Shi Gao - Gypsum

TCM Materia Medica

Shi Gao TCM Herb Classifications and Usages

The TCM herb "shi gao" which in english is "gypsum", is categorized within the "herbs that drain fire" functional grouping. It is thought to enter the lung and stomach channels and exhibits acrid, cold (han) and sweet (gan) taste/temperature properties.

Dosages and preparations will vary according to each individual and the overall approach of a formula, but generally this herb has the following dosage and/or preparation guidelines:

  • Dosage: 9-30g
  • Up to 90g for very high fevers
  • Break up and cook 30 minutes before adding other herbs

Of many possible clinical applications, it may be considered to influence the following issues/symptoms:

  • The most important herb to clear internal heat, especially in the qi and yang ming levels.
  • Clears heat, drains fire (heavy, descending) - high fever with no chills, excessive thirst, sweating, flooding and big pulse (the "4 bigs"), irritability, red tongue with yellow coat.
  • Clears excess lung heat - cough, wheezing, fever, thick yellow sputum.
  • Clears blazing stomach fire - headache, toothache, painful and swollen gums.
  • Topically for eczema, burns, ulcerated sores; may also be taken internally.

Shi Gao has some precautions to be considered (see our precautions list).

  • Avoid in patients with a weak stomach, weak pulse, and yang deficiency.
  • Avoid in cases with heat from yin deficiency.

Our clinical staff have made the following notes, regarding shi gao:

  • Unlike other bitter-cold herbs that clear heat (not for long periods, hidden heat syndromes, injure yin (bitterness) and stomach), Shi Gao is bitter and sweet - benefits yin, clears heat without hurting the stomach.
  • When the calcined form is used it is for burns, eczema, abscesses, and nonhealing ulcers.
  • Many texts do not require Shi Gao to be cooked longer - this seems to be the right way, however, according to research and experience.

While it may not always be included depending on the manufacturer or herbalist making the formula, shi gao is generally included in the following 4 formulas:

ViewBai Hu Wan (White Tiger Decoction)

In 6 channel theory, Yang ming channel heat or the "4 bigs" - big thirst, big sweat, big thirst, big pulse - accordingly, fever, thirst, profuse sweating, aversion to heat. Many symptoms may fit t…

ViewQing Bi Wan (Clear The Nose Decoction)

Sinus issues arising from damp-heat pattern in Chinese Medicine - yellow and sticky discharge, sinusitis, rhinitis acute or chronic. Sinus headache, decreased olfactory sense.  

ViewXiao Feng Wan (Clear Wind Pill)

Itchy and red skin lesions, possibly with weeping -psoriasis, eczema, acne, etc. Topical allergic response, dermatitis -poison ivy, oak, sumac. Acute [allergic] edema in the limbs.  

ViewXin Yi Qing Fei Wan (Magnolia Flower Drink To Clear The Lungs)

Colds and/or allergies with heat signs (yellow mucus and/or fever, etc.). Chronic sinus congestions / issues, chronic sinusitis, chronic rhinitis, loss of smell. Nasal polyps with the right underly…

As noted above, shi gao is within the herbs that drain fire functional group. All the herbs in this category are listed below.

(truncated intro "... very cold - for high fever, irritability, thirst, delirium associated with febrile disease. qi level or yang ming level disorders. )".

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