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Black-tail snakes

Chinese: 乌梢蛇

Pinyin: Wū shāo shé

Parts used: Dried body

TCM category: Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Liver

Scientific name: Zaocys dhummnades

Use of black-tail snakes (Wu shao she) 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: Remove organs and soak the snake in Chinese yellow wine and heat with small fire. Then cut it into sections and dry.

Dosage: 6 to 12g

Main actions according to TCM*: Expels Wind Dampness and disperses Cold. Removes obstruction of Channels and Meridians. Stops spasms and convulsions.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which black-tail snakes may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Spasms Convulsions Rheumatism Numbness of skin Limbs paralysis Tetanus Leprosy Rubella Scabies Urticaria

Contraindications*: Not to be used if one has Blood Deficiency. Also avoid using iron product.

Key TCM concepts behind black-tail snakes (Wu shao she)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), black-tail snakes are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness' category. These herbs typically help treat what's called 'bi pain' (i.e. painful obstruction) in TCM. This roughly corresponds to arthritic and rheumatic conditions with pain, stiffness and numbness of the bones, joints and muscles.

Furthermore black-tail snakes are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that black-tail snakes typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang Excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin Excess. The Neutral nature of black-tail snakes means that you don't have to worry about that!

Black-tail snakes also taste Sweet. 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. Sweet ingredients like black-tail snakes tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such black-tail snakes are thought to target the Liver. In TCM 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.

Use of black-tail snakes (Wu shao she) as food

Black-tail snakes are also eaten as food.