Well folks, sorry it has taken me so long to post again. The Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) has been a very busy time and we are on a one week holiday here in Beijing bringing in the Year of the Ox. So, Happy Niu (牛) Year (“niu” is the pinyin for ox or cow in Chinese and it is pronounced, more or less, like “new”).
I have been thinking a lot about external preparations lately as I have been asked to do some formulation for a small company in S. California, The Herban Pharmer (, and they have asked that I focus on external preparations to start because that is their focus at this point. An herb that is a component of many of the preparations the company already produces is aconite and it is a component of one of the preparations that will be coming out under my name will include aconite.
Aconite is a member of the Ranunculaceae family, a large and ancient family of plants that include other well known herbs such as Black Cohosh and Golden Seal.
Aconite is a strong medicine and should only be used by trained professionals. Although it is very good at what is does, it can be toxic if overdoes occurs, being known to slow the central nervous system and affecting the vagus nerve, leading to slowed breathing and decrease in blood pressure, eventually it could cause complete stoppage of these vital systems.
Fortunately, when used correctly, it is both safe and extremely effective. One of its strongest therapeutic actions is to reduce pain associated with inflamed nerves, and was used to reduce extremely high fevers. This is the Western herbal usage, which differs a great deal from the Chinese herbal usage. In Chinese medicine, it is also used for pain, but the pain is caused by cold and dampness.
The differences in the two traditions may be due to the way Aconite is prepared in Chinese medicine. In Chinese medicine the root is treated using (generally) one of three different techniques to reduce its toxicity. This allows for relatively large doses to be used internally. While in Western herbal medicine, small doses of the tincture are used, and most herbalists use only the herbaceous portion of the plant as it not quite as strong and this makes it safer clinically.
All this aside, the use of this medicinal externally is quite safe and extremely effective for all sorts of pain. In Chinese medicine it is found in many external liniments for pain due to trauma and wind-cold-damp conditions (think arthritis that is worse when the weather is cold and/or damp). In Western herbal medicine it is used externally for various types of nerve pain and is quite good when applied to shingles.
Please remember this herb should only be used by trained professionals. This post is not meant at a training for those who might have a passing interest in herbal medicine, it is only meant to be informative.

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