Soft Turtle Shell (Bie Jia)

Soft Turtle Shell (Bie Jia)With many medicinal virtues, all the parts of soft shell turtles are employed for medicinal purposes by the Chinese traditional healers. For example, soft turtle shell (Bie Jia) is widely used for low-grade fever, chronic hepatitis, and hepatosplenomegaly; head (Caput Amydae) for proctoptosis and hysteroptosis; meat for hot flash in menopause and Bell’s palsy; egg for yin deficiency.

What does a soft turtle shell mean?

Also known as Carapax Amydae Sinensis or Carapax Trionycis, it refers to the shell of Trionyx Sinensis Wiegmann. Medicinally soft shell turtles can be captured throughout the year, especially in autumn and winter. Firstly, kill and place them in boiling water till the scleroderm can be peeled off easily from the carapace. Secondarily, take them out, separate them and get the carapace, remove the meat attached, and dry in the sun.

Medicinally, the preferred one is drier, bigger, cleaner, and without remnant meat.

What is it used for?

Modern pharmacological experiment indicates that it has a number of benefits.

(1). Boost immune system, promote the production of immune gloulin, and prolong existence time of antibody;
(2). Inhibit the hyperplasia of animal connective tissue;
(3). Protect animal from liver injury, relieve anemia caused by liver failure, promote intrahepatic protein synthesis in animals, and increase the content of serum albumin.

So, turtle shell is mainly used for low-grade fever in diseases of chronic infection, tuberculosis, and tumor, etc; for chronic hepatitis, early hepatocirrhosis, and liver splenomegaly; for follow-up care after surgery for removing tumors and radiotherapy.

From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is salty and cold in nature and covers meridians of liver and spleen. Main functions are to nourish yin for suppressing hyperactive yang and soften and resolve hard mass. Main uses and indications are steaming bone, heat in consumptive disease, lumps in the abdomen caused by malarial pathogen, hard mass on upper flanks, lower back pain, and gynecological mass in abdomen due to amenorrhea, etc. Usual dosage is 10 to 20 grams.

Related Chinese herbal formulas

Soft shelled turtle is rich in collagen and multiple minerals, which seems have nothing to do with TCM practice. In fact, it is being widely used in a variety of herbal remedies.

(1). Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang, from Detailed Analysis of Warm Diseases (Wen Bing Tiao Bian), is mainly employed for diseases with mentioned symptoms, like later stage febrile diseases, summer fever in children, pulmonary tuberculosis, nephrotuberculosis, and pyelonephritis, etc. Other herbal medicinals are Qing Hao (Wormwood), Zhi Mu (Anemarrhena Rhizome), Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia), and Mu Dan Pi (Tree Peony Root Cortex). Among them, shells enters right down to yin realm and bring down a deficient heat because of salty-cold flavor nourishing yin and Qin Hao clears heat toxicity with aromatics;

(2). Bie Jia Jian Wan, from Synopsis of Prescriptions of the Golden Chamber (Jin Gui Yao Lue), is primarily used in treatments of gynecological mass caused by amenorrhea and lumps in abdomen due to malarial pathogen. Other main medicinal herbs are Huang Qin (Baical Skullcap Root), Chai Hu (Bupleurum), Gui Zhi (Cinnamon Twig), Tao Ren (Peach Seed), Ban Xia (Pinellia Rhizome), and E Jiao (Gelatin), etc.;

(3). Bie Jia San, from Shen Shi Zun Sheng Shu (Master Shen’s Writings on Respecting Life), is principally utilized for hectic fever due to yin deficiency. Other Chinese herbs are Chai Hu, Zhi Mu, Qin Jiao (Gentiana Macrophylla Root), Dang Gui (Dong Quai), Qing Hao, Wu Mei (Mume Fruit), and Di Gu Pi (Wolfberry Root Cortex);

(4). Sheng Ma Bie Jia Tang, from Jin Gui Yao Lue, is largely used for Yin Yang Toxin Syndrome (Yinyang Du Bing). Other herbal ingredients are Sheng Ma (Black Cohosh Rhizome), Dang Gui, Chuan Jiao (Szechuan Pepper), Gan Cao (Licorice Root), and Xiong Huang (Realgar).

Clinical experience

Through Clinical practice, soft turtle shells are found with following properties as well.

(1). It is a yin tonic rather than an antipyretic. Qin Jiao San and Qing Hao Tang mentioned previously are two famous herbal formulas exclusively for low-grade fever. But it turns out that using it alone won’t reduce the heat at all, which infer the fact that others are playing a more important role;

(2). Combined with antibiotics and anti-tuberculosis, taking prescriptions containing turtle soft shell did boost immunity, improve symptoms, and help control and recover from uberculosis;

(3). Jian Wan mentioned above is one of renowned ancient formulas for accumulated mass like tumors. Malignant tumors are often accompanied with low-grade fever and endogenous heat. Prescriptions containing turtle shells not only fight cancer but also improve immune function and reduce fever. So, the property of strengthening the body resistance shouldn’t be ignored;

(4). Gui Ban (Tortoise Plastron) is also a yin tonic. However, it is good at resolving hard lump in cancer treatments while Gui Ban at nourish kidney yin for enhancing functions of adrenal cortex.

Potential side effects and contraindications

TCM wise, soft turtle shell should be avoided by pregnant woman and those diagnosed with deficiency without heat or deficient spleen-stomach with appetite loss and loose stools. In addition, it conflicts with foods like amaranth. So stay away from it during the medication.

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