Water buffalo horns (Shui Niu Jiao) Musk (She Xiang) Ox gallstones (Niu Huang) Borneol (Bing Pian) Benzoin (An Xi Xiang) Cinnabar (Zhu Sha) Amber (Hu Po) Realgar (Xiong Huang)

Chinese: 至宝丹

Pinyin: Zhì Bǎo Dān

Other names: Greatest Treasure Special Pill

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that clear Heat and open sensory orifices

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: Heat strokeHepatic comaToxic dysentery and four other conditions

  1. Clears Heat
  2. Opens the sensory orifices
  3. Resolves toxicity
  4. Transforms Phlegm

Contraindications: Contraindicated during pregnancy. This formula contains many drying, aromatic... Contraindicated during pregnancy. This formula contains many drying, aromatic ingredients that have a tendency to consume the Yin and Body Fluids. It should therefore not be used for patients with significant Yin Deficiency. see more

Source date: 1075

Source book: Fine Formulas by Su and Shen

Zhi Bao Dan is a 9-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Water Buffalo Horns (Shui Niu Jiao) and Musk (She Xiang) as principal ingredients.

Invented in 1075, it belongs to the category of formulas that clear Heat and open sensory orifices. Its main actions are: 1) clears Heat and 2) opens the sensory orifices.

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 Zhi Bao Dan is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Heat in Pericardium or Phlegm Fire harassing the Pericardium. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as acute encephalitis, acute meningitis or cerebrovascular accident for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the nine ingredients in Zhi Bao Dan, we review the patterns and conditions that Zhi Bao Dan helps treat.

The nine ingredients in Zhi Bao Dan

Shui Niu Jiao is a king ingredient in Zhi Bao Dan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Water Buffalo Horns (Shui Niu Jiao)

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

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): BitterSalty

Meridian affinity: StomachHeartLiver

Category: Herbs that cool the Blood

Shui Niu Jiao clears Heat from the Nutritive Level and cools the Blood. Its cool, aromatic properties make it useful for treating
Heat that affects the Pericardium Stagnation.  Musk and Water buffalo horn works well together to clear Heat and open the sensory orifices.

Learn more about Water Buffalo Horns (Shui Niu Jiao)

She Xiang is a king ingredient in Zhi Bao Dan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

2. Musk (She Xiang)

Part used: Musk gland of the deer

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLiver

Category: Herbs that open the Orifices

She Xiang is highly aromatic and scurries everywhere. It penetrates all the Channels and it good for unblocking all the orifices of the body.  Musk and Water buffalo horn works well together to clear Heat and open the sensory orifices.

Learn more about Musk (She Xiang)

Niu Huang is a deputy ingredient in Zhi Bao Dan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

3. Ox Gallstones (Niu Huang)

Part used: Gallstones (hardened deposits of bile that form in the ox's gallbladder)

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: HeartLiver

Category: Herbs that cool the Blood

Niu Huang assists Bubali Water buffalo horn by entering the Heart and Liver Channels to sedate the Heart, calm the Mind, clear heat, resolve toxicity, extinguish Wind, and settle spasms and convulsions.  It also clears Phlegm and opening the sensory orifices. Traditional this formula also includes Hawksbill Turtle Shell (Dai Mao), which serves the same purpose as Ox Gallstone. However, this ingredient is no longer available due to the restriction in hunting Hawksbill Turtle.  Therefore, the dosage of Ox Gallstone should be increased to replace Hawksbill Turtle Shell.

Learn more about Ox Gallstones (Niu Huang)

Bing Pian is a deputy ingredient in Zhi Bao Dan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

4. Borneol (Bing Pian)

Part used: Organic compound obtained from plant extracts

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLung

Category: Herbs that open the Orifices

In general Bing Pian's main actions are as follows: "Opens the Orifices and awakens the spirit. Clears Heat and relieves pain."

In the context of Zhi Bao Dan, it is used because it is also highly aromatic. It opens the sensory orifices and clears away filth.

