Wu Gong – Centipede – Scolopendra

Wu Gong

English Name: centipede

Pharmaceutical Name: Scolopendra

Medica Category: Liver-Calming and Wind-Extinguishing Herbs

Properties: Wu Gong enters the Liver channel; it is acrid in nature, warm in temperature, and considered toxic.

What is Wu Gong?:

The Chinese Herb Wu Gong is the dried whole body of the Chinese red-headed centipede (Scolopendra mutilans L. Koch.). After they are collected/caught, they are skewered on bamboo sticks and then dried. For use as medicine, the dried whole body is and left unprocessed or dry-baked before being ground into powder. For topical use, this powder is mixed with sesame oil to make a paste. A third way Wu Gong can be processed is by decocting the dried carcasses in liquid (before powdering) to make a decoction.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Therapeutic Actions of Wu Gong:

Wu Gong penetrates deeply into the body to extinguish internal Liver wind and stop tremors, convulsions, and seizures. Specific clinical presentations addresses by Wu Gong include: spasms, cramps, childhood convulsions, lockjaw, opisthotonos (muscle spasms causing backward arching of the head, neck, and spine), epilepsy, and seizures.

Wu Gong is often used topically disperse stagnation and dissipate toxic (fire) nodules. Clinical applications include: sores, carbuncles, neck lumps, and poisonous snake bites.

Wu Gong unblocks the channels and collaterals and stops pain to treat bi zheng (“painful obstruction syndrome”) caused by wind. This action also makes is applicable to address stubborn/chronic headaches (including migraines—with Tian Ma (gastrodia tuber), Jiang Can (silkworm), and Chuan Xiong (Sichuan lovage root)).

–safety/clinical notes:

Dosage for Wu Gong is 1-3 grams in decoction and 0.6 – 1.0 grams when taken in powder form. When used at normal dosages, no apparent toxicity or side effects occur; that being said, this substance is toxic and should never be used long-term or at a high dose.

Contraindicated during pregnancy.

Contraindicated for internal wind due to deficiency.