Litharge (Mi Tuo Seng)

lead monoxideLitharge, also known as galena or Mi Tuo Seng in mandarin, is an impressive Chinese herb mainly for external use. If used in the proper way, it may surprise you with its amazing healing power on acne remedy, pimples scars removal, etc. Usually litharge needs to be combined with some other herbs to yield the best result. In fact ancient Chinese physicians have already accumulated tons of knowledge from their clinical practice and experiments for us. To date most of the survived recipes are still in use. And the medicinal uses of litharge cover acne, rosacea, tinea versicolor, freckle, dark spots, chloasma, vitiligo, hircismus, eczema, pruritusm, scrotal dermatitis, tinea pedis and manuum, bedsores, Hemorrhoids, recurrent aphthous, and more. A good medicine as it is, you have to figure out its nature in the first place to make it to your advantage since it is generally considered poisonous. Want to know how to remove dark spots from acne or remove pimple scars with this mineral herb? So, stay tuned!

What is lead oxide or litharge?

Litharge mineral is very rare in the natural world. It is in the shape of small croci sheets or earthy powder. It mainly contains PbO, a composition oxidized from galena. Medicinally it refers to lead oxide that is made from the raw material of lead. Hence, other names of it include lithargyrum, lithargite, Lead (II) oxide, lead monoxide, litharge powder, and so on.

Lead oxide is a type of yellow/reddish yellow powder or fine flaky crystal, whose color is inconstant and easy to change when exposed to light. Boiling point is 1535℃. Melting point is 888 ℃. It is insoluble in water and in ethanol, but soluble in nitric acid, acetic acid, and hot lye. Relative density is 9.53 g/cm3 (water=1). When exposed in air, it can gradually absorb carbon dioxide. When heated to 300 to 500℃, it turns into lead tetroxide, and into lead oxide under higher temperature. It is poisonous.

Litharge mainly contains PbO. In addition, it still has a small amount of sand, metallic lead, lead dioxide (PbO2), trace amounts of lead, antimony, iron, calcium, magnesium, and other inclusions.

What is litharge used for?

Beside of medicine, it is still used for manufacturing white lead paint, lead soap, cosolvent in metallurgy, paint driers, ceramic materials, rubber vulcanization accelerators, pesticides, and so on. Medicinally it is usually used externally. And pharmacological studies have confirmed that it could kill skin fungus, reduce inflammation, protect ulcer surface, reduce mucus secretion, etc. Actually its health benefits on fading dark spots has been discovered for so long – Tang Ben Cao (Tang Materia Medica) says that it can be used as scar removing creams and the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing Shu (Commentary on ‘Shen Nong’s Classic of the Materia Medica) claims that it is good at healing metal-inflicted wound and removing acne scars from face. Accordingly, today many ancient beauty recipes still exist. For instance, the formula of Yu Rong San (fair face powder) alone, there are a few different versions. So to speak, it is one of the best dark spots removers you can find these days.

Modern pharmacological actions of lead oxide

1. In vitro 2% litharge cream inhibits Trichophyton, Trichophyton violaceum, Trichophyton rubrum and some spore bacteria;
2. In vitro 4% litharge cream shows inhibition on Epidermophyton floccosum, trichophyton gypseum, Trichophyton schoenleinii and its Mongolia variant, and so on;
3. Its water extract (1:3) in vitro has different degrees of inhibition on a variety of skin fungi;
4. For external use it can reduce inflammation;
5. 1:3 infusion in vitro shows inhibition on skin fungi like Trichophyton violaceum and spore bacteria.

Selected litharge formulas on herbal remedies

According to Quan Guo Zhong Cao Yao Hui Bian (National Collection of Chinese Herbal Drugs), it is salty and acrid in flavor and neutral and poisonous in nature. Prime functions include eliminating dampness, killing parasites, and healing sores. And primary litharge uses and indications are eczema, scabies, ringworm, armpit odor, and non-healing burst sores. It is usually used externally only in the forms of powder or paste.

1. Tuo Seng Wan from Liang Peng Hui Ji (Close Friends’ Collection). It is combined with Huang La (beeswax), Ku Fan (dried alum), Xiong Huang (realgar), etc. to treat ruptured scrofula, early phase of carbuncle all over the body, stubborn ecthyma, anal fistula, etc.

2. Tuo Seng San from Dong Tian Ao Zhi (Profound Essence of the Heaven). It is formulated with Qing Fen (calomel), Shi Gao (Gypsum), and alum to cure athlete’s foot.

3. Shen Xiao Wan from Yu Ju Shi Xuan Qi Fang (odd-ingredient prescriptions chosen by lay Buddhist Yu). It is made into pills to consumptive thirst.

4. Tuo Seng San from Pu Ji Fang (Prescriptions of Universal Relief). It is put together with Pu Huang (cattail pollen), Huang Bai (Amur Cork Tree), and Gan Cao (Licorice Root) for the treatment of tongue and mouth sores.

5. Yu Rong San from Qian Jin Yao Fang (Thousand Golden Essential Prescriptions). It is used along with Bai Fu Zi (Typhonium Rhizome), Mu Li (Oyster Shell), Fu Ling (Poria), and Chuan Xiong (Szechuan Lovage Root) for moistening face and removing acne scars from face.

Litharge side effects and contraindications

Litharge is poisonous and oral administration is allowed only under the supervision of a physician. Long term use of it can result in lead poisoning. So, caution should be taken when taking it orally and overdose should be avoided by all means. In addition, it shouldn’t be used in the weak, pregnant women, and children.

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