Oyster shells (Mu Li Ke) Milkvetch roots (Huang Qi) Ephedra root (Ma Huang Gen) Light wheats (Fu Xiao Mai)

Chinese: 牡蛎散

Pinyin: Mǔ Lì Sàn

Other names: Oyster Shell Powder

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that stabilize Exterior and stop sweating

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: Excessive sweatingAutonomic dystoniaPulmonary tuberculosis and two other conditions

  1. Inhibits sweating
  2. Stabilizes the exterior

Contraindications: Not suitable for treating the profuse, oily sweat associated with exhaustion of... Not suitable for treating the profuse, oily sweat associated with exhaustion of the Yin or Yang. see more

Source date: 1107 AD

Source book: Formulary of the Pharmacy Service for Benefiting the People in the Taiping Era

Mu Li San is a 4-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Oyster Shells (Mu Li ke) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 1107 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that stabilize Exterior and stop sweating. Its main actions are: 1) inhibits sweating and 2) stabilizes the exterior.

In Chinese Medicine health conditions are thought to arise due to "disharmonies" in the body as a system. These disharmonies are called "patterns" and the very purpose of herbal formulas is to fight them in order to restore the body's harmony.

In this case Mu Li San is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Yin Deficiency. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as excessive sweating, postpartum excessive sweating or post-surgery excessive sweating for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the four ingredients in Mu Li San, we review the patterns and conditions that Mu Li San helps treat.

The four ingredients in Mu Li San

Mu Li ke is a king ingredient in Mu Li San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Oyster Shells (Mu Li ke)

Mu Li ke salty and slightly cooling. It restrains the Yin, anchors the floating Yang, inhibits sweating, and relieves irritability.  The combination of the key and deputy herbs, one of which benefits the Nutritive level and the other the Protective level, is especially effective in treating this condition.

Learn more about Oyster Shells (Mu Li ke)

Huang Qi is a deputy ingredient in Mu Li San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

2. Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: LungSpleen

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

Huang Qi strongly tonifies the Lung Qi and is of particular benefit to the superficial Protective Qi. It strengthens the Protective Qi and stabilizes the Exterior by stopping sweating. The combination of the key and deputy herbs, one of which benefits the Nutritive level and the other the Protective level, is especially effective in treating this condition. The deputy is also very helpful in treating the symptoms associated with Qi Deficiency, including shortness of breath and general debility.

Learn more about Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi)

Ma Huang Gen is an assistant ingredient in Mu Li San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

3. Ephedra Root (Ma Huang Gen)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: HeartLung

Category: Herbs that stabilize and bind

Ma Huang Gen assists the key ingredient in augmenting the Heart Qi, restraining sweating, and stabilizing the Exterior. Its nature is to move to the Exterior of the body, but its action is to descend the Qi. It thereby complements the action of Oyster shells, which anchors the Yang, while focusing the
tonifying actions of Milkvetch root on the Exterior.

Learn more about Ephedra Root (Ma Huang Gen)

Fu Xiao Mai is an assistant ingredient in Mu Li San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

4. Light Wheats (Fu Xiao Mai)

Part used: The dried fruits

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: Heart

Category: Herbs that stabilize and bind

Fu Xiao Mai sweet, salty, and slightly cooling. It mildly nourishes the
Heart Qi and clears Stagnant Heat by venting it to the
surface, thereby removing one of the causes of sweating in
this pattern. When this is accomplished, the True Qi will be restored, the sweating will cease, and the symptoms of Heart Qi distress will abate.

Learn more about Light Wheats (Fu Xiao Mai)

Mu Li San is used to treat Yin Deficiency

It's important to remember that herbal formulas are meant to treat patterns, not "diseases" as understood in Western Medicine. According to Chinese Medicine patterns, which are disruptions to the body as a system, are the underlying root cause for diseases and conditions.

As such Mu Li San is mostly used to treat the pattern "Yin Deficiency" which we describe below.

But before we delve into Yin Deficiency here is an overview of the Western conditions it is commonly associated with:

Excessive sweating Postpartum excessive sweating Post-surgery excessive sweating Pulmonary tuberculosis Autonomic dystonia

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Mu Li San treats excessive sweating" for instance. Rather, Mu Li San is used to treat Yin Deficiency, which is sometimes the root cause behind excessive sweating.

Now let's look at Yin Deficiency, a pattern that TCM practitioners commonly treat with Mu Li San.

'Deficient' as a body pattern in Chinese Medicine is one of the so-called "Eight Principles". Learn more about Deficiency / Empty in Chinese Medicine

Yin Deficiency

Mu Li San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Yin Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as five palm heat, thin body, sore throat at night and thirst. Patients with Yin Deficiency typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or empty (Xu) pulses as well as Red or normal color without coating or with a thin shiny tongue body.

In the case of Yin Deficiency, the body is lacking in its cooling, moistening and nurturing aspects. This leads to Heat and Dryness accompanied by weakness and lack of strength and resistance. The Heat of the Yang gets more obvious because Yin is lacking and it cannot control Yang. Fire gets out of... read more about Yin Deficiency

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