English: Arisaema with bile

Chinese: 胆南星

Parts used: The rhizome

TCM category: Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Liver Lung

Scientific name: Arisaema erubescens, Arisaema heterophyllum or Arisaema amurense

Other names: Cobra lilies, Jack-in-the-pulpit

Use of Dan Nan Xing (arisaema with bile) 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: Prepared from finely powered tuber of the plant and the bile of ox, sheep or pig.

Dosage: 2-5g

Main actions according to TCM*: To clear Heat and resolve Phlegm, dispel Wind and stop convulsions

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Dan Nan Xing may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Muscle cramps Muscle contractions Convulsions Seizures Facial paralysis Tetanus Stroke

Contraindications*: Slightly toxic in this form (the unprepared herb this derives from is very toxic). Use with extreme caution during pregnancy.

Common TCM formulas in which Dan Nan Xing is used*

Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan

Source date: 1584 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Phlegm. Directs Rebellious Qi downwards. Stops coughing.

Conditions targeted*: PneumoniaChronic bronchitis and others

Dan Nan Xing is a king ingredient in Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan, Dan Nan Xing is a powerful substance for treating blockages caused by a combination of Fire and Phlegm.

Read more about Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan

Sheng Tie Luo Yin

Source date: 1732 AD

Number of ingredients: 15 herbs

Formula key actions: Sedates the Heart . Clears Phlegm. Clears Fire. Calms the Mind.

Conditions targeted*: EpilepsyBi-Polar disorder and others

Dan Nan Xing is a deputy ingredient in Sheng Tie Luo Yin. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Sheng Tie Luo Yin, Dan Nan Xing is bitter and cooling. It dispels Wind-Phlegm and treating seizures. 

Read more about Sheng Tie Luo Yin

Hui Chun Dan

Source date: Late 18th century

Number of ingredients: 19 herbs

Formula key actions: Opens the sensory orifices. Arrests spasms and convulsions. Clears Heat and transforms Phlegm.

Conditions targeted*: Acute encephalitisAcute meningitis and others

Dan Nan Xing is a deputy ingredient in Hui Chun Dan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Hui Chun Dan, Dan Nan Xing clear Heat and transform Phlegm.

Read more about Hui Chun Dan

Key TCM concepts behind Dan Nan Xing's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Dan Nan Xing belongs to the 'Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough' category. In TCM Phlegm is a condition of Stagnation of Fluids which tends to start in the Spleen and then goes to the Lungs. If this overly accumulates it thickens and becomes pathological Phlegm. Phlegm, being a form of Stagnation, often starts as being Cool and transforms to Hot as the condition progresses. The herbs in this category are Cold in nature so they treat the later stages of the Stagnation: Hot and Dry-Phlegm with symptoms such as cough, goiter or scrofula.

As suggested by its category Dan Nan Xing is Cool in nature. This means that Dan Nan Xing tends to help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. 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 Dan Nan Xing can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Dan Nan Xing also tastes Bitter and Pungent. 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. Bitter ingredients like Dan Nan Xing tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients tend 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.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Dan Nan Xing is thought to target the Spleen, the Liver and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Liver on the other hand 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.