Mirabilites (Mang Xiao) in Chinese Medicine

Mirabilites

Chinese: 芒硝

Pinyin: Máng Xiāo

Parts used: The rock crushed as a powder

TCM category: Purgative herbs that drain downward

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): BitterSalty

Organ affinity: Stomach Large intestine

Scientific name: Natrii Sulfas

Other names: Glauber's salt, Sodium sulfate

Use of mirabilites (Mang Xiao) 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 the rock into powder

Dosage: 3 - 12 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Purges Stagnation in the Intestines caused by Heat and Dryness, Cools Heat and abates swelling

Primary conditions or symptoms for which mirabilites may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Constipation Swellings Lumps Appendicitis

Contraindications*: As this substance has a strong descending action, it should not be used during pregnancy, menstruation or post-partum; it should also be avoided by those with Spleen Deficiency and by the elderly.

Common TCM formulas in which mirabilites (Mang Xiao) are used*

Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Stagnant Heat in the intestines. Reduces swelling and disperses lumps.

Conditions targeted*: AppendicitisPelvic inflammatory disease and others

Mang Xiao is a deputy ingredient in Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang, Mang Xiao softens the stools and aids in draining Heat downward, thereby unclogging the Intestines.

Read more about Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang

Da Cheng Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Purges Heat from the Stomach and Intestines. Relieves constipation.

Conditions targeted*: PancreatisAppendicitis and others

Mang Xiao is a deputy ingredient in Da Cheng Qi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Da Cheng Qi Tang, Mang Xiao has stool-softening properties that helps the key herb (Rhubarb) in its purgative action. Together they moisten Dryness as they drain downward.

Read more about Da Cheng Qi Tang

Tao He Cheng Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Dispels Heat and. Eliminates Blood Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: LeiomyomaRetained placenta and others

Mang Xiao is an assistant ingredient in Tao He Cheng Qi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, Mang Xiao softens areas of hardness and dispels Stagnation, thereby helping Rhubarb move stools, drain Heat and eliminate Blood Stagnation.

Read more about Tao He Cheng Qi Tang

Key TCM concepts behind mirabilites (Mang Xiao)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), mirabilites are plants that belong to the 'Purgative herbs that drain downward' category. The herbs in this category are those whose main purpose is to treat constipation. The fact they're 'purgative' means that they do so by removing Excess Heat in the Intestines and/or Stomach. As such all herbs in this category are Cold in nature, in order to cool the Heat.

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

Mirabilites also taste Bitter and 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. Bitter ingredients like mirabilites tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Salty ingredients 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 mirabilites are thought to target the Stomach and the Large intestine. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Large Intestine on the other hand receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces.