Zhu Sha – Cinnabar – Cinnabaris

Zhu Sha

English Name: cinnabar

Pharmaceutical Name: Cinnabaris

Medica Category: Shen Calming Herbs

Properties: Zhu Sha enters the Heart channel; it is sweet in nature, cold in temperature, and considered toxic.

What is Zhu Sha?:

The Chinese Herb Zhu Sha is a type of mineral ore primarily consisting of mercury sulphide; it is red in color with a lustrous sheen to it. In China, it is mined Hunan, Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces. For medicinal use, the purest specimens are selected, rinsed thoroughly, and then ground down into powder to be taken in pill form only (as decocting it would add heat and increase the risk of mercury poisoning).

Cinnabar/Zhu Sha contains mercury and is toxic. It is rarely used today in the practice of TCM—the discussion here is primarily educational: to reflect the historical uses of this substances as well as to help practitioners choose other herbs/substances that have similar actions when dealing with conditions of excess Heart fire (see below).

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Therapeutic Actions of Zhu Sha:

Zhu Sha is sinking, heavy, and cold in nature—it enters the Heart channel to help sedate excess Heart fire and anchor the Shen in its home and historically was considered essential in treating restlessness, anxiety, severe fright, and palpitations. Severe excess of Heart fire can beget a disorder known in TCM as “phlegm misting the orifices”. This can manifest as convulsions, epilepsy, delirium, mania, or schizophrenia.

Zhu Sha clears heat and toxins and was used both internally and topically to address sores, carbuncles, and other swellings.

–safety notes:

Zhu Rha is mercury sulfide ore and considered toxic—if used at all, it should be only for short-term relief of severe symptoms and under close medical supervision.

Zhu Rha is contraindicated for use in persons with pre-existing Liver and Kidney conditions.

Processing Zhu Rha with heat increases its toxicity.