Succinum (Amber, Hu Po)

amberWhen it comes to amber, also known as succinum in Latin and Hu Po in Mandarin, everyone seems know it well that this is a beautiful stone with a variety of colors, such as golden, yellow, orange-red, green, blue, and black. What’s more, among them the clear one looks like crystal, the bright one like pearl and the lustrous like agate. As a matter of fact, it is kind of fossilized resin of prehistoric pine trees and has long been the traditional jewelry wore by European aristocracy on behalf of the qualities of noble, classic, and subtle. Nevertheless, don’t forget that amber is also a valuable medicinal herb that is commonly used in homeopathy and good at relieving convulsion and soothing the nerves.

What is succinum or amber?

As mentioned above, this is kind of fossil resin – the resin was buried in the ground tens of millions of year ago and formed by a certain chemical changes. It has various shapes, often externally with lines left when resin flowed and internally with visible bubble and ancient insect or plant debris. Its English name amber comes from the Latin name of Ambrum, which means “essence.” But some claimed that it came from Arabic “Anbar”, which means “gum” because the Spaniards called both the buried Arabic gum and amber as amber. And in the eye of ancient Chinese mind amber means tiger soul.

Main chemical constituents are resin, volatile oil, diabietinolic acid, succinosilvic acid, succinoresinol, succinoabietol, succinic acid, borneol, succoxyabietic acid, succinoabietinolic acid, and elements like sodium, strontium, silicon, iron, tungsten, magnesium, aluminum, cobalt, and gallium.

Succinum health benefits

But you may not know that it can also be used as a Chinese herb. It was first seen in Ming Yi Bie Lu (Miscellaneous Records of Famous Physicians), by Tao Hong-Jing in 500 A.D., in which the writer amazed at the nature’s grand creations of millennium pines, let alone the amber changed from resin of prehistoric pine trees in tens of millions of years ago. And according to “Compendium of Materia Medica”, it was commented with medicinal properties of tranquilizing viscera, securing soul, eliminating extravasated blood, healing poison produced by venomous insects, and so on. This record has stated that succinum has medical effects and this herb, including amber succinum extract, long been used in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and homeopathic remedy. And now let’s take a look at what it is capable of from the perspective of its pharmacology.

Modern pharmacological actions of amber

1. Succinic acid has central nervous system depressant effects. It can significantly reduce locomotor activity and prolong pentobarbital-induced sleeping time in mince;
2. Succinic acid has antagonism to audiogenic seizures in rats and electroshock seizure and strychnine-induced convulsions in mice.

Proven amber herbal remedies

Chinese Materia Medica thinks that this herb is sweet in flavor and neutral and with no toxicity in properties and covers 6 meridians, including heart, liver, small intestine, bladder, lung, and spleen. Fundamental functions include relieving convulsion, relieving uneasiness of mind and body tranquilization, dissipating blood stasis to stop bleeding, alleviating water retention to treat stranguria, and removing nebula to improve eyesight. Essential amber uses and indications are palpitation and insomnia, convulsion and epilepsy, bloody stranguria and blood urine, amenorrhea due to stagnation of blood, abdominal pain caused by postpartum stasis, concretions and gatherings, slight corneal opacity, boils and carbuncles. Recommended dosage is from 2.5 to 5 grams in powder or pills.

1. Hu Po Bao Long Wan. From Huo You Xin Shu (Experience of Treating Paediatric Diseases), it is usually used for acute convulsion caused by food stagnation with phlegm obstruction. Other prime herbs are Tian Zhu Huang (Siliceous Secretions of Bamboo), Tan Xiang (Sandalwood), Ren Shen (Ginseng), Dan Nan Xing (Jack in the Pulpit Rhizome and Bile), and more.

2. Hu Po Duo Mei Wan. From Jing Yue Quan Shu (Jingyue’s Complete Works), this formula is usually formulated for poor memory, absentmindedness, wakefulness due to kidney deficiency. Other primary herbs include Ling Yang Jiao (Antelope Horn), Ginseng, Fu Shen (Sclerotium Poriae Cocos Paradicis), Yuan Zhi (Senega Root), Gan Cao (Licorice Root), and so on.

3. Hu Po An Shen Wan. From Huo Ren Xin Tong (Experience Gathering of Saving Lives), this formula combines this herb along with Zhen Zhu (pearl), Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia), Licorice, Dang Gui (Dong Quai), and more to treat insomnia due to dysphoria after the illness.

4. Hu Po Jian Wan. From Tai ping sheng hui fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief), this prescription is mainly formulated for absence of menses. Other herbs are Meng Chong (Gadfly), Shui Zhi (Leech), Rou Gui (Dried Cinnamon Bark), and so on.

Succinum side effects and contraindications

There are no clearly recognized adverse reactions and drug interactions about succinum resin ever reported. So, so far so good. And generally it is quite safe to be consumed. But from the perspective of TCM, it should be avoided in the case of internal heat due to yin deficiency but without stasis.

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