Prepared aconite

Chinese: 制附子

Pinyin: Zhì Fù Zǐ

Parts used: Processed daughter root

TCM category: Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold

TCM nature: Hot

TCM taste(s): PungentSweet

Organ affinity: Spleen Heart Kidney

Scientific name: Aconitum carmichaeli

Other names: Carmichael's monkshood, Chinese wolfsbane

Use of prepared aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) 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: There are various methods of preparing this herb to neutralize its toxicity. In one method it is treated with salt and then boiled with Licorice and black soya beans. In any case it absolutely needs to be boiled for at least 1 hour in order to reduce its toxicity.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Raises the collapse of Yang. Warms the meridians and relieves pain caused by Cold. Reduces Damp caused by Deficiency in Yang.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which prepared aconite may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Weak pulse Fatigue Impotence Arthralgia Vomiting Diarrhea Numbness of limbs

Contraindications*: Should not be used by those with Yin Deficiency, with true Heat, with false chills or during pregnancy. This is a toxic herb so it shouldn't be taken in large doses and it needs to be prepared adequately by a TCM professional before ingestion.

Common TCM formulas in which prepared aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) are used*

Da Huang Fu Zi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Interior. Disperses Cold. Unblocks the bowels. Alleviates pain.

Conditions targeted*: Trigeminal neuralgiaPeriarthritis of the shoulder and others

Zhi Fu Zi is a king ingredient in Da Huang Fu Zi Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Da Huang Fu Zi Tang, Zhi Fu Zi is the most effective substance in the Materia Medica for warming the Yang and dispelling Cold. In this case, because the Cold is severe and it is combined with a cooling substance, Rhubarb (Da Huang)'s dosage is higher than usual.

Read more about Da Huang Fu Zi Tang

Zhen Wu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys. Eliminates Dampness.

Conditions targeted*: Congestive heart failureChronic glomerulonephritis and others

Zhi Fu Zi is a king ingredient in Zhen Wu Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Zhen Wu Tang, Zhi Fu Zi tonifies the Fire at the Gate of Vitality, restores the Kidney Yang, and thereby enables the Kidneys to resume their function of transforming water.

Read more about Zhen Wu Tang

Fu Zi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Meridians. Assists the Yang. Dispels Cold. Transforms Dampness.

Conditions targeted*: MigraineCluster headache and others

Zhi Fu Zi is a king ingredient in Fu Zi Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Fu Zi Tang, Zhi Fu Zi penetrates into the Gate of Vitality to invigorate the Yang and disperses Cold from all twelve Meridians.

As noted by Zhang Jie-Bin, a famous Chinese medicine doctor: "[Prepared aconite (Zhi Fu Zi)] is an essential herb for Yin-type patterns. In all cases of Cold damage that transmit or transform into [disorders of one of] the three Yin [warps] as well as in [direct] Cold strike into the Yin [warps], if the pulse is submerged, it must be used even if there is high fever."

Read more about Fu Zi Tang

You Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang. Replenishes the Essence. Tonifies the Blood.

Conditions targeted*: Nephrotic syndromeOsteoporosis and others

Zhi Fu Zi is a king ingredient in You Gui Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In You Gui Wan, Zhi Fu Zi works together with Cinnamon bark (Rou Gui) and Deer antlers glue (Lu Jiao Jiao) to warm and fortify the source Yang.

Read more about You Gui Wan

Shen Qi Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies and warms Kidney Yang.

Conditions targeted*: Diabetes mellitusHyperaldosteronism and others

Zhi Fu Zi is a king ingredient in Shen Qi Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Shen Qi Wan, Zhi Fu Zi is acrid and strongly warming. It tonifies the Fire of Gate, dispels Cold, and eliminates Dampness. It also strongly promotes movement and reaches down to the source to warm chronic Cold. Together, Zhi Fu Zi and Cinnamon twigs not only assist the Yang and enhance the metabolism of water, but also promote the unhindered dispersion of Yang throughout the body. The relatively small dosage of these ingredients suggests that they are intended only to slightly generate Yang in order to strengthen the Kidney Qi.

Read more about Shen Qi Wan

Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and inflammations. Unblocks the flow of Yang Qi and promotes movement (in areas with painful obstruction). Clears Wind and Damp. Relieves pain.

Conditions targeted*: Rheumatoid arthritisConnective tissue disorders and others

Zhi Fu Zi is a deputy ingredient in Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang, Zhi Fu Zi warms the Channels and relieves pain.

Read more about Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang

Ba Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Yang. Warms the Kidneys and lower extremities.

Conditions targeted*: Diabetes mellitusDiabetes insipidus and others

Read more about Ba Wei Di Huang Wan

Key TCM concepts behind prepared aconite (Zhi Fu Zi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), prepared aconite are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold' category. Herbs in this category are used for Internal Cold with Qi Deficiency and/or Yang Deficiency. In the Yin and Yang system of thought Yang is Hot in nature. A deficiency of Yang will therefore lead to Internal Coldness since there will as a result be more Yin (Cold in nature) than Yang. In extreme cases this can lead to so-called 'Yang collapse' with convulsions or coma and these herbs are particularly indicated to treat such scenarios.

As suggested by its category prepared aconite are plants that are Hot in nature. This means that prepared aconite typically help people who have too much "Cold" in their body. 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 prepared aconite can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Prepared aconite also taste Pungent and 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. Pungent ingredients like prepared aconite tend 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. On the other hand Sweet ingredients 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 prepared aconite are thought to target the Spleen, the Heart and the Kidney. 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. 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.