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Herbs & Botanicals

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Red Ochre (dai zhe shi)

What is red ochre? What is it used for?

Also known as hematite, red ochre is not an herb, but a mineral - a type of ore that is extremely high in iron. It is usually soft and fine-grained. In China, it is mined from the Shanxi, Hebei, Henan and Shandong provinces. After being mined, red ocher is pounded and ground down into a type of powder, which can be used raw or after being cooked with vinegar. In addition to its medicinal uses, red ochre is also used as a pigment in painting.

According to the principles of traditional Chinese, red ochre has bitter and cold properties, and is associated with the Liver and Heart meridians. Its main functions are to pacify the liver, to move qi downward, and to arrest bleeding. It is used to treat a variety of ailments, ranging from headaches and dizziness to hiccups, vomiting and upset stomach. The minera's high iron content can also help with the generation of red blood cells and hemoglobin. It is a common component of many herbal formulas, and is often taken with white peony root, pinellia and ginseng.

How much red ochre should I take?

The typical dose of red ochre is between 10 and 30 grams, boiled in water and drunk as a decoction. It should be pounded into a fine powder before use.

What forms of red ochre are available?

Crushed, powdered red ochre can be found at many herbal shops and specialty stores. Red ochre is also available in pill and capsule forms, and can be found in various herbal formulas.

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

Because red ochre may contain trace elements of arsenic, it should not be used by pregnant women or taken for extended periods of time. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions associated with red ochre. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking red ochre or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Astley RA, Chodosh J. Selective uptake of iron oxide by rabbit conjunctival lymphoid follicles. Cornea April 2005;24(3):334-6.
  • 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.
  • Schoonen M, Smirnov A, Cohn C. A perspective on the role of minerals in prebiotic synthesis. Ambio December 2004;33(8):539-51.
  • Wottrich R, Diabate S, Krug HF. Biological effects of ultrafine model particles in human macrophages and epithelial cells in mono- and co-culture. Int J Hyg Environ Health September 2004;207(4):353-61.
  • Wu EX, Tang H, Jensen JH. Applications of ultrasmall superparamagnetic iron oxide contrast agents in the MR study of animal models. NMR Biomed November 2004;17(7):478-83.

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