Notably, deer musk, also known as moschus or She Xiang in Pinyin, comes from musk deer. It is a commonly used Chinese herb, whose first record as a medicine was found in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (The Holy Husbandman’s Classic on Roots and Herbs). It is classified as one of resuscitation-inducing aromatic herbs that can stimulate central nervous system if taken orally or relieve pain and reduce swelling in external application. More than just an amazing drug, it has long been used as an incense material and perfume fixative. Actually in many parts of the world musk deer perfume is very popular since ancient time. In recent years, the use of natural musk is keeping decreasing with the increasing popularity of synthetic alternative. Admittedly this is good news to the predicament of this endangered species today.
What is musk deer?
It can refer to any or all members in the genus Moschus of the family Moschidae. Actually Moschus, the sole one of the family Moschidae, has 7 species. Hence, medicinally musk mainly refers to the dried secretions from a gland situated between the navel and genitals of the mature male Moschus berezovskii Flerov, Moschus sifanicus Przewalski, Moschus moschiferus Linnaeus, siberian musk deer, etc. Other common names of this herb include Navel Gland Secretions of Musk Deer, Moschus, Musk secretion, Secretio Moschus, and more. In China it is primarily produced in provinces of Sichuan, Tibet, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Gansu, and Inner Mongolia. Wild species are mostly hunted and killed for the glands from winter to following spring. After that, the deer musk glands, also called “the deer musk pod”, is cut and placed in the shade to dry. When in use, it needs to split the pod, remove the shell, and obtain the so-called “musk grain”, namely the black granular material. In terms of the species in captivity, the grain can be collected directly from the pod and dried in the shade. By the way, this herb should be stored in an airtight container in order to keep away from moisture, heat, and sunlight.
The deer musk pod is spherical, oval or flattened circular, 3 to 7cm in diameter. One side is slightly flat, densely covered with white or gray-brown short hairs that are arranged in vortex, and with a central hole (pod mouth) that is about 2 to 3mm in diameter. The leathery skin will thus show after all the hairs are removed. The other side of the pod is dark brown and hairless layer that is slightly flexible when pinched with fingers. The silver gray and transparent middle layer sees when cut with scissors. And the brownish red inner layer covers and contains granular and powdery musk, which is soft in quality and with a specific aroma.
Musk is in the shape of thick dark brown paste when they are still fresh but becomes brown or purple powder, occasionally mixed with fine hairs, after dried. Among them there are particles that are irregularly round or flat in shape, mostly purple black in color, oily shine, and with slight linen lines. It is soft, oily, nonsticky and noncaking when twisted into a group by hands, and loose immediately when the hands are released. The better one is softer, oilier, and with more grains and more intense aroma.
Musk of Moschus berezovskii Flerov contains muscone, muscopyridine, the male hormone, cholesterol, cholesteryl esters, etc.; musk of Moschus sifanicus Przewalski contains cholesterol and cholesteryl esters; musk of Moschus moschiferus Linnaeus contains muscone, muscopyridine, hydroxymuscopyridine A, B, over 10 kinds of androstane fusion derivatives like 5α-androstane-3,17-dione and 3α-hydroxy-5α-androstan-17-one, etc.; the dried secretions of Himalayan musk deer pod contains muscone, normuscone, derivatives of androstane, cholesterol, cholestanol, cholest-4-ene-3-one, proteins, amino acids, lecithin, fats, urea, and so on.
Deer musk benefits
In recent years, deer musk oil has been increasingly popular among young people from many countries in the world. Actually this musk scent was used in China as far back as the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). Initially it was only used for dressing up and later it became a popular cosmetic and deodorant in the Tang and Song Dynasty. This is a rare animal spices, with strong diffusion, stunning allure, special soft and elegant aroma, and excellent fixative ability. Thanks for that, it is known all over the world along with attar and jasmine oil. People, from both the East and the West, always have a great interest in it. This is simply because lack of musk or other animal spices will lead to the absence of dynamic emotion in perfumery. It is such an essential ingredient in the recipes of essence since only animal spices can play an important role on fixing, contrasting, mellowing, and balancing the entire aroma. More importantly, it brings vitality and endows with touching emotion to the deer musk perfume for women and cologne for men.
More than just as a fragrance, it is really impressive on medicinal uses. Many clinical documents showed that musk-based medicine can rapidly release the acute conditions. Take patient with coronary heart disease as an example. The Su He Wan can help quickly ease angina, syncope, or shock in heart attack. According to the reviews from Yi Xue Ru Men (Gate of Entry to Medical Studies) and Ben Cao Gang Mu (The Compendium of Materia Medica), this herb can quickly act on the muscle and bone marrow. For instance, adding a little bit of it with medicine that treats sore can particularly increase the pharmaceutical effect. In addition, the Chinese Pharmacopoeia shows that it is contained in 12% of all Chinese patent medicine, including Niu Huang Wan, Su He Xiang Wan, Xi Huang Wan, She Xiang Bao Xin Wan, Pien Tze Huang, Yunnan Baiyao, Liu Shen Wan, and so on. In Western medicine, it is commonly used as emergency medicine like cardiotonic and stimulant.
