Qing Fen – Calomel – Calomelas

Qing Fen

English Name: calomel

Pharmaceutical Name: Calomelas

Medica Category: Substances for Topical Application

Properties: Qing Fen enters the Liver and Kidney channels; it is acrid in nature and cold in temperature. This substance is considered toxic in TCM theory.

What is Qing Fen?:

The Chinese Herb Qing Fen is calomel, a crystalized mercury chloride salt that turns black with impurities when exposed to light. It was widely used in the West as kind of medical panacea well into the 19th century until many ugly side effects (such as gangrene on the skin, loss of teeth, and deterioration of the gums) were documented. Its use has waned since the toxicity of mercury was recognized by the (Western) medical community. In China, its first recorded use dates back to a text from 741 AD and it is still used today for some topical applications (within strict guidelines—see sections below).

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Therapeutic Actions of Qing Fen:

Qing Fen eliminates toxins and is used topically (in powdered form and in combination with other substances) to address various dermatological disorders characterized by heat-toxins and itching (e.g. scabies, rosacea, and syphilitic chancres, and sores that have turned into non-healing ulcers). Qing Fen is also used topically to address skin parasites and fungal infections (e.g. scabies and ringworm).

Qing Fen promotes normal urination and bowel movement and can be used internally (in combination with cathartic herbs) to dispel internal stagnation that manifests as edema with difficulty urinating and moving the bowels. Note that Qing Fen is contraindicated for edema (or ascites) caused by kidney or liver disease (due to its toxicity).

–safety/clinical notes:

General comments about TCM substances for topical application: these substances are categorized differently because many of them are toxic and so should not be used internally; nor should they be used for prolonged periods or at large dosages. This word of caution extends to using these substances over damaged or broken skin, or near sensory orifices through which they can be absorbed and do damage to sensitive/specialized tissues and mucosa. Furthermore, many of these substances are no longer used in TCM and have been added to this glossary for informational and academic purposes.

Qing Fen is extremely toxic and should only be used internally in very small doses (60 -150 mg.) and no more than twice daily.

Qing Fen is contraindicated for edema due to liver or kidney disease.

Contraindicated for pregnant women and in persons with deficient constitutions.

Use with caution for persons with sensitive skin that is prone to contact dermatitis. It should be noted here that exposure to heat increases risk of contact dermatitis, so when preparing a topical, care should be taken to add Qing Fen after the carrying medium has cooled to room temp.