Learn more about Borneol (Bing Pian)

An Xi Xiang is a deputy ingredient in Zhi Bao Dan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

5. Benzoin (An Xi Xiang)

Part used: The dried resin

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLiver

Category: Herbs that open the Orifices

An Xi Xiang is highly aromatic. It penetrates the sensory orifices, clears away filth, and transforms turbidity.

Learn more about Benzoin (An Xi Xiang)

Zhu Sha is an assistant ingredient in Zhi Bao Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

6. Cinnabar (Zhu Sha)

Part used: The mineral itself

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: Heart

Category: Herbs that anchor and calm the Spirit

Zhu Sha sedates the Heart and calm the Mind, resolving the irritability and impairment of speech and consciousness.

Learn more about Cinnabar (Zhu Sha)

Hu Po is an assistant ingredient in Zhi Bao Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

7. Amber (Hu Po)

Part used: Fossilized tree resin

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: BladderHeartLiver

Category: Herbs that anchor and calm the Spirit

Hu Po sedates the Heart and calm the Mind, resolving the irritability and impairment of speech and consciousness.

Learn more about Amber (Hu Po)

Xiong Huang is an assistant ingredient in Zhi Bao Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

8. Realgar (Xiong Huang)

Part used: The mineral

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: StomachHeartLiver

Category: Herbs for external application

Xiong Huang eliminates Phlegm and resolves toxicity. It assists Ox Gallstone in breaking up Phlegm and opening the orifices.

Learn more about Realgar (Xiong Huang)

Jin Bo is an assistant ingredient in Zhi Bao Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

9. Gold Leaves (Jin Bo)

Part used: The mineral sheet

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: HeartLung

Category: Herbs that nourish the Heart and calm the Spirit

Jin Bo sedates the Heart and calm the Mind, resolving the irritability and impairment of speech and consciousness. The original formula also includes Silver leaves which serves the same role as Gold leaves here.

Learn more about Gold Leaves (Jin Bo)

Conditions and patterns for which Zhi Bao Dan may be prescribed

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 Zhi Bao Dan is used by TCM practitioners to treat two different patterns which we describe below.

But before we delve into these patterns here is an overview of the Western conditions they're commonly associated with:

Acute encephalitis Acute meningitis Cerebrovascular accident Seizure disorder Hepatic coma Toxic dysentery Heat stroke

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Zhi Bao Dan treats acute encephalitis" for instance. Rather, Zhi Bao Dan is used to treat patterns that are sometimes the root cause behind acute encephalitis.

Now let's look at the two patterns commonly treated with Zhi Bao Dan.

The Pericardium is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Pericardium in Chinese Medicine

Heat in Pericardium

Zhi Bao Dan is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Heat in Pericardium. This pattern leads to symptoms such as fever at night, delirium, mental confusion and incoherent speech. Patients with Heat in Pericardium typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or fine (Xi) pulses.

According to the Four Levels theory, pathogenic Heat can penetrate four levels of depth in the human body: Wei (卫,the defensive Qi level), Qi (气), Ying (营,Nutritive Qi) and the deepest level Blood. The deeper Heat penetrates within the levels, the more severe the condition.

As for the pattern of... read more about Heat in Pericardium

The Pericardium is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Pericardium in Chinese Medicine

Phlegm Fire harassing the Pericardium

Zhi Bao Dan is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Phlegm Fire harassing the Pericardium. This pattern leads to symptoms such as palpitations, red face, bitter taste in the mouth and rattling sound in the throat. Patients with Phlegm Fire harassing the Pericardium typically exhibit overflowing (Hong), rapid (Shu), slippery (Hua), wiry (Xian) or full (Shi) pulses.

The Pericardium is the guard and the first defense line of the Heart. Therefore when the Heart was invaded by Phlegm and Fire, the Pericardium suffers as well. Actually the related mental symptoms of these two Organs by Phlegm and Fire are quick similar with just different severe levels. 

Fire... read more about Phlegm Fire harassing the Pericardium

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