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Herbs & Botanicals

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Pyrite (zi ran tong)

What is pyrite? What is it used for?

Although pyrite is not an herb, it is nevertheless an important component of herbal medicine. It is actually a type of mineral, composed primarily of iron and sulfur, with traces of nickel, arsenic, copper, and antimony occasionally present.

It typically forms in the shape of a cube, with a yellowish-bronze color and a metallic luster, giving pyrite the nickname of "fool's gold" for its resemblance to real gold. It is usually mined, washed and cleaned of impurities, then ground down into a powder for use.

According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, pyrite is acrid and mild, and is associated with the Kidney and Liver meridians. The main functions of pyrite are to disperse heat and control pain. Among the conditions that pyrite can help treat are fractures, trauma accompanied by swelling and bruising, skin wounds, and general pain. Calcined pyrite is believed to be more effective in reducing swelling and relieving pain that non-calcined pyrite.

How much pyrite should I take?

The typical dose of pyrite is between 0.3 grams and 0.5 grams, crushed into a powder Larger doses (10-15 grams) can be mixed with water and drunk as a decoction twice daily. Appropriate doses can be used if pyrite is being applied to the skin.

What forms of pyrite are available?

Pyrite is available in a variety of forms, including pills, powders and capsule. Crude pyrite can be found at some Asian markets, gem shops and specialty stores.

What can happen if I take too much pyrite? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Pyrite should not be administered to patients diagnosed with yin deficiency with heat, or patients who have been diagnosed with blood deficiency. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions associated with pyrite. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking pyrite or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Chen JK, Chen TT. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry: Art of Medicine Press, 2004, pp. 634-635.
  • Edwards KJ, Hu B, Hamers RJ, et al. A new look at microbial leaching patterns on sulfide minerals. FEMS Microbiol Ecol January 2001;34(3):197-206.
  • Hwang J, Hur SD, Seo YB. Mineralogical and chemical changes in pyrite after traditional processing for use in medicines. Am J Chin Med 2004;32(6):907-19.
  • Lee ES, Hendry MJ, Hollings P. Use of O2 consumption and CO2 production in kinetic cells to delineate pyrite oxidation-carbonate buffering and microbial respiration in unsaturated media. J Contam Hydrol September 2003;65(3-4):203-17.
  • Marchand EA, Silverstein J. Influence of heterotrophic microbial growth on biological oxidation of pyrite. Environ Sci Technol December 15, 2002;36(24):5483-90.

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