Medicinally dragon bones, or known as Long Gu in mandarin, are one of the best traditional Chinese herbs for the treatment of insomnia, palpitation, irritability, mania, or neurotic disorders. Of course, it isn’t referring to bone of the legendary creature that is with serpentine trait. So why is this herb named as dragon bone? The reason is quite simple – the science and technology in the ancient China weren’t developed enough to figure out what fossil is. Hence, ancients associated it with this mythical animal and even viewed its remains as a panacea. However, its miracle healing power is not entirely groundless. The history of dragon bones usage in clinic can be dated back to Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). It is usually used raw but the calcinated one can add some other medicinal effects, especially for treating various eczema and erupted sores that remain unhealed.
What are dragon bones?
It mainly refers to the ossature fossil of ancient time’s mammals, such as proboscidae, hipparion, elasmotheres, cervidae, bovid, and so on. Other names include Fossilized Bones, Fossilia Ossis Mastodi, Ossa Draconis, Os Draconis, Dragon’s Bone, bones of the dragon, and so on. It should be emphasized that those animal bones that are unfossilized or age-old and completely petrified cannot be used for medicinal purposes since has no moisture absorption at all. In China it is basically produced in Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Henan, Hebei, Shaanxi, Gansu and other places. It can be collected all year round – dig out, remove dirt and impurities, store in a dry place, and use raw or calcined.
Medicinally the Wu Hua Long Gu is usually considered with a better efficacy. It is in irregular sizes and shapes. And it is yellowish white, mixed up with blue-gray and red-brown patterns, and with varying shades and thickness. Surface is smooth, and with small cracks occasionally. Section is mostly rough, hard and brittle, and easily peeled off and scattered into pieces. It is highly absorbent and has suction when licked with tongue. It is odorless and tasteless. On quality the preferred one is crisp, layered with colored patterns, and with high hygroscopicity.
Basic chemical compositions include calcium carbonate (CaCO3), calcium phosphate [Ca3 (PO4) 2], iron, potassium, sodium, chloride, sulfate, and so on.
Dragon bone health benefits
As has been noted, clinically it has been widely used for the treatment of hypertension, delirium, coronary heart disease, mental illness, schizophrenia, anxiety, and so on. Take treating insomnia as an example. As you know, sleep, as essential as water and food to the human body, is one of extremely important life-sustaining physiological functions. Poor quality of seep will lead to reduced people’s decision making ability, impaired brain function, emotional instability, uncontrolled behavior, paranoia, and lower attention span. And long-term insomnia can, worse still, seriously affect the work and learning, and thus greatly reduce the quality of life and speed up the aging process. As far as insomnia is concerned, it can be triggered by a variety of causes. But apparently in this modern society, most of them are associated with stress, more or less. From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, most of drugs of minerals, fossils, and shells are heavy and descending in nature. Heaviness is able to calm and remove timidity and descending means suppress yang. From the point of view of the modern medicine, these herbs are rich in phosphorus and calcium ingredients, which are of great help on tranquilizing and allaying excitement. By the way, Long Chi (Dens Draconis), Zhen Zhu Mu (Pearl Shell), Shi Jue Ming (Abalone Shell), etc. are also considered with ability of calming nerves and helping fall asleep fast.
Modern pharmacological actions of ossa draconis
1. Its water decoction has obvious inhibition on mice’s locomotor activity and can significantly increase the sleep rate of mice anesthetized with sodium pentobarbital;
2. It has anticonvulsant effect, which is relevant to the content of copper and manganese;
3. Calcium ions contained can promote blood clotting, reduce the permeability of vascular wall, and reduce muscle excitability.
Selected herbal remedies on fossilia ossis mastodi
In The Dictionary of Medicinal Plant, it is sweet in flavor and astringent, neutral, and non-toxic in properties. It goes to 4 meridians, including heart, liver, kidney, and large intestine. Primary functions are relieving convulsion, soothing the nerves, calming the liver and suppressing yang, inducing astringency, and astringing. Prime dragon bones usage and indications include epilepsy and mania, palpitation, insomnia, forgetfulness, dizziness, spontaneous sweating, emission enuresis, enuresis, metrorrhagia and metrostaxis, morbid leucorrhea, chronic diarrhea and dysentery, non-healing ulcers and eczema. Recommended dosage is from 15 to 30 grams in decoction, pill, or powder. And to bring out the best of this herb, it should be decocted before other ingredients.
1. Kong Sheng Zhen Zhong Dan from Qian Jin Fang (Thousand golden essential prescriptions). It is formulated with Shi Chang Pu (Acorus), Yuan Zhi (Senega Root), etc. for restlessness, palpitations, insomnia, forgetfulness, dreaminess, and more.
2. Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang from Yi Xue Zhong Zhong Can Xi Lu (Records of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Combination with Western Medicine). It is used together with Dai Zhe Shi (Hermatite), Sheng Mu Li (Concha Ostreae), Bai Shao (White Peony Root), etc. for treating dizziness and irritability caused by lack of liver-yin and hyperactivity of liver-yang.
3. Jin Suo Guo Jing Wan from Yi Fang Ji Jie (Wang Ang and his Variorum of medical recipes). It is combined with Qian Shi (Euryale Seed), Sha Yuan Zi (Semen Astragali Complanati), Mu Li (Oyster Shell), and more to cure nocturnal emission or spermatorrhea due to kidney deficiency.
4. Sang Piao Xiao San from Ben Cao Yan Yi (Extension of the Materia Medica). It is matched with Sang Piao Xiao (Ootheca Mantidis), Gui Jia (Reeves’ Turtle Shell), Fu Shen (Poria cocos fungus), etc. to relieve frequent urination and enuresis due to heart and kidney deficiency.
5. Long Gu Wan from Wei Shi Jia Cang Fang (Formulas of Dr. Wei’s Family Treasure). It is mixed with Chi Shi Zhi (Kaolin), sticky rice (dried) and Bai Fu Ling (White Poria) to bring an end to the gonorrhea.
6. Long Gu San from Jing Yue Quan Shu (Jingyue’s Collected Writings). It is designed with Dang Gui (Dong Quai), Xiang Fu (Cyperus), and palm fiber ash to stop vaginal bleeding.
Dragon bones side effects and contraindications
It has been reported that there were 2 cases of allergic reactions occurred in the processing of dragon bone powder. Clinical manifestations include itching, red rash, localized swelling, etc. on exposed skin. In addition, 1 case of serious arrhythmia was reported after oral administration of its decoction. TCM wise Chinese dragon bones should not be used by the patients with damp-heat stagnation.