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Donkey-hide gelatin (E Jiao) in Chinese Medicine

Donkey-hide gelatin

Chinese: 阿胶

Pinyin: Ē Jiāo

Parts used: Solid glue prepared from the dried or fresh skin of donkeys

TCM category: Herbs that invigorate the Blood

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Kidney Liver Lung

Scientific name: Equus asinus

Other names: Ass-hide glue, Donkey skin glue

Use of donkey-hide gelatin (E Jiao) 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: The donkey skin is soaked in water to soften it and the hair are removed. The skin is then chopped into small pieces, put in boiling water and the gelatin is separated from the skin. The gelatin is boiled further and then left to cool down and ultimately dry into solidified pieces.

Dosage: 3 - 15 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies and nourishes Blood. Stops bleeding. Moistens and lubricates Yin.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which donkey-hide gelatin may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Dizziness Pale face Palpitations Bloody sputum Blood in stools Abnormal uterine bleeding Insomnia Irritability Anemia Dry cough Hemoptysis Hematemesis Hematuria Excessive menstrual discharge

Contraindications*: Not for External conditions or conditions associated with Dampness caused by Spleen Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which donkey-hide gelatin (E Jiao) are used*

E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang

Source date: the Qing dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Yin. Nourishes Blood. Calms the Liver. Extinguishes Wind.

Conditions targeted*: EncephalitisMeningitis and others

E Jiao is a king ingredient in E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang, E Jiao is heavy and thick. It nourishes the Yin and Blood, expels Wind, sedates the Yang, augments the Yin Body Fluids, and moistens the sinews .

Read more about E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang

Huang Lian E Jiao Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Enriches the Yin. Causes Fire to descend. Eliminates irritability. Calms the spirit.

Conditions targeted*: Nervous exhaustionAutonomic dystonia and others

E Jiao is a king ingredient in Huang Lian E Jiao Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Huang Lian E Jiao Tang, E Jiao indirectly controls the Heart Fire by enriching the Yin and nourishing the Blood

Read more about Huang Lian E Jiao Tang

Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang

Source date: 1658 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears dryness. Moistens the Lungs.

Conditions targeted*: InfluenzaAcute bronchitis and others

E Jiao is an assistant ingredient in Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang, E Jiao moistens the Lungs and nourish the Lung Yin. It harmonizes the Heat-clearing and Lung Qi-disseminating actions of the other ingredients with a moistening action.

Read more about Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang

Wen Jing Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Uterus and vessels. Nourishes Blood. Dispels Cold. Dispels Blood Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Dysfunctional uterine bleedingUterine hypoplasia and others

In Wen Jing Tang, E Jiao nourishes the Blood, tonifies the Yin, and regulates the LiverIn this formula, together with Dwarf lilyturf root, they focus on nourishing the Yin, moistening Dryness, and clearing Heat from Deficiency.

Read more about Wen Jing Tang

Tiao Gan Tang

Source date: 1827 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin.

In Tiao Gan Tang, E Jiao nourishes Blood

Read more about Tiao Gan Tang

Liang Di Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Yin. Cools Blood. Stop bleeding.

In Liang Di Tang, E Jiao nourishes Blood, which helps to nourish Yin. It also calms Blood and therefore helps to stop bleeding

Read more about Liang Di Tang

Key TCM concepts behind donkey-hide gelatin (E Jiao)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), donkey-hide gelatin are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that invigorate the Blood' category. Like the name indicates these herbs tend to stimulate the Blood flow. In TCM they're used to help the circulation of Blood in cardiovascular conditions or menstrual irregularities as well as to treat acute pains caused by Blood Stagnation. They can also be used to treat Blood Stagnation when it causes certain tumors, cysts and hardened clots.

Furthermore donkey-hide gelatin are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that donkey-hide gelatin 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 donkey-hide gelatin means that you don't have to worry about that!

Donkey-hide gelatin 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 donkey-hide gelatin 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 donkey-hide gelatin are thought to target the Kidney, the Liver and the Lung. According to TCM, the Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of 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.