Cicadas: A new appreciation for an old Chinese herb
Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Return of the Cicadas: A deeper appreciation of an unusual “Chinese herb”

Each Chinese herb has a story to tell

Appreciating the story behind each Chinese herbOne thing I love about Chinese herbal medicine is its ability to pay attention to the world around us, and notice the nature of things. Fruits that grow in summer tend to be the remedy for hot days. Root vegetables that grow in winter tend to keep our bellies warmer on those cold nights. We can learn a lot about the the medicine available to us, when we watch how it grows: What is it able to tolerate? What is it able to do? One such ‘Chinese herb,’ 蝉蜕 (Chan Tui, Cicada Moult) is an amazing example of just how rich a story a Chinese medicinal can tell!

A closer look at the Chinese herb: 蝉蜕 (Chan Tui)

Chinese medicine’s use of Chan Tui dates back to the 神農本草經 (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, “Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica), our oldest materia medica. Today we use this Chinese herb for its diaphoretic, anticonvulsive, sedative, antipyretic, and antiallergic effects. In traditional terminology this translates to treating:

  • early febrile disorders (including loss of voice)
  • rashes and itching
  • superficial visual obstruction and red eyes
  • spasm

I remember the first time I had it in my formula for psoriasis I was shocked, not knowing it was only the moult. I wonder if I would have felt the same if I took the time to appreciate this Chinese herb’s story. Finding the following video recently, I thought — how beautiful and appropriate for folks to learn more about this valuable medicinal!

Return of the Cicadas

If we go back to the roots of Chinese medicine, and the power of observation for intelligence gathering, we see there is so much that Cicada teaches. With Cicada’s big eyes, it is no surprise Chan Tui brightens the eyes. As a shed skin, it’s no surprise Cicada moult is able to vent skin rashes. With Cicada’s beautiful and loud song, of course this Chinese herb treats loss of voice. If we see Cicada’s ability to navigate the winds, we understand Chan Tui’s ability to treat spasms (which, in Chinese medicine, is considered a symptom of “internal wind”).

Imagine if we took the time to appreciate each plant, mineral and animal medicinal in such a way? May we all see such beauty and eloquence in the bounty of this earth!