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Prepared Sichuan aconite

Chinese: 制川乌

Pinyin: Zhì Chuān Wū

Parts used: Processed mother root

TCM category: Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness

TCM nature: Hot

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Heart Kidney Liver

Scientific name: Aconitum carmichaeli

Other names: Wu Tou, Carmichael's monkshood, Chinese wolfsbane

Use of prepared sichuan aconite (Zhi Chuan Wu) 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 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*: Dispels Wind and Dampness. Warms the meridians and relieves pain caused by Cold

Primary conditions or symptoms for which prepared sichuan aconite may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Joint pain Joint stiffness Rheumatism Rheumatoid arthritis Epigastric pain Abdominal colic

Contraindications*: 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 sichuan aconite (Zhi Chuan Wu) are used*

Wu Tou Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the channels and remove obstruaction. Disperse Cold and Dampness. Warms the joints. Relieve joints pain.

Conditions targeted*: Joint painJoint stiffness and others

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

In Wu Tou Tang, Zhi Chuan Wu is pungent, bitter and hot. It is a very powerful herb to remove Cold from the channels and release it from the Exterior. It is used to stop joint pain due to Cold obstructed in the joints. Together with Ephedra, they work closely to warms the Interior and fight against external Pernicious Influence. 

Read more about Wu Tou Tang

Key TCM concepts behind prepared sichuan aconite (Zhi Chuan Wu)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), prepared sichuan aconite are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness' category. These herbs typically help treat what's called 'bi pain' (i.e. painful obstruction) in TCM. This roughly corresponds to arthritic and rheumatic conditions with pain, stiffness and numbness of the bones, joints and muscles.

Furthermore prepared sichuan aconite are plants that are Hot in nature. This means that prepared sichuan 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 sichuan aconite can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Prepared Sichuan aconite also taste Bitter and 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. Bitter ingredients like prepared sichuan aconite 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 Pungent ingredients 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.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such prepared sichuan aconite are thought to target the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver. 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. 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.