Selenite Crystals (Shi Gao)

gypsum mineralSelenite crystals, also known as Gypsum Fibrosum or Shi Gao in Pinyin, is not only a plaster building material, but also one of commonly used Chinese herbs. Just like Da Huang (rhubarb) and Fu Zi (aconite), it has long occupied an important position in traditional Chinese medicine thanks to its amazing healing properties for the treatment of serious, incurable, or chronic illness. Besides of the medical records from doctors, the medicinal uses of selenite can be found in many writers and poets’ essay. Here is one example. According to Yue Wei Cao Tang Bi Ji (Jottings from the Grass Hut for Examining Minutiae), written by a literary giant called Ji Yun (1724–1805), in 1793 a doctor from Tong Cheng used gypsum-based remedy saved countless lives from epidemic outbreak in the capital city. And here are some tips on how to use selenite effectively.

What are selenite crystals?

It refers to the sulfate mineral of gypsum, which mainly contains CaSO4•2H2O. Actually here the selenite is a concept in a general sense, which includes 4 crystal-structure varieties of the mineral gypsum – selenite, gypsum flower, desert rose, and satin spar. In China it is mainly in Hubei, Gansu, Sichuan, Anhui, and Hubei. And medicinally the best quality is from Yingcheng Hubei. It can be harvested throughout the year. After the excavation, remove the dirt, sand, and miscellaneous stone. When used as medicine, it is usually used in the form of raw or calcined ground fine powder.

It is monoclinic. Selenite crystals are often tabular and aggregations are often densely granular, fibrous or leaflike. It is usually white, colorless and transparent, but can also be gray, flesh pink, honey yellow or black when mixed with impure ingredients. Streak is white and Transparent to translucent. Cleavage plane is with glassy luster or pearl-like luster in the granular, silk sheen in the fibrous. And cleavage plane of the leaflike one is quite obvious. Fracture is from shell-like to splintery. Hardness is from 1.5 to 2. Specific gravity is 2.3. and it is with flexibility.

Main chemical constituents are CaSO4•2H2O, among which it include Ca 32.57%, SO3 46.50%, H20 20.93%, sand, clay, organic matter, sulfur and other impurities. According to the pharmacy analysis conducted by Beijing Medical College, it still mixes trace amounts of Fe (2+) and Mg (2+). Calcined gypsum is anhydrite, namely calcium sulfate (CaSO4).

Selenite crystals benefits

As one of well-known healing stones, people in the west believe that it has the amazing power of cleansing energy blocks in other stones and crystals. More importantly, it can remove the accumulation of negative energy regardless of the physical and the etheric bodies.

Indeed, throughout TCM history there are many physicians who are skilled at using selenite. But apparently Zhang Xichun, one of great scholar-physicians in China, is the best of the best. He highly regards the medicinal properties of this herb and ever boldly reviewed that: “Gypsum is the No. 1 herb that really has the power to revive the dying. It works just like a charm in treatment of excess-heat type exogenous diseases.” In the sixth of volume 4 in his famous medical work of Yi Xue Zhong Zhong Can Xi Lu (Records of Heart-Felt Experiences in Medicine with Reference to the West), there are 23 medical cases and 38 herbal prescriptions recorded in the chapter of seasonal febrile diseases. Among them, as many as 27 prescriptions are based on gypsum. One of the outstanding examples is that he was accustomed to using it together with aspirin and reportedly this strange combination worked wonders in many tricky illnesses. So, in terms of the uses for gypsum rock according to syndrome differentiation, doctor Zhang Xichun has played a very important role.

In summary, it has two major health benefits – treating profusely sweating and extreme thirst. Since it is not the only herb that can treat these two-mentioned symptoms in traditional Chinese medicine, why you have to choose it? To make it clearer of how it works, comparing it with other similar herbs and then finding out their difference is obviously a viable shortcut.

As for the symptom of profusely sweating, rock gypsum plays a different role compared to Huang Qi (Astragalus Root) and Gui Zhi (Ramulus Cinnamomi). In comparison, gypsum is usually accompanied with a sense of polydipsia and hot body; astragalus is often accompanied by swelling and sallow complexion; ramulus cinnamomi is more accompanied with palpitations and abdominal pain. In addition, they can be also distinguished by the presence of pulse. Simply put, astragalus governs excessive perspiration with swelling; gypsum rules sweating and irritation; ramulus cinnamomi treats sweating and palpitation.

In terms of the symptom of extreme thirst, what gypsum treats is also different from what Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes), Ze Xie (Water Plantain), and Fu Ling (Poria) treat. The former refers to not only self-perception, but also drinking plenty of water, or even cold drinks; the latter means the thirst that is with no desire to drink, or drinking less, especially hot drinks. In addition, their tongue pictures are also different. The former is characterized as dry or scorched tongue coating while the latter features moist, thin white tongue coating and large fat tongue with scalloped edges.