Modern pharmacological actions of moschus
1) Its effects on the central nervous system are bidirectional – a small dose can excite while large doses can inhibit. And it can enhance hypoxia tolerance of the central nervous system and improve cerebral circulation;
2) It has significant cardiac effects, which can stimulate the heart and increase the cardiac contraction amplitude and enhance myocardial function;
3) It has considerable benefit for the prevention and treatment of ischemic heart disorder caused by thrombosis;
4) It has some anti-inflammatory effect, which is similar to the hydrocortisone;
5) It has obvious excitement and boost on the UC (uterine contraction), in particular on the pregnant uterus in the body. As for non-pregnant uterus, the excitement comes slowly but steadily;
6) Muscone can significantly increase the frequency and intensity of uterine contractions. In addition, it is anti-implantation and anti-pregnancy and the role becomes more and more significant with the prolonged pregnancy;
7) It has inhibitory action on human tumor cells and the action becomes stronger with the increasing concentration. And it also kills Ehrlich ascites carcinoma and sarcoma S180 cells in rats.
Sample musk recipes on herbal remedies
From the review of the Chinese Materia Medica, it is believed acrid in flavor and warm in nature. It goes to meridians of heart, liver, and spleen. Crucial functions are inducing resuscitation, activating blood circulation, resolving hardness, and relieving swelling and pain. Prime deer musk uses and indications include unconsciousness due to fever, coma due to blocking of the respiratory system in stroke, a sudden blackout caused by Qi stagnation, a sudden coma because of noxious pathogen attack, stasis-induced amenorrhea, gynecological mass in abdomen, acute pain in chest and abdomen, traumatic injury, arthralgia and numbness, carbuncle and boils, pharyngitis, mouth sores, ulcerative gingivitis, and suppurative otitis media. Recommended dosage is from 0.03 to 0.1g in pills or powder. In addition, you can also buy other deer musk products like deer musk spray, extract, essential oil, perfume oil, and more.
1) Bai Jin San from Xiao Er Wei Sheng Zhong Wei Fang Lun (Treatise on Formulas for Infantile Health Care). It is combined with Bai Jiang Can (Bombyx Mori), Tian Zhu Huang (Siliceous Secretions of Bamboo), Niu Huang (Ox Bezoar), and Long Nao (Borneolum) to treat infantile convulsions, hectic fever, coma, epilepsy, etc.
2) She Xiang Wan from Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief). It is formulated with A Wei (Ferula assafoetida), Gan Xie (Dried scorpion), and Tao Ren (Peach Seed) to cure frequent pain in chest and abdomen due to qi attack and accumulated cold in kidney.
3) She Xiang Tang from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It is matched with Mu Xiang (Costus), Peach Seed, Wu Zhu Yu (Evodia Fruit), and Bing Lang (betel nut) to heal precordial pain with cold limbs.
4) She Xiang Gao from Qian Jin Fang (Thousand golden essential prescriptions). It is equipped with Xiong Huang (realgar), Fan Shi (aluminite), and Luru to treat ulcer, carbuncle on the back, and other malignant sores.
5) She Xiang Wan from Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief. It is coupled with Ba Dou (Croton Seed) and Xi Xin (Herba Asari) to cure toothache.
Clinical research of musk
a) When or before the angina attacks, keeping in mouth with 1 or 2 artificial musk tablets, equivalent to musk 4.5mg each, can be very effective after 5 to 10 minutes of the medication;
b) Compound musk injection treats children with cerebral palsy by acupoints injection and the total effective rate was 84.9%;
c) 33 cases of central disorder of consciousness and aphasia after encephalopathy were ever treated with musk injection in combination with HPO (high pressure oxygen). And the efficiency is 93.9%.
Deer musk side effects and contraindications
In short, deer musk is a good herb when used properly. However, as a medicine it has a certain hazard to the human body since it is with some certain pharmacological function. So, it is necessary to understand it more before the use. Or, it may go wrong if you abuse it.
1) Overdose of it may occasionally lead to slight headache, nausea, poor appetite. And excessive use of it can inhibit the central nervous system and stimulate the digestive tract mucous membrane;
2) The symptoms of poisoning include oral mucosal erosion, nausea, vomiting, loss of teeth, blood in the stool, spitting blood, blood in the urine. Or in severe cases it can result in respiratory center paralysis, heart failure, visceral extensive bleeding and even death. And it was ever reported that the use of 0.06g musk by a kid caused confusion, irregular breathing, coma, convulsions, anuria, and mydriasis.
Musk can affect fertility. Hence, it is so wrong to wear it in the long run for the purpose of exorcising evil spirits. Although it won’t cause infertility, long-term exposure to it may affect pregnancy chances. In addition, frequently contacting with it may, worse still, lead to miscarriage. So, pregnant women should avoid contact or smell it by all means. By the way, it shouldn’t be used together with garlic and in the case of collapse syndrome.
a) Zhong Cao Yao Dong Tai (Trends of Chinese Herbal Medicine), 1977;2:7;
b) Liao Ning Zhong Yi Za Zhi (Liaoning Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine) 1993;11:15;
c) Xian Dai Kang Fu (Modern Rehabilitation), 2001;5:118.