Listed as a medium-grade drug in Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica), antelope horns, or known as Ling Yang Jiao, has been utilized as a common Chinese medicine traditionally. To be specific, it has been there for more than 2,000 years and there are tons of records of ancient physicians using antelope horn herb to save the lives of patients who were in a very critical condition. Does it really work? Get to know this amazing herb now and learn how to combine it to bring out its best healing power.
What are antelope horns?
Medicinally it mainly means the horns of Saiga tatarica Linnaeus, which is an animal in the family Bovidae. So, it is also commonly known as saiga antelope horn and Cornu Saigae Tataricae in scientific name. It is mainly produced in Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu and other places. Saiga can be captured all year round and the best hunting time is in autumn. After the hunting, cut its horn with a saw, dry in the sun, and cut it into extremely thin slices with a special knife called “pangdao” or crush into fine powder.
The intact horn is elongated, conical, slightly arched, 15 to 33cm long, white or yellowish-white, and with the base that is about 3cm in diameter. Except for the tip section, there are 11 to 16 uplift ring ridges. Young horn is as smooth as jade and with blood streak or purple markings in perspective; the older one has thin vertical cracks. It is hard, odorless, and tasteless. And the preferred one is tender, white, smooth, and with bloodshot cracks.
Main chemical compositions are keratin, calcium phosphate, insoluble inorganic salts, lysine, serine, glutamate, phenylalanine, leucine, aspartic acid, tyrosine, 17 kinds of amino acids, and 5 phospholipids. Phospholipids include lecithine, cephalin, sphingomyelin, phosphatidylserine, and phosphatidylinositol.
Antelope horn’s health benefits
Antelope twisted horns, musk, deer antler, and rhinoceros horn are known as the 4 most famous animal medicines. And it is an essential ingredient in many ancient renowned prescriptions, such as Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang (Antelope Horn and Uncaria Decoction), Zi Xue Dan (Purple Snow Special Pill), Niu Huang Qing Xin Wan (Calculus Bovis Heart-clearing Pill), and so on. Modern research confirms that this Chinese herb is sedative, analgesic, anticonvulsant, and antipyretic. Besides of that, it also has inhibitory effect on central nervous system. And that’s why so many Chinese families tend to keep antelope horn’s powder in their family medicine cabinets all the time. Actually this is a good idea by doing so because you must have it handy just in case you need it sometime. No wonder now antelope horn supplement and tea are gaining more and more popularity thanks to its proven efficacy.
Modern pharmacological actions of antelope horn
1. Its sheath leach liquor can inhibit the central nervous system, ease pain, and enhance animal’s hypoxia tolerance;
2. Its decoction has anticonvulsant and antipyretic effects;
3. Its decoction or alcohol extract has antihypertensive effect. And in small dose it enhances cardiac contractility in isolated toad heart but in medium or high dose it inhibits the heart.
4. Its decoction has antipyretic effect on rabbit fever induced by typhoid or paratyphoid A and B triple vaccine;
5. Its enzyme and acid hydrolysate have different degrees of inhibition on Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, bacillus influenzae, Group B Streptococcus, and influenza viruses.
Selected antelope horn recipes in herbal remedies
The Chinese Materia Medica holds a view that it is salty in taste and cold in properties and it enters liver and heart meridians. Fundamental effects include calming endogenous wind by suppressing hyperactive liver, removing liver-fire for improving eyesight, and removing pattogenic heat from the blood and toxin from the body. Primary antelope horn uses and indications are epilepsy and convulsion caused by liver wind agitation, tendon spasm, liver-yang type headache and dizziness, liver-fire induced swelling and pain of eye, hemorrhage due to blood-heat, measles in epidemic febrile disease, and carbuncle. Recommended dosage is from 1.5 to 3 grams in decoction, or 0.3 to 0.6 grams in juice, powder, or pills. And please keep in mind to decoct it first for at least 2 hours.
1. Ling Yang Jiao Kou Fu Ye (antelope horn oral solution). This herb is made into oral liquid for the purpose of curing high fever and high-fever induced headache, dizziness, coma and convulsions.
2. Ling Yang Jiao Tang from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Comprehensive Records of Sagely Help). It is used along with Du Huo (Angelica Root), Wu Tou (Radix Aconiti Carmichaeli), and Fang Feng (Saposhnikovia Divaricata) to treat hemiplegia and paralysis of the limbs.
3. Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang from Tong Su Shang Han Lun (Popularized Treatise on Cold Damage). It combines with Gou Teng (Cat’s Claw), Bai Shao (White Peony Root), Ju Hua (Chrysanthemum Morifolium), Sang Ye (White Mulberry Leaf), and Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia) to treat hyperpyrexia, coma, convulsions, and seizures due to intense pathogenic heat in epidemic febrile diseases.
4. Zi Xue Dan from Qian Jin Fang (Thousand golden essential prescriptions). This formula is mainly formulated for heat illness, including symptoms like high fever, coma, delirium, mania, or even convulsions and macula. Other major herbal ingredients are Shi Gao (Gypsum), Han Shui Shi (Calcite Stone), She Xiang (Moschus), etc.
5. Ling Yang Jiao San from Tai Ping Hui Min He Ji Ju Fang (Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary). This recipe is primarily designed for red eyes and headache because of liver fire flaming. Other main herbs are Jue Ming Zi (Cassia Seed), Huang Qin (Scutellaria Baicalensis), Long Dan Cao (Gentiana), Che Qian Zi (Plantain Seeds), and more.
Antelope horns side effects and contraindications
Antelope horns are with very low toxicity. According to animal experiment, the dose of 2g/kg for 7 consecutive times (once a day) could slow weight gain in mice. But no changes were found on eating, defecation, free activities and other aspects. And to date no adverse events were reported clinically. TCM wise it shouldn’t be used in patients with chronic infantile convulsion due to spleen deficiency.