English: Alum

Chinese: 明矾

Parts used: The mineral

TCM category: Herbs for external application

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): PungentSour

Organ affinity: Spleen Large intestine Liver Lung

Scientific name: Potassium alum

Other names: Ku Fang, Bai Fang, Potash Alum

Use of Ming Fan (alum) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Collect the alum and heat inside a pot until it become dry, white and crystalized.

Dosage: 1-3g

Main actions according to TCM*: Stops itching, relieves Damp-Heat inflammation and kills parasites. Stops blood in stools and urine as well as all types of bleeding if used topically. Relieves diarrhea. Clears Heat and relieves Wind-Phlegm.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Ming Fan may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Skin itching Itchy rashes Blood in stools Blood in urine Chronic diarrhoea Convulsions Irritability Difficult expectorate sputum

Contraindications*: Contraindicated when there is no Dampness or Heat. Use with caution when used internally.

Common TCM formulas in which Ming Fan is used*

Hua Chong Wan

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Kills intestinal parasites.

Conditions targeted*: RoundwormAscariasis and others

Ming Fan is an assistant ingredient in Hua Chong Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Hua Chong Wan, Ming Fan resolves toxicity, dries Dampness, and helps eliminate the parasites. 

Read more about Hua Chong Wan

Key TCM concepts behind Ming Fan's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ming Fan belongs to the 'Herbs for external application' category. Like the name indicates, this category of herbs is used mostly for external application in the form of powders, pastes or ointments. As such they are used to treat trauma, inflammation, swelling, bruises, bleeding, pain and so forth.

Furthermore Ming Fan is Cold in nature. This means that Ming Fan typically helps people who have too much 'Heat' in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition Ming Fan can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Ming Fan also tastes Pungent and Sour. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like Ming Fan tends to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food. On the other hand Sour ingredients help with digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of Fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Ming Fan is thought to target the Spleen, the Large intestine, the Liver and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Large Intestine on the other hand receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. The Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.