Sericulture, so to speak, is the most successful exploitation and utilization of insect resources in ancient China. Silk worms were once the wild insect feeding on mulberry (Morus alba L.) leaves and later tamed in silk farm mainly for filature. The domestication is a lengthy process, which began about 5,000 years ago. During the rearing, people stumbled upon healing properties of itself and even its metabolic product – Bombyx Mori Feces (Can Sha).
What are bombyx mori feces?
Also known as Excrementum Bombycis Mon. in Latin, it refers to dried excrement of the larva or caterpillar of the domesticated silk moth. Silkworm has a rather short life cycle. Generally silkworm feces are collected for medicinal purpose during June to August, mainly in the second and third sleeps. As far as the quality concern, the autumn one is preferred to the spring one.
Dried feces are cylinder-shaped particles, 2 to 5mm long, 1.5 to 5mm in diameter. The surface is grey, rough, and with six obvious longitudinal ridge and 3 to 4 light horizontal lines. Both ends are slightly flat and with six edges in transverse section. The texture is solid and crisp, and fragile in wet condition. And it smells slightly like fresh grass. The preferred one is dry, black, solid, even, and inclusion free.
What is it used for?
It is widely used in ancient Chinese herbal remedies. It is sweet, acrid, and warm in nature and covers meridians of liver, spleen and stomach.
Main functions are to expel wind-damp and harmonize stomach for transforming dampness. Main uses and indications are Bi syndrome (channel blockade), vomit, spasm, diarrhea, and rashes.
Usual dosage is 5 to 15 grams in decoction.
Related Chinese herbal formulas
(1). Syndrome of wind-dampness. This herb can be used in a variety of Bi syndromes thanks to its excellent properties of expelling wind and removing dampness. Recorded in Qian Jin Fang (Thousand Pieces of Gold Formulae), it irons the affected part after steaming for treatments of rheumatic pain and hemiplegia; it cures blockade by cold, wind, and dampness pathogens in combination of Qiang Huo (Notopterygium Root), Du Huo (Angelica Root), and Wei Ling Xian (Clematis Root), etc.; in Xuan Bi Tang, from Detailed Analysis of Warm Diseases (Wen Bing Tiao Bian), it combines with Fang Ji (Stephania Root), Yi Yi Ren (Seeds of Job’s Tears), and Zhi Zi (Cape Jasmine Fruit) for remedies of blockade by pathogens of wind, dampness, and heat and restless arthralgia limbs;
(2). Vomit, diarrhea and spasm. This herb enters spleen and stomach to harmonize stomach and transform dampness, which ends up relieving diarrhea and the sinews. In this case, very often it works along with Mu Gua (Quince Fruit), Wu Zhu Yu (Evodia Fruit), and Yi Yi Ren, for example, in Can Shi Tang in Huo Luan Lun (Discussion of Sudden Turmoil Disorders);
(3). Nettle rash, eczema, and pruritus. It can be applied externally alone or together with Bai Xian Pi (Dictamnus Root Bark), Di Fu Zi (Broom Cyprus Fruit), and Chan Tui (Cicada Moulting), etc.
(1). Chemical constituents. It contains chlorophyll, phytol, β-sitosterol, cholesterol, ergosterol, lupeol, amino acid, carotene, and vitamin B and C, etc.;
(2). Pharmacological effects. The decoction has anti-inflammatory and growth-promoting effects. In addition, phyllins inhibit liver cancer cell growth in vitro;
(3). Clinical research.
(A). Gan Xue Bao Pian is made by sodium copper, the extract of phyllins from silk worm feces. Each tablet is 20mg. This tablet, reportedly, treated 265 cases of aleukocytosis, 2 each time, and three times a day. As a result, the effective rate was 88.7%;
(B). Sodium iron chlorophyllin (SIC) capsule is processed from bombyx mori feces, 20mg each. Reportedly it was ever used for treating 30 cases of iron deficiency anemia, 2 each time, and three times daily. As a result, the cure and improvement rates were 100%;
(C). 15 to 60 grams of silkworm feces is used as decoction to replace tea to treat 35 cases of canker sore. And the therapeutic effects were significant;
(D). The grinding powder after charred has good effect for uterine bleeding.
Potential side effects and contraindications
TCM wise, silkworm feces have little side effects if used properly. But please keep in mind that it is not suitable for those with paralysis caused by blood deficiency failing to nourish channels rather than by invasion of wind-damp pathogens.
(A). Bull Med Res, 1988, 4:23;
(B). Bull Med Res, 1989, 7:30;A
(C). Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 2000, 12:759.