Clam Shells (Hai Ge Ke)

Concha Meretricis/CyclinaeSo, what is the use of clam shells? As one of popular sea shells, the clam shell crafts for kids, decoration, and jewelry making, such as beads, earrings, and necklaces, would be the first things that come to mind. But who would have ever guessed that these cute ornaments could be a good medicine as well? Medicinally it is better known as Hai Ge Ke and good at eliminating phlegm and resolving hard lump. For this reason, it was listed in top-grade herbs in “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic”.

What are clam shells?

Medicinally there are two types of clam shells – Meretrix meretrix Linnaeus (Wen Ge) and Cyclina sinensis Gmelin (Qing Ge), the animal in the family Veneridae. What’s more, it is also commonly known as Hai Ge Qiao, concha cyclinae, concha meretricis, cyclinae sinensis, and concha meretricis seu cyclinae. It is produced in the coastal areas. It lives in beach sands. For medicinal purposes, it is sifted and washed in a pan or basket and used raw or calcined.

Meretrix meretrix Linnaeus is fan-shaped or quasi-circular. Dorsal border is slightly triangular and ventral margin is circular arc, 3 to 10cm long and 2 to 8cm wide. Prominent umbo is located on the back and slightly toward the front. External surface is smooth, brown, and with clear concentric growth lines and usually jagged or wavy brown pattern on the back. Inside it is white and comes with no serrated edges. It is hard, odorless, tasteless, and with laminated striation on cross section.

Cyclina sinensis Gmelin is quasi-circular. Prominent shell top is located near the central dorsal part. Outside is light yellow or brown and with concentric growth lines that slightly protrude the surface of the shell and form ribbed rings. Inside is white or pale red, and the edge often comes with purple and neat little tooth pattern. Both left and right shells of the hinge have 3 main teeth but without lateral teeth.

Main chemical constituents are calcium carbonate and chitin. Raw Cyclina sinensis contains 96.01% calcium carbonate and calcined product 99.94%; raw meretrix meretris contains 96.53% calcium carbonate and calcined product 98.99%. And it also contains a variety of elements of calcium, sodium, iron, strontium, Mg, barium, cobalt, chromium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, and so on.

Clam shell health benefits

Speaking of clam shell, all kids love it so much, especially when they are playing on the beach. They would collect pretty conch shell and clam shell to show them off to other fellows. However, then few people are aware that this is an herb that comes with high medicinal value. And now let its pharmacological actions do the talk for itself.

Modern clamshell pharmacology

1. Anti-aging effect. It can significantly reduce animals’ lipid peroxide while greatly improving the activity of superoxide dismutase;
2. Anti-inflammatory effect. The recipe of combining clamshell, kelp, seaweed, and oysters, can inhibit the proliferation of granulation tissue in rats and tremendously inhibit acetic acid-induced acute peritonitis in mice.

Proven clamshells’ herbal remedies

Chinese Materia Medica believes that this herb is salty in flavor and slightly cold in properties. And it enters three meridians of lung, kidney, and stomach. Its fundamental functions are clearing lung and eliminating phlegm, softening hardness to dissipate stagnation, inducing diuresis to alleviate edema, relieving aching pain, promoting the healing of sores, and astringing dampness. Clamshell medicinal uses and indications include sputum-heat cough, goiter and tumor, subcutaneous nodule, hypochondriac pain, damp-heat edema, stranguria with turbid discharge, stomachache accompanied with acid regurgitation, and ecthyma and eczema. Recommended dosage is from 10 to 15 grams in decoction, pills, or powder.

1. Dai Ge San. Dai Ge San, in combination with Qing Dai (Indigo Naturalis), comes from Wei Sheng Hong Bao (A Great Precious Sanitation). It is mainly designed for thoracic and hypochondrium pain and spitting out phlegm with blood due to stagnated phlegm-fire induced pulmonary collateral impairment.

2. Han Hua Wan. Han Hua Wan is from Zheng Zhi Zhun Sheng (The Level-line of Patterns & Treatment). This prescription is primarily formulated for gall and subcutaneous nodule. Other major herbal ingredients include seaweed, kelp, and so on.

Clam shell side effects and contraindications

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, clam shells were classified as one of superior herbs in “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic”. And currently no clearly recognized adverse reactions and drug interactions were reported. From the standpoint of TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine), use it with caution in the case of deficiency-cold in spleen and stomach.

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