English: Niter

Chinese: 硝石

Parts used: The mineral

TCM category: Purgative herbs that drain downward

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterSalty

Organ affinity: Spleen Heart

Scientific name: Potassium Nitrate

Other names: Indian saltpetre, saltpeter

Use of Xiao Shi (niter) 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: Collect the mineral and remove impurities. Softens hardness, eliminates accumulations and dissolves abscesses. Clears Toxic-Heat and reduce swellings.

Dosage: 1.5-3g

Main actions according to TCM*: Promote urination and bowel movement.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Xiao Shi may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Urinary calculus Jaundice Edema Constipation Fibroid tumor Sore throat Iritis

Contraindications*: Should not be used during pregnancy or for long term purpose.

Common TCM formulas in which Xiao Shi is used*

Zi Xue Dan

Source date: 752 AD

Number of ingredients: 17 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Opens the sensory orifices. Controls spasms and convulsions. Extinguishes Wind.

Conditions targeted*: Acute encephalitisAcute meningitis and others

Xiao Shi is an assistant ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Zi Xue Dan, Xiao Shi drains Heat and dissipate clumps, especially when combined with Ningpo figwort root.

Read more about Zi Xue Dan

Key TCM concepts behind Xiao Shi's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Xiao Shi belongs 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 Xiao Shi is Warm in nature. This means that Xiao Shi tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition Xiao Shi can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Xiao Shi also tastes 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 Xiao Shi tends 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 Xiao Shi is thought to target the Spleen and the Heart. 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.