitation, and insomnia due to Yin deficiency causing Yang hyperactivity. (Use unprepared Ci shi. However, it is important to know this form can cause abdominal pain. Therefore, the dosage should be moderate [15g] and it should be combined with Shen qu.)
Shi chang pu is a generic name which covers three distinct medicinal substances:
– 1. Jiu jie chang puAnemone altaica: Transforms phlegm; eliminates wind-phlegm; opens the orifices. To treat sensory or psychological disorders due to phlegm confounding the orifices of the heart, Jiu jie chang pu is the most appropriate and effective of these various medicinals.
– 2. Xian chang pu or Xi ye chang puAcorus gramineus var. pulsillus: Is prescribed fresh (Xian) and clears heat; transforms phlegm-heat; used for loss of consciousness due to febrile disease or accumulation of phlegm-fire.
– 3. Shi chang puAcorus gramineus: Transforms phlegm; eliminates dampness; stimulates hunger.
Bai chang pu or Shui chang puAcorus calamus [Sweetflag] is substituted for Shi chang pu by the majority of importers. This has a similar action to Shi chang pu, but is less powerful.
HF: A Sha Chong (kill worms or parasites) herb, important in Gu Zheng (Gu parasites) formulas.
Hsu: Stimulates secretion of digestive juices, prevents abnormal fermentation in the GI tract; analgesic – relieves spasms of intestinal tract smooth muscle; sedative; antifungal; diuretic.
JTCM: For insomnia, particularly after history of using sleeping pills which have blocked the orifices of the heart with phlegm: use Wen Dan Tang plus Shi chang pu, Yuan zhi, He huan pi. In Ben Cao Gan Mu, Shi chang pu is said to tonify the heart Qi.
• Somnolence: when due to spleen Qi sinking, preventing the clear Yang from reaching the head, add Shi chang pu to Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang. When due to phlegm-heat flaring up and blocking the orifices of the heart, add Shi chang pu to Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang.
• Fresh Shi chang pu juice can be dropped into the ear to unblock the ear and disperse EPIs.
• Tongue stiffness after wind-stroke.
• Hoarse voice, loss of voice, difficulty speaking: fresh herb gives better results than dry – use 15g fresh slices in tea (particularly effective with Chao yi, Xuan shen, Ma bo).
• Leukorrhea: in Ben Cao Gan Mu, it is said that Shi chang pu can treat uterine bleeding and leukorrhea. Use Hua Zhuo Tiao Jin Tang for dampness and imbalance of the Chong and Dai Mai: Shi chang pu 15g/day, Chao yi ren 30, Cang zhu 10, Bai zhu 10, Che qian zi 10, Chao huang qin 12.
• Inhibits growth of fungus. Especially good for women with both digestive disorders and leukorrhea.
• Short cook to preserve the volatile oil which calms the mind.
MLT: With Yu jin for mental derangement, the effects of intoxicating drugs such as marijuana, and lack of focus.
Yoga: Vacha, meaning “speaking” the power of the word, of intelligence or self-expression that this herb stimulates.
• Pungent, bitter, astringent/heating/pungent; V, K-; P+
• Stimulant, rejuvenative, expectorant, decongestant, nervine, antispasmodic, emetic.
• Colds, coughs, asthma, sinus headache, sinusitis, arthritis, epilepsy, shock, coma, memory loss, deafness, hysteria, neuralgia.
• Used by Vedic seers.
• Rejuvenates the brain and nervous system, purifies and revitalizes.
• Rejuvenates Vata and secondarily, Kapha.
• Clears the subtle channels of toxicity and obstructions.
• Promotes cerebral circulation, increases sensitivity, sharpens the memory, enhances awareness.
Sattvic nature.
• Helps transmute sexual energy, feeds Kundalini.
• Apply paste to the forehead for headaches, on joints for arthritis.
• Take nasally for congestion, polyps, to revitalize prana.
• Take with fresh ginger to counter its emetic properties.
• Take powder nasally to resuscitate from shock or coma.
• Caution with bleeding.
Weng Weiliang, et al:
• Epilepsy: shi chang pu extract was used to treat 90 cases of grand mal epilepsy and epileptiform discharge in EEG. Dosage for adult: 50mg, tid, 30 days as a course of treatment. In the clinical observation for 3 months ~ 2 years, the effective rate was 83.3%.
• Pulmonary encephalopathy: shi chang pu was made into injection. Mild pulmonaryencephalopathy was treated with intravenous injection of 10ml this injection mixed with 20ml 5% glucose, bid. For severe cases, the dosage was increased. 5~7 days as a course of treatment. 279 cases were treated, and the total effective rate was 74.89%.
• Coronary heart disease, pectoris angina: shi chang pu, xuan shen, chuan lian zi, long yan rou, sheng shan zha, chao mai ya, dang gui, long gu, mu li, chao zao ren, shu di, water decoction. 82 cases of pectoris angina due to coronary heart disease were treated, after days, 92.68% was relieved, and the EKG improving rate was 65.85%.
• Atrophic gastritis: dang shen, shi chang pu, e zhu, dang gui, pu gong ying, gan cao were used to treat 61 cases of atrophic gastritis, 27 cases were markedly effective, 14 effective.
RW: Aromatic bitter; powerful stomach tonic, encourages its secretions; stimulates the appetite for any type of anorexia.
• Chew the herb to help quit smoking.
• Tonic effect on the mucus membranes of the mouth and throat, and stimulates saliva.
• Put bits of the herb into a piece of cloth for a teething baby to chew on.
• Topical: the oil is refreshing and stimulating – for tired feet, varicose veins, more.
PCBMP: Chinese studies show the herb to be anti-arrhythmic, hypotensive, vasodilatory, anti-tussive, antibacterial, and expectorant.
• The American variety may be preferable to the Chinese kind, since it contains less or no β-asarone (a carcinogen) and is also more aromatic, with superior spasmolytic activity.
MW: Opens the sinuses (as in nasya oil) and third eye.
• Good for slow speaking, voice sounding impacted, or when the voice is wearing out, especially due to smoking or singing. Acts on the trachea.
• Post-stroke: inability to speak.
• Joint pain.
IBIS: (A. calamus)
• Qualities: aromatic, pungent, bitter, sweet, warm, dry.
• Affinities: mucous membranes.
• Actions: carminative, diaphoretic, sialogogue, spasmolytic, stomachic.
• Therapy: encourages secretory action of stomach; anorexia nervosa; lack of appetite in asthenic, young girls; children with umbilical colic; children with appetite disorders; tones mucous membrane lining mouth and throat; to stop smoking; teething children (Weiss, pp. 44-45); acute and chronic dyspepsia; gastritis; gastric ulcer; intestinal colic (British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, p. 14). Increases appetite, improves digestion.
• Use with caution during pregnancy due to emmenagogue effect (Lust, Farnsworth)
• Potential hallucinogen (Kinghorn; Lewis and Elvin-Lewis; Schultes and Hofmann, p. 201) [large dose of the fresh herb]
• Isolated constituents, beta-asarone and safrole, have been shown to be carcinogenic (Duke, pp. 14-15)
CHA: (Karen S Vaughan, 8-30-2001)
(Regarding the concern of beta-asarone carcinogenicity:)
Traditionally, in Mideastern and European herbalism, the Acorus calamus was candied, thus cooked for a long period, which would reduce the beta-asarone. Native Americans did chew the raw root as well as infuse and decoct it, but the dosage would tend to be self-limited as the taste can become unpleasant after prolonged chewing. (And I believe that the native American calamus species are somewhat milder.) However, in large doses sweet flag can be mildly hallucinogenic and quite emetic.
The Mongolians, who brought calamus to Russia in the 13th century, were known for planting the stronger Indian and Chinese versions of the root near water sources in order to keep the drinking water pure. It’s nickname “Mongolian Poison” appears to be a slur against the Mongols rather than a reference to the plant, which was considered benign. However, this tradition made more use of the antiseptic qualities of calamus.
The live plant was introduced into Europe in 1565 and widely distributed by the botanist Clausius. It was decocted for food stagnation, and for problems of the liver, gallbladder, kidney, bladder and for malaria. Leaves were burned as an aromatic disinfectant and insectide. The roots were burned to clear the air from typhus, cholera and influenza. It was used topically and in alcohol solution as a disinfectant, for scrofula and for ulcerous skin conditions.
In Ayurveda, Acorus calamus is known as Vacha and is generally used as a dried powder. This probably leads to a partial dispersion of the essential oils. It is considered light and drying and is frequently used for epilepsy and as a gargle for acute tonsilitis. It can be boiled with milk to reduce the mucous-producing properties of the milk. It is also used to counteract the effects of constant marijuana smoking.
One note which may account for the California ban: sweet flag oil is widely used as an aromatic wine adulturant.
The FDA frowns upon the sale and use of calamus and has issued directives to certain herb dealers not to sell it to the public. (An FDA directive is simply a polite word for a threat of hassling without a law to back it.) At present there are no federal laws against calamus.

Dose: 3-9g (up to 15g)

Su He Xiang – Resin of Rose Maloes – Liquidambar sap – Styrax – “Revive and Join Fragrance”

Nature: sweet, acrid, warm

Enters: Heart, Spleen

Actions: Opens the orifices and penetrates thru turbidity; opens up areas of constraint and clears away filth.

• Closed disorder, phlegm blockage, epidemic toxic disease. Especially indicated for cold disorders.
• Stifling sensation, cold, fullness, and pain in chest and abdomen.
• Expectorant by irritating the respiratory mucosa.
• Compared to the other herbs in this category, Su he xiang is particularly useful for wind-stroke with collapse due to phlegm.
• When taken internally this herb is always administered in powder or pill form.
• Topical: with olive oil for scabies, also has some effect on eczema.
• Misleadingly called Styrax, this herb is actually the resin of Liquidambar orientalis (Rose Maloes) – see An Xi Xiang.
• Difficult to procure in the U.S.
PCBDP: Antiseptic, expectorant, stimulant.
• Inhale for cough/cold.
• Topical for wound/ulcer.
Hsu: Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory – promotes healing of ulcers.

Dose: 0.3-1g