Water buffalo horns (Shui Niu Jiao) Saiga antelope's horns (Ling Yang Jiao) Musk (She Xiang) Gypsum (Shi Gao) Calcitum (Han Shui Shi) Talc (Hua Shi) Ningpo figwort roots (Xuan Shen) Bugbane rhizomes (Sheng Ma)

Chinese: 紫雪丹

Pinyin: Zǐ Xuě Dān

Other names: Purple Snow Special Pill

Number of ingredients: 17 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that clear Heat and open sensory orifices

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: MeaslesEpilepsyFuruncles and eight other conditions

  1. Clears Heat
  2. Opens the sensory orifices
  3. Controls spasms and convulsions
  4. Extinguishes Wind

Contraindications: Contraindicated during pregnancy and used with caution in the weak and... Contraindicated during pregnancy and used with caution in the weak and debilitated. The use of this formula should be discontinued as soon as the symptoms of impaired consciousness improve. Overuse of the formula can easily injure the Original Qi and exhaust the Yin, which, in severe cases may lead to marked sweating, nausea and vomiting, cold extremities, a frozen affect, dyspnea, palpitations, dizziness, and vertigo. While taking this formula, spicy, rich, or greasy foods should be avoided. see more

Source date: 752 AD

Source book: Arcane Essentials from the Imperial Library

Zi Xue Dan is a 17-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Water Buffalo Horns (Shui Niu Jiao), Saiga Antelope's Horns (Ling Yang Jiao) and Musk (She Xiang) as principal ingredients.

Invented in 752 AD, 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 Zi Xue Dan is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Heart Fire blazing, Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Fire or Pericardium Fire. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as acute encephalitis, acute meningitis or severe pneumonia for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the seventeen ingredients in Zi Xue Dan, we review the patterns and conditions that Zi Xue Dan helps treat.

The seventeen ingredients in Zi Xue Dan

Shui Niu Jiao is a king ingredient in Zi Xue 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 is cool and aromatic. It is ascending and dispersing in nature.  It enters the Nutritive and Blood Levels, and clearing Fire and Heat from the Heart and Liver Channels. It clears Heat from the Nutritive Level, cools the Blood, and resolves Toxicity. Because of its active nature, it can be cold without retarding movement, making it useful
for venting Heat through the collaterals of the Pericardium.  The combination of Saiga antelope's horns and Water buffalo horn treats the Heat in the Heart and Liver Channels and effectively resolve the spasms, convulsions, and impaired consciousness.  Rhinoceros horn is used in the formula in the past, which is forbitten nowadays. Thus it is replaced by Water buffalo horn.

Learn more about Water Buffalo Horns (Shui Niu Jiao)

Ling Yang Jiao is a king ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

2. Saiga Antelope's Horns (Ling Yang Jiao)

Part used: The horn

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Salty

Meridian affinity: HeartLiver

Category: Herbs that pacify Internal Liver Wind and stop Tremors

Ling Yang Jiao is particularly useful for draining Liver Fire and is an important substance for extinguishing Liver Wind.  The combination of Saiga antelope's horns and Water buffalo horn treats the Heat in the Heart and Liver Channels and effectively resolve the spasms, convulsions, and impaired consciousness.

Learn more about Saiga Antelope's Horns (Ling Yang Jiao)

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

3. Musk (She Xiang)

Part used: Musk gland of the deer

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLiver

Category: Herbs that open the Orifices

In general She Xiang's main actions are as follows: "Opens the Orifices and awakens the spirit. Moves Blood and reduces inflammation and pain. Moves downward, assisting the delivery of late or stillborn babies."

In the context of Zi Xue Dan, it is used because it opens the orifices of the Heart and restore consciousness.

Learn more about Musk (She Xiang)

Shi Gao is a deputy ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

4. Gypsum (Shi Gao)

Part used: The mineral itself

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: LungStomach

Category: Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire and/or clear Summer Heat

Shi Gao clears Fire and Heat from the Qi Level, causing the Heat
to recede and encouraging the generation of Body Fluids. It thereby eliminates irritability and alleviates thirst.

