English: Realgar

Chinese: 雄黃

Parts used: The mineral

TCM category: Herbs for external application

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Stomach Heart Liver

Scientific name: Realgar

Other names: Arsenic sulfide, Ruby of arsenic, Ruby sulphur

Use of Xiong Huang (realgar) 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 the impurities. Crush to powder before use.

Dosage: 0.15-0.6g.

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears toxicity and kill parasites. Relieves itching. Heals snakebites and ulcerations. Dries Dampness. Treats malarial conditions.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Xiong Huang may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Abcesses Sores Eczema Herpes zoster Nasal polyps Poisonous snakebite Venomous bite Rashes Ringworm Scabies Skin itching Roundworm

Contraindications*: Internally it is contraindicated during pregnancy and for Yin and Blood Deficiency. All toxic substances should be appropriately labeled and kept far out of reach of children.

Common TCM formulas in which Xiong Huang is used*

Zhi Bao Dan

Source date: 1075

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Opens the sensory orifices. Resolves toxicity. Transforms Phlegm .

Conditions targeted*: Acute encephalitisAcute meningitis and others

Xiong Huang is an assistant ingredient in Zhi Bao Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Zhi Bao Dan, Xiong Huang eliminates Phlegm and resolves toxicity. It assists Ox Gallstone in breaking up Phlegm and opening the orifices. 

Read more about Zhi Bao Dan

Key TCM concepts behind Xiong Huang's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Xiong Huang 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 Xiong Huang is Warm in nature. This means that Xiong Huang 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 Xiong Huang can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Xiong Huang also tastes 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 Xiong Huang 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 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 Xiong Huang is thought to target the Stomach, the Heart and the Liver. 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. 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 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.