Do you know what is baby powder made of? Currently about 90% of them are talc baby powder, to tell you the truth. Talc powder, a finely ground powder from highly soft talc mineral, is an important ingredient used in making cosmetics, body powder, and bath powder today. Nevertheless, the most popular use of talcum powder is to make talc baby powder. As a matter of fact, there is talc free baby powder available on the market too, which however only accounts for about 10% of the market share. More than that, talc, also known as Hua Shi, is also a very important mineral medicine in TCM remedies mainly for the treatments of strangury, diarrhea, eczema, and other ailments. In addition, this herb is frequently found in the prescriptions for lithiasis treatment thanks to its powerful healing properties. So, it is necessary to get better acquainted with talc if you do care the answers to a series of related questions – what is talc powder used for? Is talc powder safe? How to use talc powder for the best health benefits? Does talc powder cause cancer?
What is talc powder?
This is a common silicate mineral with the chemical formula of Mg3Si4O10(OH)2. It is extremely soft and with a creamy texture. People ever picked out 10 minerals to represent 10 mineral hardness levels, namely the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. And the Mohs hardness scale of talc is 1. Its crystal is a tri-octahedral layered mineral. Single crystal in the shape of false six-party flake is rare and usually they are dense massive, leaf-like, fibrous or radial aggregates. They are white, yellow white or bluish gray, and with wax-like luster. It has no moisture absorption and won’t break up when placed in water. And it is odorless and tasteless. Medicinally it needs to remove the mud, sand, and other miscellaneous stones for better medical quality. It is usually found in metamorphic rocks, limestone, dolomite, magnesite, and shale. In China it is mainly produced in Jiangxi, Shandong, Jiangsu, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei, Fujian, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Guangxi, Liaoning and other places.
Main chemical constituents are magnesium silicate, including 31.7% MgO, 63.5% silica, and 4.8% of water. Part of MgO is usually replaced by FeO. Besides, it also contains other impurities like alumina.
Talc powder benefits
As one of common Chinese herbs, it is mainly used for treating stranguria by promoting diuresis. That’s to say, it covers a variety of stranguria due to its mild property. It is called Hua Shi, literally translated as creamy stone, because it has a greasy feel after ground into fine powder. However, this is only associated with its physical traits rather than its medicinal uses. From the perspective of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is widely used for all stranguria as long as it is of heat-damp nature. And In this regard its pharmacology seems more persuasive than the experience.
Modern pharmacological actions of talcum powder
1. It has adsorption and astringency, which can protect the intestinal wall by taken orally;
2. It can form a protective film by spreading on the wound. Thus it can protect the surface of a wound, absorb secretions, and promote the growing of scab;
3. In vitro 10% talc powder has inhibition on Salmonella typhi and paratyphi.
Proven talcum powder herbal remedies
In the light of Chinese Materia Medica, it is sweet and thin in flavor and cold and non-toxic in properties and covers two meridians of stomach and bladder. Basic functions include treating stranguria by alleviating water retention, eliminating summer-heat by cooling, and astringing dampness to heal boils. Principal talcum powder uses and indications are syndrome of dampness-heat of bladder, fidget and thirst due to hot summer weather, inhibited urination, diarrhea, strangury, eczema, bleeding from five sense organs or subcutaneous tissue, beriberi, and skin erosion. Recommended dosage is from 9 to 24 grams in decoction, powder and pills. And wrapping with gauze is preferred before the decocting.
1. Ba Zheng San. From Tai Ping Hui Min He Ji Ju Fang (Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary), this formula is normally made for difficult urination, heat strangury, and uroschesis due to damp invasion of lower energizer. Other main herbal ingredients are Mu Tong (Akebia Caulis), Che Qian Zi (Plantago Seeds), Qu Mai (Dianthus), and so on.
2. Liu Yi San. From Shang Han Biao Ben (The Manifestations and Root of Cold-induced Disorders), this prescription combines this herb with Gan Cao (Licorice Root) for summer heat induced polydipsia and scanty dark urine.
3. San Ren Tang. From Wen Bing Tiao Bian (Systematic Differentiation of Warm Disease), this recipe is primarily formulated for the early stage of damp-heat and warm disease in summer accompanied with dampness. Other major herbs are Yi Yi Ren (Seeds of Job’s Tears), Bai Dou Kou (Round Cardamon Fruit), Xing Ren (Apricot Seed), and more.
4. Hua Shi San. From Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence), it uses this herb along with Akebia Caulis for the treatment of heat stranguria, difficulty urinating, pain when urinating, and burning after urination.
5. Hua Shi Bai Yu San. From Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer), it is exclusively used for difficult urination. Other two herbs are Luan Fa (tousle) and Bai Yu (silverfish).
Talcum powder side effects and contraindications
It was ever reported that it might be associated with ovarian cancer. However, so far there is no evidence that can support this claim though The American Cancer Society has conducted relevant studies. However, it is true that talcum powder has its disadvantages when used as medicine. Clinical experience has confirmed that it may cause granulomas in the rectum, vagina or wounds, etc. In addition, people often use it as contraceptives and perineal powders, which may increase the chance of developing ovarian cancer by 3 times than those who do not use it. Therefore, long-term use is not recommended since it may contain asbestos. TCM wise use it with care during pregnancy and it shouldn’t be used in the cases of deficient spleen and weak vital energy, night emission, and body fluid impairment in pyreticosis.