Can Sha (Silkworm feces) in Chinese Medicine

English: Silkworm feces

Chinese: 蚕沙

Parts used: The feces of the worm, dried

TCM category: Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach Liver

Scientific name: Excrementum Bombycis Mori

Use of Can Sha (silkworm feces) 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 feces, clean them and dry under the sun

Dosage: 4.5-18g

Main actions according to TCM*: Dispels Wind and eliminates Dampness. Harmonizes the Stomach and transforms turbid Dampness.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Can Sha may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Rheumatism Rheumatoid arthritis Joint pain Headache

Common TCM formulas in which Can Sha is used*

Xuan Bi Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears and resolves Damp-Heat. Unblocks the meridians. Disbands painful obstruction.

Conditions targeted*: Rheumatic feverRheumatoid arthritis and others

Can Sha is a deputy ingredient in Xuan Bi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

Read more about Xuan Bi Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Can Sha's properties

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

Can Sha also tastes Bitter 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. Bitter ingredients like Can Sha 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 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 Can Sha is thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach and the Liver. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Stomach on the other hand 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 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.