Main chemical constituents of selenite crystal

1) The results of animal experiments are controversial on its antipyretic action;
2) Bai Hu Tang, which is based on gypsum crystals, has significant antipyretic effect;
3) Its extract excites the isolated toad heart and rabbit heart in small dose but inhibits in large doses;
4) It improves muscle and excites peripheral nerve;
5) As for isolated rabbit intestine and uterus, it increases the amplitude in small dose but reduces the tension and the amplitude in large dose;
6) In Hanks’ Balanced Salt solution, it can significantly enhance the phagocytotic ability of rabbit’s alveolar macrophages to dead staphylococcus albus and colloidal gold. And it can promote maturation of phagocytic cells;
7) Its decoction can significantly restore the decreased T-cell count, the lymphocyte transformation, and lymphocyte transformation CPM value;
8) It can shorten clotting time and increase the flow of urine and biliary excretion.

Sample gypsum crystals’ recipes on herbal remedies

The Chinese Materia Medica says that it is acrid-sweet in flavor and cold and non-toxic in nature. It enters meridians of lung and stomach. Essential selenite crystal effects and functions are expelling pathogenic factors from muscles for clearing heat, relieving restlessness, and quenching thirst. Main selenite crystals uses and indications include persistent high fever, annoyance and coma, delirium and mania, thirst and dry throat, dyspnea caused by lung-heat, heatstroke-induced spontaneous sweating, headache due to stomach-heat, stomach-heat toothache, obstruction of toxic heat, measles, mouth sores, boils and carbuncle, non-healing fester, and burns and scald. Recommended Selenite crystals dosage is from 15 to 60 grams in decoction or even more in large dosage. In addition, it is often used in the forms of pills and powder too.

1) Bai Hu Tang from Shang Han Lun (On Cold Damage). It is combined with Zhi Mu (Anemarrhena Rhizome), Gan Cao (Licorice Root), and Jing Mi (non-glutinous rice) to treat excess heat in qifen, which is manifested as high fever, polydipsia, sweating, and full large pulse.

2) Hua Ban Tang from Wen Bing Tiao Bian (Detailed Analysis of Warm Diseases). It is coupled with Xuan Shen (Scrophularia) and others to cure vigorous heat at qi-blood phase that features coma, delirium, and rashes.

3) Zhu Ye Shi Gao Tang from On Cold Damage. It is formulated with Ren Shen (Ginseng), Mai Dong (Mondo Grass), and other herbs to heal impaired yin and qi, which is characterized as fever, annoyance, and thirst.

4) Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang from Shang Han Lun. It is matched with Ma Huang (Ephedra), Xing Ren (Apricot Seed), etc. to treat lung-heat induced cough, asthma, fever, and thirst.

5) Qing Wei San from Wai Ke Zheng Zong (Orthodox Exogenous Illnesses). It is equipped with Huang Lian (Coptis Root), Sheng Ma (Cimicifuga), etc. to cure painful swollen gums due to flaming stomach-fire.

6) Yu Nu Jian from Jing Yue Quan Shu (Jingyue’s Complete Works). It is joined with Anemarrhena Rhizome, Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia Glutinosa), Mondo Grass, etc. to heal diabetes due to upward steaming of stomach-heat and impaired fluid.

7) Er Wei Ge Zhi Gao from Jingyue’s Complete Works. It works with Ku Fan (dried alum) to treat itching with eczema.

8) Shi Huang San from Qing Nang Mi Chuan (Esoteric Art of Healing). It is used together with the powder of Huang Bai (Amur Cork Tree Bark) to cure itchy sores.

9) Mu Li San from Wai Tai Mi Yao (The Secret Medical Essentials of a Provincial Governor). It cooperates with Qing Dai (Indigo) to heal burns by fire or hot water.

Crystals of selenite clinical research

Based on the traditional experience of using gypsum to treat lung-heat cough, today the combination of gypsum and Anemarrhena are reported with excellent efficacy for acute pneumonia, bronchitis, and peribronchitis. What’s more, it is also frequently used for the treatment of diabetes, leprosy with neuralgia, encephalitis, influenza and surgical inflammation.

a) 200 cases of fever have been treated with the combination of selenite 120, ephedra 30g, and cassia twig 30g. The above-mentioned herbs are ground and decocted, and orally taken in a few times. And it was effective in 181 cases;

b) 10 cases of severe adult atopic dermatitis have been treated with Bai Hu Jia Gui Zhi Tang. The patients who have taken it for 1 to 3 months were markedly improved;

c) 42 cases of dermatographism have been treated with Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang and the results were really significant.

d) 34 cases of epidemic hemorrhagic fever have been treated with Zhu Ye Shi Gao Tang and all of them were cured.

Selenite crystal side effects and contraindications

Selenite crystals itself have no obvious adverse reactions and toxicity. But occasionally it mixes with arsenic minerals and other impurities. So, pay attention to remove them before the gypsum uses. Since it is of cold nature, patients with deficiency-cold in spleen and stomach should use it with caution. Recent studies indicate that its impairment of the stomach is related to its role of damaging the gastric mucosal barrier. Besides, TCM wise it shouldn’t be used along with spicy food and in cases of fever due to yin deficiency or blood deficiency.


a) Xin Zhong Yi (New Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine), 1980;6:28;
b) Xin Zhong Yi, 1991;4:42;
c) Lin Chuang Pi Fu Ke Za Zhi (Journal of Clinical Dermatology), 1999;2:79;
d) He Nan Zhong Yi Yao Xue Kan (Henan Chinese Medicine & Medicinals Academic Periodical), 2000;6:52.

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