Shui Zhi – Medicinal Leech – Hirudo

Shui Zhi

English Name: medicinal leech

Pharmaceutical Name: Hirudo

Medica Category: Blood-Invigorating and Stasis-Removing Herbs

Properties: Shui Jui enters the Liver channel; it is salty and bitter in nature and neutral in temperature. Considered slightly toxic.

What is Shui Zhi?:

The Chinese Herb comes from certain species of dried leech (Hirudo nipponica Whitman; and 2 others), the medicinal use of which has been long documented in traditional cultures. The active substance in this herb is called hirudin, and it is the basis for a FDA-approved pharmaceutical drug (called lepirudin) that is used as an anti-coagulant medication.

Shui Zhi is often dry-fried to reduce its toxicity and unpleasant odor.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Therapeutic Actions of Shui Zhi:

Shui Zhi breaks up and eliminates blood stasis in severe cases to address amenorrhea, palpable, immobile abdominal masses, and traumatic/sports injuries (with severe pain and bruising)… it should be noted that this herb is a very strong substance with which to break up blood stasis and can easily injure the qi if not used properly (i.e. in formula with tonic herbs such as Ren Shen or Shu Di Huang).

–safety notes:

Contraindicated during pregnancy as it can have abortifacient and teratogenic effects.

Contraindicated for those with blood deficiency or without stasis.

Contraindicated for overall deficiency patterns

Shui Zhi should be used with caution in persons taking anticoagulant medications such as heparin, warfarin (Coumadin) and enoxaparin (Lovenox) or antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin, dipyridamole (Persantine) and clopidogrel (Plavix) as concurrent use may have an additive or synergistic effect.