Learn more about Gypsum (Shi Gao)

Han Shui Shi is a deputy ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

5. Calcitum (Han Shui Shi)

Part used: The powered mineral

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): PungentSalty

Meridian affinity: HeartKidney

Category: Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire and/or clear Summer Heat

In general Han Shui Shi's main actions are as follows: "Clears Heat and drains Fire. Expels Summer-Heat. Cools Hot sores and burns. Reduces edema. "

In the context of Zi Xue Dan, it is used because it clears Heat and drains Fire to eliminate irritability and alleviate thirst.

Learn more about Calcitum (Han Shui Shi)

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

6. Talc (Hua Shi)

Part used: The mineral itself

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: BladderStomach

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

In general Hua Shi's main actions are as follows: "Encourages urination. Expels Damp-Heat from the Urinary Bladder. Dispels Summer Heat. Dries Dampness when applied topically."

In the context of Zi Xue Dan, it is used because it conducts Heat downward so that it can be eliminated through the urine.

Learn more about Talc (Hua Shi)

Xuan Shen is a deputy ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

7. Ningpo Figwort Roots (Xuan Shen)

Part used: Dried rhizome

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: Large intestineLiverStomach

Category: Herbs that cool the Blood

Xuan Shen is sweet, bitter, and slightly cold. It conducts Fire downward, enriches the Yin, and cools the Blood.

Learn more about Ningpo Figwort Roots (Xuan Shen)

Sheng Ma is a deputy ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

8. Bugbane Rhizomes (Sheng Ma)

Part used: Dried rhizome

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: Large intestineLungSpleenStomach

Category: Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

Sheng Ma is sweet, acrid, and slightly cold.  It strengthen Ningpo figwort root's ability to clear Heat and resolve Toxicity while also venting the pathogen.

Learn more about Bugbane Rhizomes (Sheng Ma)

Ci Shi is an assistant ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

9. Magnetite (Ci Shi)

Part used: The mineral power

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Salty

Meridian affinity: HeartKidneyLiverLung

Category: Herbs that anchor and calm the Spirit

Ci Shi sedates the Heart and calms the Mind, which strengthens the formula's action in eliminating irritability.

Learn more about Magnetite (Ci Shi)

Mu Xiang is an assistant ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

10. Costus Roots (Mu Xiang)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: GallbladderLarge intestineLiverLungSpleenStomach

Category: Herbs that regulate Qi

In general Mu Xiang's main actions are as follows: "Relieves the Stagnation of Qi of the digestion in the Spleen, Stomach and Intestines. Relieves Qi Stagnation of the Liver and Gallbladder. Strengthens the Spleen and is used with tonifying herbs to prevent their potential cloying effects."

In the context of Zi Xue Dan, it is used because it promotes the Qi movement and assist Musk in opening the orifices.

Learn more about Costus Roots (Mu Xiang)

Chen Xiang is an assistant ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

11. Agarwood (Chen Xiang)

Part used: Wood shavings

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachKidneyLung

Category: Herbs that regulate Qi

In general Chen Xiang's main actions are as follows: "Assists in the flow of Qi and relieves pain. Assists the Kidneys in grasping the Qi of the Lungs. Directs the flow of Qi downward and dispels Cold from the Spleen and Stomach."

In the context of Zi Xue Dan, it is used because it promotes the Qi movement and assist Musk in opening the orifices.

Learn more about Agarwood (Chen Xiang)

Ding Xiang is an assistant ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

12. Cloves (Ding Xiang)

Part used: Dried flower bud

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: KidneyLungSpleenStomach

Category: Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold

In general Ding Xiang's main actions are as follows: "Warms the Middle Warmer and directs the Qi downward. Warms the Kidneys and boosts Yang ."

In the context of Zi Xue Dan, it is used because it promotes the Qi movement and assist Musk in opening the orifices.

