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Water buffalo horns

Chinese: 水牛角

Pinyin: Shuǐ Niú Jiǎo

Parts used: The horn, as a powder or as thin scrapes

TCM category: Herbs that cool the Blood

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): BitterSalty

Organ affinity: Stomach Heart Liver

Scientific name: Cornu Bubali

Other names: Xi Jiao

Use of water buffalo horns (Shui Niu Jiao) 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: Scrape the horn or reduce it into a powder

Dosage: 5g - 18g

Main actions according to TCM*: Cools the Blood, drains Fire and stops reckless movement of Blood. Clears Heat and Fire and stops tremors and convulsions. Cools Fire and expels toxins.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which water buffalo horns may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Fever Excessive thirst Delirium Bloody sputum Nosebleed Convulsions

Contraindications*: This substance should not be used by pregnant women or those with Cold conditions or when the Heat is not caused by a "Pernicious Influence". Caution: This substance should not be used in conjunction with Aconite (Fu Zi or Zhi Fu Zi).

Common TCM formulas in which water buffalo horns (Shui Niu Jiao) are used*

Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Treats severe fevers and Heat in the Blood system. Removes Blood Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Acute leukemiaUremia and others

Shui Niu Jiao is a king ingredient in Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang, Shui Niu Jiao clears Heart Fire and resolves Heat/Fire toxicity. It is Cold but does not hinder the movement of Blood (Cold can often "congeal" Blood). This makes it a particularly suitable ingredient to treat Heat at the Blood level.

Read more about Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang

Qing Ying Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears the Nutritive level Heat. Relieves Fire Toxin. Removes Heat. Nourishes Yin.

Conditions targeted*: Encephalitis BMeningitis and others

Shui Niu Jiao is a king ingredient in Qing Ying Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Qing Ying Tang, Shui Niu Jiao is bitter, salty, and cold. It drains Heat from the Nutritive (Ying) level and the Heart so as to relieve Fire Toxin and calms the Mind.

It is cold in nature but it does not lead to obstruction, which makes it helpful in treating Exterior Heat invading Interior. It can also cool the Blood and remove Stagnation. 

Read more about Qing Ying Tang

Key TCM concepts behind water buffalo horns (Shui Niu Jiao)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), water buffalo horns are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that cool the Blood' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Internal Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an Excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that cool the Blood treat the latter and as such tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category water buffalo horns are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that water buffalo horns 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 water buffalo horns can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Water buffalo horns also taste Bitter and Salty. 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 water buffalo horns 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 Salty ingredients tend to have a draining effect in the body because they clear accumulations, remove Phlegm and soften hard lumps.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such water buffalo horns are 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.