In this article I list non-herbs (animal products and minerals) from the traditional Chinese pharmacopoeia that can help alleviate sleep and dream problems, such as insomnia, excessive dreaming, nightmares and bad dreams, and so on.
They are listed below along with their indications (specific conditions for which the remedy is used) and contraindications (conditions in which the remedy should not be used).
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The below non-herbs are powerful medicines. Do not take them without consulting with your physician first, especially if you suffer from any disease or are taking medications. Note that substances which are sedatives should not be taken while driving, etc. or together with other sedatives.
Bie Jia (Carapax Trionycis)
Zoological name: Trionyx sinensis.
English name: Turtle shell (dorsal side of tortoise shell).
Contraindications: Pregnancy, Spleen-deficiency with loose stools or diarrhea, and for patients who have not completely recovered from an exterior disorder.
Chan Tui (Periostracum Cicadae)
- Cryptotympana atrata
- Cryptotympana pustulata
English name: Cicada moulting.
Indications: As a CNS suppressant, it may prolong sleeping time induced by barbiturates and counter excitation induced by caffeine.
Contraindications: Pregnancy. Qi and yin deficiency. May induce drowsiness and sedation; exercise caution in driving or operating heavy machinery.
Ci Shi (Magnetitum)
English name: Magnetite.
Indications: Insomnia, anxiety.
Contraindications: Excessive or prolonged intake.
Dai Zhe Shi (Haematitum)
English name: Hematite.
Contraindications: Pregnancy and cold conditions. Do not use a large dose or for a prolonged period of time.
Gui Ban (Plastrum Testudinis)
Zoological name: Chinemys reevesii.
English name: Tortoise plastron (ventral side of tortoise shell).
Indications: Insomnia, anxiety.
Contraindications: Pregnancy, diarrhea, deficiency-related cold, or damp-cold.
Hu Po (Succinum)
English name: Amber.
Contraindications: Yin-deficient heat and/or frequent urination. As a CNS suppressant, it may prolong sleeping time induced by barbiturates. Use may be associated with drowsiness and sedation. Therefore, exercise caution if driving or operating heavy machinery.
Ling Yang Jiao (Cornu Saigae Tataricae)
Zoological name: Saiga tatarica.
English name: Antelope horn.
Indications: Insomnia, nightmares.
Contraindications: Spleen deficiency. As a sedative, it may increase drug-induced sleeping time.
Long Chi (Dens Draconis)
English name: Fossilized animal teeth.
Indications: Anxiety, insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep.
Long Gu (Os Draconis)
English name: Fossilized animal bones.
Indications: Insomnia, easily becoming frightened or awakened by dreams, anxiety.
Contraindications: Nocturnal emissions caused by fire. Damp-heat or externally-contracted disorders.
Lu Rong (Cornu Cervi Pantotrichum)
- Cervus nippon
- Cervus elaphus
English name: Deer horn (antler).
Indications: Improves sleep.
Contraindications: Yin-deficient heat, phlegm-heat in the Lung, Stomach fire and excess, or stagnant conditions caused by heat. Bleeding because of yin-deficient fire.
Mu Li (Concha Ostreae)
- Ostrea gigas
- Ostrea talienwhanensis
- Ostrea rivularis
English name: Oyster shell.
Contraindications: Damp-heat or excess conditions.
Shi Gao (Gypsum Fibrosum)
English name: Gypsum.
Contraindications: Qi deficiency, yin deficiency, Spleen yang deficiency, deficient cold of the Stomach, or fever due to yin deficiency. Not suitable for long-term use and should be stopped as soon as the desired effect is achieved.
Shi Jue Ming (Concha Haliotidis)
- Haliotis diversicolor
- Haliotis gigantea discus
- Haliotis discus hannai
- Haliotis ovina
- Haliotis ruler
- Haliotis asinina
- Haliotis laevigata
English name: Abalone shell.
Contraindications: Deficiency and cold of the Spleen and Stomach, or those with poor appetite and loose stools.
Xi Jiao (Cornu Rhinoceri)
- Rhinoceros unicornis
- Rhinoceros sondaicus
- Rhinoceros sumatrensis
- Rhinoceros bicornis
- Rhinoceros simus
English name: Rhinoceros horn.
Contraindications: Coldness and water accumulation in the Heart channel. May prolong sleeping time induced by barbiturates.
Zhen Zhu (Margarita)
- Cristaria plicata
- Hyriopsis cumingii
- Pteria martensii
- Anodonta woodiana
English name: Pearl.
Zhen Zhu Mu (Concha Margaritaferae)
- Cristaria plicata.
- Hyriopsis cumingii.
- Pteria martensii.
English name: Mother of pearl.
Indications: Frequent dreams, insomnia.
Contraindications: Coldness and water accumulation in the Heart channel.
Zhu Sha (Cinnabaris)
English name: Cinnabar.
Indications: Insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep.
Contraindications: Do not use at a large dosage or for a long period of time. Use with extreme caution for those with compromised liver and kidney functions. Do not process Zhu Sha with heat.
Chen, J. K. and Chen, T. T., Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. Art of Medicine Press, Inc. City of Industry, CA, USA.