Learn more about Cloves (Ding Xiang)

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

13. Cinnabar (Zhu Sha)

Part used: The mineral itself

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: Heart

Category: Herbs that anchor and calm the Spirit

In general Zhu Sha's main actions are as follows: "Calms the spirit and Heart. Stops convulsions. Clears Heat and toxins."

In the context of Zi Xue Dan, it is used because it , with Magnetite, augments the Yin to reestablish communication between the Heart and Kidneys.

Learn more about Cinnabar (Zhu Sha)

Mang Xiao is an assistant ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

14. Mirabilites (Mang Xiao)

Part used: The rock crushed as a powder

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): BitterSalty

Meridian affinity: StomachLarge intestine

Category: Purgative herbs that drain downward

In general Mang Xiao's main actions are as follows: "Purges Stagnation in the Intestines caused by Heat and Dryness, Cools Heat and abates swelling"

In the context of Zi Xue Dan, it is used because it drains Heat and dissipate clumps, especially when combined with Ningpo figwort root.

Learn more about Mirabilites (Mang Xiao)

Xiao Shi is an assistant ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

15. Niter (Xiao Shi)

Part used: The mineral

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterSalty

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeart

Category: Purgative herbs that drain downward

In general Xiao Shi's main actions are as follows: "Promote urination and bowel movement. "

In the context of Zi Xue Dan, it is used because it drains Heat and dissipate clumps, especially when combined with Ningpo figwort root.

Learn more about Niter (Xiao Shi)

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

16. Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Part used: Dried root and rhizome

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: HeartLungSpleenStomach

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

Gan Cao helps resolve toxicity, harmonize the Stomach, and protect it from injury by the heavy mineral ingredients.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Jin Bo is an envoy ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

17. 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

In general Jin Bo's main actions are as follows: "Sedates the Heart and calms the Mind. Clears Toxic-Heat. Stop convulsions. "

In the context of Zi Xue Dan, it is used because it sedates the Mind.

Learn more about Gold Leaves (Jin Bo)

Conditions and patterns for which Zi Xue 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 Zi Xue Dan is used by TCM practitioners to treat three 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 Severe pneumonia Measles Scarlet fever Diphtheria Acute tonsillitis Febrile convulsions Folliculitis Furuncles Epilepsy

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

Now let's look at the three patterns commonly treated with Zi Xue Dan.

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

Heart Fire blazing

Zi Xue Dan is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Heart Fire blazing. This pattern leads to symptoms such as palpitations, thirst, mouth ulcers and tongue ulcers. Patients with Heart Fire blazing typically exhibit overflowing (Hong), rapid (Shu), full (Shi) or hasty (Cu) pulses.

Different from Heart Yin Deficiency which is an Empty-Heat pattern, the Heart Fire blazing here is a Full-Heat one. The typical manifestation of Full-Heat are thirst, red face, feeling of heat, red tongue and Rapid Overflowing or Hasty Pulse. 

The Heart opens to the tongue, therefore Heart Fire... read more about Heart Fire blazing

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

Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Fire

Zi Xue Dan is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Fire. This pattern leads to symptoms such as tremor, irritability, outbursts of anger and tinnitus. Patients with Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Fire typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or wiry (Xian) pulses.

Liver Fire may generate Wind when it persists for some years. This phenomenon can be compared to a forest fire that generates strong winds.

Internal Wind is characterized by either movement or lack of movement, such as spasms, tics, tremors, numbness, dizziness, convulsions or paralysis. Which is... read more about Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Fire

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

Pericardium Fire

Zi Xue Dan is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Pericardium Fire. This pattern leads to symptoms such as palpitations, stifling sensation in the chest, bitter taste in the mouth and insomnia. Patients with Pericardium Fire typically exhibit overflowing (Hong), rapid (Shu) or full (Shi) pulses.

The Mind resides in both the Heart and the Pericardium. It can be greatly disturbed by Fire in these two Organs and cause symptoms like insomnia, mental restlessness, agitation, and dream disturbed sleep. Comparing with Pericardium Blood Deficiency, the manifestations of above mental emotion are... read more about Pericardium Fire

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