About in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC – 476 BC), the phenomenon of magnetite attracting iron was discovered in China. At that time, people likened this type of property to the love of mother to her children, which is also the very source of why magnetite is being called “Ci Shi” in Chinese because “Ci” means a loving mother here. And in ancient times, magnetite has been frequently used in natural remedies to heal a variety of diseases. The application of this mineral can even date back to the beginning of the Western Han Dynasty, more than 2,000 years ago. Then the detailed description about magnetite properties and medicinal uses has been initially introduced in The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica Classic).
What is magnetite?
Also known as Magnetic Hematite or Lodestone and Magnetitum in Latin, it refers to one of common oxide minerals and iron minerals mainly found in igneous rocks. Also as a member of the Spinel family of minerals, it mainly contains iron oxide (Fe3O4). This mineral belongs to the isometric crystal system. Crystal is octahedron and dodecahedron. Stripes can be found on the surface. Most of them are grain or block aggregates. It is opaque, brittle, odorless, tasteless, iron black, or in a dark indigo color, with black streaks and semi-metallic luster. Hardness is 5.5 to 6.5. Density is 5.16 to 5.18g/cm3. It has strong ferromagnetism. It is usually found in igneous rocks, metamorphic rocks, and beach sand. In China it is produced in provinces like Shandong, Hebei, Henan, Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia, Hubei, Yunnan, Guangdong, Sichuan, Shanxi, Jiangsu, and Anhui.
As far as medicinal purpose concerned, the one with stronger magnetic force is preferred. What’s more, it needs to remove the miscellaneous stone after the excavation. It is usually used in both unprocessed or processed forms. The processing is to calcine it thoroughly and then quench with vinegar. And usually crushing them into coarse powder is needed before the use.
It mainly contains iron oxide (Fe3O4), among which FeO accounts for 31% and Fe2O3 69%. And it also contains silicon, lead, titanium, phosphorus, manganese, calcium, chromium, barium, sawing, magnesium and other impurities. Few variants contain magnesium oxide (MgO) up to 10% and alumina (Al2O3) up to 15%. In addition, it often contains also a certain amount of arsenic. Hence, caution should be taken in the use of magnetite.
Magnetite health benefits
As stated, the magnetite healing powers has been put to use long time ago. So, now let’s figure out how it helps someone with mental health problems.
1. Effects on the blood circulation system. After intravenous injection of 0.2-1μm ultra-dispersed ferromagnetic particles (50mg/kg) was given to the rats, it increased their hemoglobin levels in blood, the number of red blood cells and white blood cells, blood plasma coagulation time, fibrinolytic activity, and the neutral phagocytic reaction. However, nothing happened when magnetite particles in the same size were injected intravenously in the dose of 50mg/kg, except for the rising of neutrophil phagocytosis activity.
2. Sedative and anticonvulsant effect. After prepared, the sedative and anticonvulsant effect of magnetite are significantly enhanced. After the intragastric administration to the rats with the prepared 100% magnetite solution in the dose of 15g/kg, the amobarbital sodium sleep time was significantly prolonged. It has antagonism to the strychnine-induced seizures and prolongs the latent period of convulsion.
3. In vivo process. Magnetite particles tagged with 99mTc and 111In, between 0.1-0.5μm in diameter, can be identified under the electron microscopy and Mossbaner spectroscope. When these magnetite particles were injected into rats, they were mainly found in the liver and lungs.
Popular magnetite formulas in TCM
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sees this mineral as acrid, salty, neutral, and non-toxic in properties. It covers three meridians like kidney, liver, and lung. Its main functions are to calm the liver and suppress Yang, overcome fears and calm the nerves, improve hearing and vision, and govern inspiration to relieve asthma. Its main uses and indications are dizziness, dim eyesight, deafness, tinnitus, palpitation, insomnia, and asthma and adverse flow of Qi due to deficient kidney. Usual dosage is from 10 to 30 grams, smashed and decocted in advance. Or it should be taken in the form of pills, 1 to 3 grams each time. In external use, apply appropriate amount of powder accordingly.
Ci Shi Wan
Ci Shi Wan has two major versions. The formula from Tai ping sheng hui fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief) is to tonify and warm water viscus, tonify Qi and build up our body strength, improve hearing and vision, and benefit waist and legs. Major herbs include Ci Shi, Rou Cong Rong (Cistanche), Mu Xiang (Costus), Bu Gu Zhi (Psoralea), Bing Lang (Betel Nut), Rou Dou Kou (Nutmeg), and She Chuang Zi (Cnidium seed).
The other one is from Wei Sheng Jia Bao (A Precious Manual for Home Use) and mainly used to benefit deficiency of liver and kidney and stop cold tear. Other important herbs in this formula are Shi Chang Pu (Acorus), Chuan Wu (Radix Aconiti Carmichaeli), Ba Ji Tian (Morinda Root), and so on.
Ci Zhu Wan (Shen Qu Wan)
Shen Qu Wan is from Qian Jin Yao Fang (Thousand Ducat Formulas) and Ci Zhu Wan from Ben Cao Gang Mu (Compendium of Materia Medica). But they are actually the same thing to improve eyesight. Other key herbs are Shen Qu (Massa Fermentata) and Guang Yin Sha.
Ci Shi Shen Geng
This prescription comes from Tai ping sheng hui fang and is formulated mainly to treat chronic deafness, support kidney, and strengthen bone and Qi. Other ingredients include pig kidney, green onion, fermented soya beans, ginger, and pepper.
Potential magnetite side effects and contraindications
Magnetite (Ci Shi) contains toxic arsenic ingredient. But the content is so little that there are no poisoning records found in history. This is simply because the arsenic can be significantly reduced after the preparation. However, magnetite powder is nondigestible. Hence, symptoms, such as stomach discomfort, stomach pain, and nausea, would occur even in the conventional dose in decoction. And the adverse reactions in unprocessed magnetite are more obvious than those in calcined one. As a result, an overdose of magnetite shouldn’t be taken, especially in the forms of pills and powder. Lastly, TCM wise extra care and caution should be taken in the case of deficiency of spleen and stomach.