Talc

Chinese: 滑石

Pinyin: Huá Shí

Parts used: The mineral itself

TCM category: Herbs that drain Dampness

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Bladder Stomach

Scientific name: Talcum (hydrated magnesium silicate)

Use of talc (Hua Shi) 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: Ground the talc to powder before use.

Dosage: 9 - 12 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Encourages urination. Expels Damp-Heat from the Urinary Bladder. Dispels Summer Heat. Dries Dampness when applied topically.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which talc may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Urinary tract infection Excessive thirst Restlessness Palpitations Summer Heat Diarrhea Eczema Sores Oliguria Dysuria Fever Heat rash

Contraindications*: This substance should not be used when there are no signs of a Damp-Heat condition and should be avoided during pregnancy

Common TCM formulas in which talc (Hua Shi) are used*

Bi Yu San

Source date: 1172 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat, cools Blood and relieves toxicity. Promotes urination. Eliminates Summer-Heat. Stops convulsions.

Conditions targeted*: Heatstroke and others

Hua Shi is a king ingredient in Bi Yu San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Bi Yu San, Hua Shi cold and clears Summer Heat so as to facilitate the resolution of Dampness.

Its nature is heavy so as to directs downward. It is also slippery and able to facilitate passage through the apertures, be they the pores of the skin above or the urinary orifices below.

It is believed to clear pathogenic Heat from the entire Triple Burner and promoting urination. 

Together with Liquorice, they not only promotes urination, but also generates Body Fluids, thereby enabling the formula to perform its tasks without injuring the Qi or Body Fluids.

Read more about Bi Yu San

Liu Yi San

Source date: 1172 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Summer-Heat. Drains Dampness. Supplements Qi.

Conditions targeted*: Stomach fluGastroenteritis and others

Hua Shi is a king ingredient in Liu Yi San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Liu Yi San, Hua Shi clears Summer-Heat and facilitates the resolution of Dampness. Its nature is heavy, and it therefore directs downward. It is also slippery and able to facilitate passage through the openings, be they the pores of the skin or the urinary orifices.

Read more about Liu Yi San

Ba Zheng San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and Fire. Promotes urination. Unblocks painful urinary dribbling.

Conditions targeted*: GlomerulonephritisCystitis and others

Hua Shi is a deputy ingredient in Ba Zheng San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Ba Zheng San, Hua Shi smooths the passage of urine despite any Stagnation in the way.

Read more about Ba Zheng San

Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang

Source date: Qing Dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and relieves acute conditions of the Gallbladder. Relieves acute Damp-Heat syndromes. Resolves Phlegm. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Conditions targeted*: CholecystitisIcteric hepatitis and others

Hua Shi is an assistant ingredient in Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang, Hua Shi , together with Liquorice (Gan Cao), Poria-cocos mushroom (Fu Ling) and Natural Indigo (Qing Dai), the other assistants in this formula, drain Damp Heat through the urine to break Stagnation in the Triple Burner

Read more about Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang

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

Hua Shi is an assistant ingredient in Xuan Bi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Xuan Bi Tang

Key TCM concepts behind talc (Hua Shi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), talc are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that drain Dampness' category. These herbs are typically diuretics, meaning that they promotes the increased production of urine in order to remove Dampness that has accumulated in the body. According to TCM Dampness accumulates first in the lower limbs, causing edema and impaired movement. From there, if unchecked, it can move upward and impair digestion and eventually the respiratory system.

Furthermore talc are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that talc typically help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition talc can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Talc also taste 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. Sweet ingredients like talc 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 talc are thought to target the Bladder and the Stomach. In TCM the impure water collected by the Kidneys that cannot be used by the body is sent to the Bladder for storage and excretion as urine. 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.

Research on talc (Hua Shi)

Talc powder is superior to doxycycline in achieving pleurodesis in patients with malignant pleural effusion, in both short- and long-term observations.1

Sources:

1. Kuzdzał J, Sładek K, Wasowski D, Soja J, Szlubowski A, Reifland A, Zieliński M, Szczeklik A. (2003). Talc powder vs doxycycline in the control of malignant pleural effusion: a prospective, randomized trial. Med Sci Monit. , 9(6):PI54-9.