The edible and medicinal value of black striped snake, also known as Zaocys or Wu Shao She in Pinyin, has been detailed in the “Compendium of Materia Medica”, the most complete medical book written by Li Shizhen in Ming Dynasty. Today it amazes the modern people once again with its proven health benefits, especially in the treatment of rheumatism. In fact, a lot of Chinese herbal medicines contains or features this snake for the purpose of curing rheumatic diseases. Besides the dried form, its snake slough is also a good ingredient in making medicinal liquor.
What is black striped snake?
This Chinese herb refers to the dry body of Zaocys dhumnades (Cantor), a species in the family Colubridae. It is mostly captured in summer and fall. And then it should be peeled, gutted, coiled, and dried. Medicinally it is used raw or prepared with wine. And it is commonly known as Chinese rat snake too.
As a large non-poisonous snake, it is widely distributed in China. And this indigenous species has not yet been found in other countries. A full grown Zaocys size reaches 2 meters long, with back colors of greenish brown, reddish brown, and black brown. They have two distinct black lines running through the body. But these lines will be gradually hidden when they are fully grown. The habitat is hilly areas. They mainly feed on frogs, lizards, fish, rodents, and so on. Currently the outdoor survival number of Zaocys is greatly reduced due to habitat destruction and hunting by human beings. Because of its fast growth, strong adaptability, good disease resistance, and great demand in the market, they are suitable for artificial breeding. The female snake lays 7 to 30 eggs each time and the incubation period ranges from 45 to 50 days.
It contains 17 kinds of amino acids, such as lysine, leucine, glutamic acid, alanine, cystine and others. Besides, it still contains Fructose 1,6-bisphosphatase, tropomyosin and so on.
Black striped snake health benefits
Nowadays the supply of Zaocys falls short of demand for some obvious reasons. One of pressing reason is the increasing population of patients who are suffering from cerebrovascular disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and hemiplegic paralysis since we are entering a society plagued by the aging problem. As far as TCM is concerned, this is an essential ingredient in the treatment of stroke and hemiplegia since it is good at dispelling and searching for the pathogenic wind. As a result, many Zaocys-based Chinese patent medicines, typifying by Huatuo Zaizao pills, are developed by medium and small pharmaceutical companies in China.
In TCM, snakes, e.g. Zaocys, Agkistrodon, and Bungarus, are believed with cursorial medicinal properties. Therefore, they are especially suitable for chronic stagnation of wind-toxicity. However, they show a different degree of healing power in this regard. Among them, the most powerful one is Bungarus, followed by Agkistrodon and Zaocys. In addition, both Agkistrodon and Bungarus are toxic and partially warm and dry. In comparison, Zaocys is neutral, non-toxic, and mild in nature.
Modern pharmacological actions of Zaocys
1) Its decoction and alcohol extract is anti-inflammatory, sedative and analgesic;
2) Its serum can serve as an antivenin to agkistrodon acutus venom.
Sample Zaocys recipes on herbal remedies
The “Chinese Pharmacopoeia” thinks that it is sweet in flavor and neutral in nature. It involves in liver channel. Primary functions include dispelling wind, dredging collaterals, and relieving convulsion. Essential black striped snake uses and indications are rheumatism, chronic arthralgia, numbness, spasm, drooping mouth and eyes caused by stroke, hemiplegia, convulsions, tetanus, leprosy, scabies, malignant sore, and scrofula. Recommended dosage is from 9 to 12 grams in decoction.
1) Wu She Wan from Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief). It is combined with Quan Xie (Scorpion), Tian Nan Xing (Arisaema), Fang Feng (Radix Saposhnikoviae), etc. to treat weakness, numbness, and spasm of limbs;
2) Wu She Jiu from Ben Cao Gang Mu (the “Compendium of Materia Medica”). It is used along to make wine to cure chronic arthralgia, paralysis, spasm, and pain;
3) Wu She San from Wei Sheng Jia Bao Fang (Treasured Family Prescriptions for Health). It is formulated with She Xiang (Musk), Zao Jia (Chinese honey locust), etc. to heal pediatric acute and chronic convulsions;
4) Ding Ming San from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It is often equipped with Qi She (Agkistrodon) and Wu Gong (centipedes) to treat convulsions and spasms due to tetanus;
5) Wu She Wan from Mi Chuan Da Ma Feng (Esoteric Leprosy Prescriptions). It works with Bai Fu Zi (Typhonium Rhizome), Da Feng Zi (Hydnocarpus anthelmintica), Bai Zhi (Angelica Root), etc. to cure leprosy and scabies;
6) San Wei Wu She San from the “Complete Record of Holy Benevolence”. It is coupled with Zhi Ke (Fructus Aurantii) and He Ye (Lotus Leaf) to heal dry and wet ringworm.
Black stripe snake side effects and contraindications
Black striped snake may cause stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, and other adverse reactions in some individuals after it is taken orally. TCM wise, avoid it in the case of blood deficiency causing wind.