Cuttlefish Bone (Cuttlebone, Hai Piao Xiao)

Sepiae Endoconcha As far as cuttlefish bone, or cuttlebone, is concerned, it plays a variety of different roles in the eyes of people from different backgrounds. From the perspective of a TCM practitioner, it is better known as Hai Piao Xiao, an effective Chinese herb that is commonly used in the treatments of gastritis and nocturnal emission; from the owners of caged birds, budgies, reptiles, and others, it serves as a good supplement that is rich in calcium; from a dentist, it is a wonderful absorbent that is frequently used to stop bleeding after tooth extraction or nose surgery; from Jewelers, it is an amazing mold-making material thanks to its heat-resisting, easy-carving and casting nature. But be that as it may, cuttlebones are still a strange thing to most people in everyday life. That is to say, few people are aware of its impressive medicinal uses. And this is exactly what this article is all about.

What is cuttlefish bone?

From the point of view of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the authentic cuttlebone refers to the internal structure from Sepiella maindroni de Rochebrune or Sepia esculenta Hoyle, the species in the family Sepiidae. And it is also commonly known as Sepiae Endoconcha, Endoconcha Sepiae, Os Sepiae seu Sepiellae, Wu Zei Gu, and Sepia esculenta bone. Medicinally it is mainly produced in shallow water of Liaoning, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and other coastal provinces.

Bones of Sepiella maindroni de Rochebrune is flat oblong, 9 to 14cm long, 2.5 to 3.5cm wide, about 1.3cm thick, and with thick middle and thin edge. Back side comes with white ridges, slightly reddish sides, and inconspicuous small warts; ventral side is white and with fine wavy horizontal lines from the end to the middle. Horny edge is translucent. Tail is wide flat but with no spicules. It is lightweight, loose, easily broken, and with floured cross section and puff laminated striation. It is slightly fishy in taste and slightly salty in flavor. Bones of Sepia esculenta Hoyle is 13 to 23cm in length, and about 6.5cm in width. Back side has clear warts in slightly layered arrangement; ventral side comes with fine wavy cross-laminated that is accounted for most of the body and longitudinal shallow groove in the middle. Horny edge in the tail becomes wider gradually and tilts to the ventral side. And there is a bone spicule at the end but most of them are broken.

Main chemical compositions are 87.3% to 91.75% calcium carbonate, chitin, and phlegmatic temperament. In addition, it also contains multiple trace elements, including large amounts of calcium, a small amount of sodium, strontium, magnesium, iron, and trace amounts of silicon, aluminum, titanium, manganese, barium, and copper.

Cuttlefish bone benefits

Today cuttlebones are widely used in the treatments of gastric and duodenal ulcer, bleeding and perforation caused by ulcer, asthma, leg ulcers, and bleeding after pulling out a tooth and nasal surgery. So, how to take advantage of the health benefits from cuttlebones? And its pharmacological actions can give some inspirations.

Modern cuttlebone pharmacology

1. It resists peptic ulcer, tumor, and radiation and sets a broken bone;
2. Calcium carbonate contained can neutralize stomach acid, change the pH of the stomach contents, reduce pepsin activity, and promote the healing of ulcers;
3. After chitin contained reacts with organic matter in stomach and gastric juice, it could form a protective layer on the surface of the ulcer and then promote the blood coagulation;
4. Animal experiments showed that cuttlebone could obviously promote bone defect repair;
5. Its extract by edetic acid can inhibit S180 sarcoma and ascites sarcoma;
6. Its water extract by intragastric administration can significantly improve the survival rate of rats received 60Co radiation and serotonin levels in the blood.

Proven cuttlebone herbal remedies

The Chinese Materia Medica believes that cuttlebone is salty in flavor and astringent and warm in properties. And it goes to two meridians of liver and kidney. Chief functions include astringency and hemostasis, arresting spontaneous emission and leukorrhagia, relieving aching pain, astringing dampness to heal sores. Basic cuttlefish bone uses and indications are spitting blood, metrorrhagia and metrostaxis, having blood in the stool, nosebleed, traumatic hemorrhage, spermatorrhea due to kidney deficiency, leukorrhea with reddish discharge, gastralgia, belching and acid regurgitation, eczema, and ulcers. Recommended dosage is from 10 to 30 grams in decoction, or 1.5 to 3 grams in powder.

1. Bai Fen San. Bai Fen San comes from Xiao Er Yao Zheng Zhi Jue (Key to Syndrome Identification and Treatment of Diseases in Infants). In this formula, Hai Piao Xiao combines with Bai Ji (Bletilla Rhizome) and Qing Fen (calomel) to treat all various malnutrition sores.

2. Bai Zhi San. Bai Zhi San is from Fu Ren Da Quan Liang Fang (Great Complete Collection of Fine Formulas for Women). In this prescription, Hai Piao Xiao works along with Bai Zhi (Angelica Root) and Xue Yu Tan (Crinis Carbonisatus) to cure leukorrhea with reddish discharge.

3. Gu Chong Tang. Gu Chong Tang is chosen from Yi Xue Zhong Zhong Can Xi Lu (Records of Heart-Felt Experiences in Medicine with Reference to the West). This recipe is exclusively formulated for uterine bleeding. And other main herbal ingredients include Qian Cao Gen (Rubia Root), Zong Lu Tan (Fibra Stipulae Trachycarpi),Wu Bei Zi (Gallnut of Chinese Sumac),and more.

Cuttlebone side effects and contraindications

Up to now, no noted adverse reactions and drug interactions associated with cuttlefish bone were reported. For all this, TCM tends to think that it should be used with care in case of fire excess from yin deficiency. Otherwise, long-term use of this herb may cause constipation. By the way, it is highly recommended to use it together with other herbs that can lubricate the intestines.

5 thoughts on “Cuttlefish Bone (Cuttlebone, Hai Piao Xiao)

  1. Vanessa


    My budgie is now clear from a megabateriosis, but it has causes stomach lining damage. The vet said she will not survive the 1st month.. I see cuttlefish bone helps heal the ulcers, but what other herbs do I need to use in combination with?

    Thank you

    Hope to hear from you soon

    Kind Regards


    1. admin Post author

      I’m so sorry to hear that. It is right that cuttlefish bone is frequently used for stomach illness in human. But as you know, an effective formula is based on Four Diagnostic Methods – look, listen, question and feel the pulse. Hence, sorry for so little I can do for your budgie. And if you would like to use natural herbs, for your reference here are some information I can come up with. Hericium can provide good protection to gastric mucosa. And saponins contained in astragalus, codonopsis and ginseng can inhibit viruses and bacteria’s growth while boosting the immune system, which is helpful on gastric mucosal injury due to infection.

  2. Vanessa

    Thank you for your advice. I will try to look for them.
    For the ginseng, is there a particular one that needs to be used?

  3. Lee

    I am desperate to find a natural cure for my poor old dog with cushings disease. As it is causing her kidney damage Thru so much urinating, I wonder if this could help? Or can you please suggest anything natural?
    Thank you.


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