Reeves’ turtle shell, or Gui Ban herb in Mandarin, has long been characterized as one of the best yin-enriching Chinese herbs. The Tortoise Shell and Deer Antler Glue (Gui Lu Er Xian Jiao), a famous ancient recipe used for complementing both kidney yin and yang, is one of its best presences. What’s more, this herb has been also utilized as one of main anti-aging and longevity herbs since ancient time. This is simply because some traits of this animal happen to have the same view with TCM regimen. As everyone knows, turtle is such an animal that has the least amount of activity, the slowest action, but the longest life expectancy in the world. There is an old saying that goes “A turtle that doesn’t move can live for thousands of years.” However, the reasons for turtle longevity are comprehensive and multifactorial. Slow metabolism but perseverance is bound to be one of them. Anyway, there must be some important but undiscovered substances that play a leading role on delaying aging.
What is Reeves’ turtle shell?
It refers to the plastron and carapace of Chinemys reevesii (Gray), a species in the family testudinidae. Other common names of this herb include Gui Jia, carapax plastrum testudinis, tortoise shell, testudinis plastrum, carapax et plastrum testudinis, cracked turtle shell, and shell of Chinese coin turtle, Chinese pond turtle, Chinese three-keeled pond turtle, Mauremys reevesii, golden turtle, Chinemys reevesii, and Japanese coin turtle. Its main natural habitats include rivers, lakes, and ponds. Due to the wild resource is decreasing, some other turtles in the same family are also used medicinally, such as Clemmys bealei (Gray), C. mutica (Cantor), Testudo elongata Blyth, T. horsfieldi (Gray), T. impressa (Guenther), Cuora flavomarginata (Gray), C. trifasciata (Bell), Ocadia sinensis (Gray), and so on.
It is basically produced in Zhejiang, Hubei, Hunan and other provinces. Medicinally it can be captured all year round. After the capture, kill it or scald dead by boiling water, peel the shells, remove residual meat, dry in the sun, fry with sands, and quench with vinegar.
Its carapace and plastron are connected by a bridge. Carapace is slightly longer than plastron. Carapace is oblong or arciform, 7.5 to 22cm long, 6 to 18cm wide, and with brown or dark brown surface and 3 ridges. Plastron is plate-like, nearly rectangular oval, 6.4 to 21cm long, 5.5 to 17cm wide, and with yellowish brown to dark brown surface and 12 scutums. It is hard and with slightly fishy odor and salty taste.
Reeves’ turtle shell health benefits
It contains gelatin, keratin, fat, collagen, 18 kinds of amino acids, a major and trace elements, such as calcium, phosphorus, strontium, zinc, and copper. And the upper shell and the lower shell have the similar ingredients. As you can see, reeves turtle is more than just a pet and it can even save lives. More information please refers to its pharmacological actions.
Modern pharmacology of Reeves turtles
1. It can improve animals’ pathological state due to yin deficiency syndrome and return to normal;
2. It can enhance immune function;
3. It has two-way regulation on DNA synthetic ratio;
4. It can excite the uterus both in vitro and in vivo;
5. It has antipyretic, tonic, and sedative effect;
6. It also retards coagulation of the blood, increase coronary blood flow and improve hypoxia tolerance and so on;
7. Turtle shell gelatin, or Gui Ban Jiao, has a certain effect on enhancing the number of leukocytes.
Common Reeve s turtles herbal remedies
According to Chinese pharmacopoeia, this herb is salty and sweet in flavor and slightly cold in properties. It covers meridians of liver, kidney, and heart. Chief functions are nourishing yin and suppressing yang, tonifying the kidney and reinforcing bones, and enriching blood to tonify heart. Basic medicinal uses and indications include yin-deficiency hot flash, hectic fever and night sweat, light headedness, endogenous deficient wind, flaccid physique, and bad memory due to heart deficiency. Recommended dosage is from 9 to 24 grams and this herb should be decocted prior to other herbs.
1. Da Ding Feng Zhu. Da Ding Feng Zhu comes from Wen Bing Tiao Bian (More Discussion of Febrile Diseases). This formula is basically made for syndrome of stirring wind due to yin deficiency. Other main herbal ingredients include Bai Shao (White Peony Root), E Jiao (Donkey-Hide Gelatin), Gan Di Huang (Dried Rehmannia), Huo Ma Ren (Hemp Seeds), and so on.
2. Da Bu Yin Wan. Da Bu Yin Wan is from Dan Xi Xin Fa (Dan Xi’s Heart Methods of Treatment). This prescription is primarily designed for hyperactivity of fire due to yin deficiency. Other herbs include Shu Di Huang (Rehmannia), Huang Bai (Phellodendron), and Zhi Mu (Anemarrhena Rhizome).
3. Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang. Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang is chosen from Yi Xue Zhong Zhong Can Xi Lu (Records of Heart-Felt Experiences in Medicine with Reference to the West). It is commonly formulated for vertigo due to yin deficiency and yang excess. Other important herbs are Tian Men Dong (Asparagus Tuber), White Peony Root, Mu Li (Oyster Shell), and more.
4. Hu Qian Wan. Hu Qian Wan comes from Dan Xi’s Heart Methods of Treatment. It is mainly used for kidney-induced poor physique, weak waist and knee, infantile pigeon breast, non-closure of fontanels in infants, and more. Other major herbs include Rehmannia, Anemarrhena Rhizome, Phellodendron, Suo Yang (Fleshy Stem of Cynomorium), and so on.
5. Zhen Zhong Dan. Zhen Zhong Dan is from Qian Jin Fang (Thousand Pieces of Gold Formulae). It is exclusively used for blood deficiency, palpitation, insomnia, forgetfulness, and more. Other important herbs are Shi Chang Pu (Sweetflag Rhizome), Yuan Zhi (Senega Root), Long Gu (Fossilized Bones), and more.
Reeves’ turtle shell side effects and contraindications
At least till now no confirmed drug interactions and adverse reactions of Reeves’ turtle shell are found. But from the point of view of TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine), Zhi Gui Ban shouldn’t be used during pregnancy. In addition, use it with care in cases of deficiency of spleen and stomach, vomiting and diarrhea, abdominal distension and loose stools, and cough with excessive phlegm.