English: Minium

Chinese: 铅丹

Parts used: The mineral

TCM category: Herbs for external application

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Heart Lung

Scientific name: Lead tetroxide

Other names: Lead oxide, Lead elixir, Red lead

Use of Qian Dan (minium ) 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: Crush to powder, soak in water and remove impurities. Dry the remaining powder.

Dosage: 0.3-0.9g

Main actions according to TCM*: Apply topically as a paste to expel Toxins, heal injuries, stop itching, expel pus. Moves Phlegm downwards and suppresses spasms.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Qian Dan may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Itching Skin pus Burns Swellings Ulcers Itchy rashes Sores Eczema

Contraindications*: This herb is toxic, thus take caution to use internally and long-term. It should be contraindicated for patients with Empty Cold or Blood Deficiency. It should not be used during pregnancy.

Common TCM formulas in which Qian Dan is used*

Hua Chong Wan

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Kills intestinal parasites.

Conditions targeted*: RoundwormAscariasis and others

Qian Dan is a deputy ingredient in Hua Chong Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Hua Chong Wan, Qian Dan kills many types of intestinal parasites. However, it should not be used long term as it is extremely toxic. 

Read more about Hua Chong Wan

Chai Hu Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Unblocks the three Yang warps. Sedates and calms the Spirit.

Conditions targeted*: NeurosisDepression and others

Qian Dan is an assistant ingredient in Chai Hu Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Chai Hu Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang, Qian Dan is a mineral substance that weighs down and calms the floating spirit.

Read more about Chai Hu Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Qian Dan's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Qian Dan belongs to the 'Herbs for external application' category. Like the name indicates, this category of herbs is used mostly for external application in the form of powders, pastes or ointments. As such they are used to treat trauma, inflammation, swelling, bruises, bleeding, pain and so forth.

Furthermore Qian Dan is Cool in nature. This means that Qian Dan 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 Qian Dan can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Qian Dan also tastes 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. Pungent ingredients like Qian Dan tends 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 Qian Dan is thought to target the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. In addition to regulating Blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. 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.