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Earthworms

Chinese: 地龙

Pinyin: Dì Lóng

Parts used: Dried body of the worm

TCM category: Herbs that pacify Internal Liver Wind and stop Tremors

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Salty

Organ affinity: Bladder Spleen Liver

Scientific name: Pheretima aspergillum, Pheretima vulgaris, Pheretima guillelmi or Pheretima pectinifera

Other names: Earth dragon

Use of earthworms (Di Long) 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: Dry the worm and reduce into powder when adding it as an ingredient to a formula

Dosage: 5-15g

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Heat and calms Internal Liver Wind. Soothes asthma. Opens the channels.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which earthworms may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Fever Convulsions Arthralgia Numbness of limbs Hemiplegia Edema Oliguria Asthma Hypertension Spams

Common TCM formulas in which earthworms (Di Long) are used*

Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates Blood. Unblocks painful obstruction. Relieves pain. Invigorate Qi. Dispels Blood Stagnation. Unblock Channels.

Conditions targeted*: Muscle crampsArthralgia and others

Di Long is a deputy ingredient in Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang, Di Long unblocks Channels by removing the painful obstruction. It also remove the stiffness of the joints. 

Read more about Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang

Key TCM concepts behind earthworms (Di Long)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), earthworms are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that pacify Internal Liver Wind and stop Tremors' category. These herbs are used to treat so-called 'hyperactive Liver Yang'. Concretely this translates into high blood pressure as well as seizures, spasms, convulsions, dizziness and vertigo. These herbs often seem to have a powerful antispasmodic effect on the nervous system.

Furthermore earthworms are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that earthworms typically help 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 earthworms can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Earthworms also taste Salty. 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. Salty ingredients like earthworms tend to have a draining effect in the body because they clear accumulations, remove Phlegm and soften hard lumps.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such earthworms are thought to target the Bladder, the Spleen and the Liver. In TCM the impure water collected by the Kidneys that cannot be used by the body is sent to the Bladder for storage and excretion as urine. The Spleen on the other hand assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in 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.

Research on earthworms (Di Long)

Earthworm powder could treat cerebral microlesions, control vasculogenic risk factors, and finally prevent the incidence of cerebral infarction.1

Shuxuetong Injection (the extracted liquor from Earthworm and Hirudo) shows good efficacy with less adverse reaction in treating patients with active rheumatoid arthritis.2

Sources:

1. Qu H, Zhang YQ, Zhou MM, Zhao XY. (2013). Different treatment modes for cerebral microlesions: a comparison of clinical efficacy. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. , 33(3):332-7.

2. Zhang HF, Xiao WG. (2008). Clinical observation of Shuxuetong Injection in treating patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. , 28(3):255-7.