Dragon bones

Chinese: 龙骨

Pinyin: Lóng Gǔ

Parts used: The fossilized bone or vertebrae

TCM category: Herbs that anchor and calm the Spirit

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Heart Kidney Liver

Scientific name: Fossilia Ossis Mastodi

Other names: Fossilized bones and vertebrae of prehistoric mammals and reptiles

Use of dragon bones (Long Gu) 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: No processing needed other than to extract the bone or vertebrae from the site where it was found. Also, this ingredient should be cooked for 30 - 45 minutes before the other herbs are added in a formula.

Dosage: 15 - 30 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Calms the spirit. Anchors ascendant Liver Yang. Stops leakage of Bodily Fluids.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which dragon bones may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Palpitations Restlessness Insomnia Emotional outbursts Dizziness Blurred vision Abnormal uterine bleeding Night sweats Urinary incontinence Vaginal discharge

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with symptoms of Damp-Heat.

Common TCM formulas in which dragon bones (Long Gu) are used*

Sang Piao Xiao San

Source date: 1116 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Regulates and tonifies the Heart and Kidneys. Stabilizes the Essence. Stops leakage.

Conditions targeted*: Pediatric enuresisDiabetes and others

Long Gu is a deputy ingredient in Sang Piao Xiao San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Sang Piao Xiao San, Long Gu helps the key ingredient (Mantis Egg-case) in binding up the Essence, calms the Mind, and steadies the Will.

Read more about Sang Piao Xiao San

Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Stabilizes the Kidneys. Binds up the semen.

Conditions targeted*: Sexual dysfunctionChyluria and others

Long Gu is an assistant ingredient in Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan, Long Gu works together with Oyster shells (Mu Li Ke), another assistant ingredient here, to bind the semen and prevent it from leaking.

Heavy in nature, they also calm the Liver and subdue the Yang, assisting in the prevention of spermatorrhea from yet another direction. 

Read more about Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan

Key TCM concepts behind dragon bones (Long Gu)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dragon bones are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that anchor and calm the Spirit' category. These herbs are substances that tranquilize the Mind and treat symptoms such as restlessness, palpitations, anxiety or insomnia. They tend to have sedative properties by weighing the Qi downwards and should generally be used for a limited time only.

Furthermore dragon bones are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that dragon bones 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 dragon bones means that you don't have to worry about that!

Dragon bones 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 dragon bones 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 dragon bones are thought to target the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver. In addition to regulating Blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. 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 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.