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Tortoise plastrons

Chinese: 龟板

Pinyin: Guī Bǎn

Parts used: Carapace and plastron

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Yin Deficiency

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): SaltySweet

Organ affinity: Heart Kidney Liver

Scientific name: Chinemys reevesii

Other names: Gui Jia

Use of tortoise plastrons (Gui Ban) 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: Extract carapace and plastron, boil in order to clearn thoroughly and dry.

Dosage: 9 - 30 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Nourishes the Yin and holds down the Yang. Strengthens the Kidneys and strengthens the bones. Cools the Blood, stops uterine bleeding. Nourishes the Heart. Promotes Healing.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which tortoise plastrons may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Night sweats Vertigo Tremors Amnesia Hypertension Chronic lower back pain Retarded growth in children Abnormal uterine bleeding Anxiety Insomnia Sores Ulcers

Contraindications*: It is contraindicated during pregnancy and in individuals with Cold and Dampness of the Spleen.

Common TCM formulas in which tortoise plastrons (Gui Ban) are used*

Sang Piao Xiao San

Source date: 1116 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Regulates and tonifies the Heart and Kidneys. Stabilizes the Essence. Stops leakage.

Conditions targeted*: Pediatric enuresisDiabetes and others

Gui Ban is a deputy ingredient in Sang Piao Xiao San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Sang Piao Xiao San, Gui Ban enriches the Yin, subdues the Yang, and tonifies the Kidneys.

Read more about Sang Piao Xiao San

Zuo Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Strengthens the Kidneys. Fills the Essence. Augments the marrow.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisChronic nephritis and others

Gui Ban is a deputy ingredient in Zuo Gui Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Zuo Gui Wan, Gui Ban sweet, salty, and cooling. Therefore it is able to sedate Liver Yang as well as cool Empty Heat from Yin Deficiency. It pushes the action of the formula even further toward the Essence tonification.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan

He Che Da Zao Wan

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies the Kidneys. Strengthens the Directing and Penetrating Vessels. Regulates the periods.

In He Che Da Zao Wan, Gui Ban nourishes the Directing and Penetrating Vessels

Read more about He Che Da Zao Wan

Zhu Yu Zhi Xue Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates Blood. Stops bleeding.

In Zhu Yu Zhi Xue Tang, Gui Ban enters the Directing and Penetrating Vessels as well as the Uterus to stop uterine bleeding.

Read more about Zhu Yu Zhi Xue Tang

Key TCM concepts behind tortoise plastrons (Gui Ban)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), tortoise plastrons are plants that belong to the 'Tonic herbs for Yin Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Yin tonics have a heavy, moist nature. They either nourish the Kidneys and Liver or moisten the Lungs and Stomach. Extreme Yin Deficiency often translates into a 'burn-out', unfortunately more and more common among people today. It is worth mentioning that another great remedy against Yin Deficiency is a lot of rest and sleep; no herb will ever be able to replace this!

Furthermore tortoise plastrons are plants that are Cool in nature. This means that tortoise plastrons tend to help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. 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 tortoise plastrons can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Tortoise plastrons also taste Salty 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. Salty ingredients like tortoise plastrons tend to have a draining effect in the body because they clear accumulations, remove Phlegm and soften hard lumps. 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 tortoise plastrons are thought to target the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver. In addition to regulating Blood flow, in TCM 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.

Research on tortoise plastrons (Gui Ban)

Decoction of turtle shell for anti-fibrosis combined with stronger neo-minophagen C could significantly improve the clinical efficacy and the liver fibrosis indexes and liver function index in chronic hepatitis B.1

Sources:

1. Zhang L, Chang Y. (2012). Effect of decoction of turtle shell for anti-fibrosis combined with stronger neo-minophagen C on indices of hepatic fibrosis in chronic hepatitis B. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. , 37(2):258-61.