What is Abalone Shell?
Abalone Shell (shi jue ming, 石决明), as its name suggests, refers to the shell of the highly prized Abalone. This type of mollusk has been classified together with other valuable foods such as shark fin, ginseng and bird’s nest by the Chinese, and they are known to be some of the most desirable and expensive foods in Chinese culture. That is what makes Abalone one of Chinese New Year’s iconic dishes too.
Abalone feeds on seaweed, and is extremely difficult to prise from the rocks from which they cling on. Known by some as the ‘Sea Ear’, Abalone has a one-piece shell that is either round or oval in shape, with a dome on one end. These shells have a beautiful pearly inner coating.
While the meat of the Abalone is considered a delicacy, its shell is used in herbal remedies in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The Chinese name shi jue ming is derived from the shell’s ability to treat eye diseases (ming means bright). The shells are collected in the Summer and Autumn, and later dried under the Sun before getting broken into pieces for use, either raw or after being calcined.
Abalone has been harvested worldwide for centuries as both a source of food and a source of decorative items. In the past, Native Americans have also used Abalone Shells as sacred containers to hold sage and other sacred herbs. Abalone Shells have also been used as jewelry and to make buttons, buckles and other decorations.
Abalone Shells have been found in archaeological sites around the world, ranging from 100,000-year-old deposits at Blombos Cave in South Africa to historic Chinese Abalone middens on California’s Northern Channel islands.
In TCM, Abalone Shell falls under the category of ‘Herbs that pacify Internal Liver Wind and stop Tremors’. It can be used to treat hyperactive Liver yang, and it has a powerful antispasmodic effect on the nervous system too. Cold in nature, Abalone Shell can help individuals who have too much Heat in their body, such as those experiencing a Yang Excess or a Yin Deficiency, to restore a healthy yin-yang balance.
Salty in taste, Abalone Shell has a draining effect on the body by clearing accumulations, removing Phlegm and softening hard lumps. In particular, Abalone Shell targets the Kidney, the Liver and the Lungs.
Functions and Benefits of Abalone Shell
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that the benefits of Abalone Shell include the following:
Abalone Shell can treat hyperactive Liver yang symptoms such as high blood pressure, seizures, spasms, convulsions, dizziness and vertigo. By pacifying the Liver, subduing yang, clearing Liver Heat and also nourishing Liver yin, Abalone Shell can also help to remove nebula and improve vision. For example, this herb can help to treat eye diseases caused by both Excess and Deficiency syndromes, such as blood-shot eyes with swelling and pain due to up-flaming of Liver Fire, photophobia, dacryorrhea, vision-disturbed ophthalmopathy, pterygium, dim vision and blurred vision caused by Liver Blood Deficiency.
Abalone Shell can also be combined with Oyster Shell to help treat headaches caused by Yin Deficiency. Other than that, Abalone Shell healing properties also include antipyretic sedative, anti-hypertensive and antibiotic properties.
How to Use Abalone Shell
The recommended dosage of Abalone Shell is 15-30g, if crushed and decocted with water. If you are going to combine Abalone Shell with other herbs or ingredients, do add Abalone Shell to the decoction earlier than all other ingredients.
Unprocessed Abalone Shells are suitable for pacifying and clearing the Liver, while calcined Abalone Shells are fit to improve one’s eyes and vision.
Raw Abalone Shells can be found in some herbal stores, Asian markets and specialty stores. Herbal stores also sell Abalone Shells in various forms, such as Abalone Shell Flakes and Abalone Shell Powder. You can cook Abalone Shells in boiling water with other ingredients to make tea or soup for consumption, or dissolve the powder in warm water for drinking.
Cautions and Side Effects of Abalone Shell
Abalone Shell should be used with caution by individuals who are experiencing indigestion or Cold in the Spleen and stomach. Also, individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid consuming Abalone Shell during this period of time too.
It is also not recommended for individuals with weak gastrointestinal functions, those who lack appetite or are suffering from diarrheas.
While there are no known common side effects or drug interactions associated with Abalone Shell as of this writing, we strongly encourage you to consult your healthcare provider before taking Abalone Shell or adding it into your healthcare routine.
Here is a summary for Abalone Shell:
- Herb name (Chinese): 石决明
- Herb name (Pin Yin): shí jué míng
- Herb name (English): Abalone Shell
- Herb name (Botanical): Concha Haliotidis
- Origin of species: Haliotis diversicolour Reeve; Haliotis discus hannai Ino.; Haliotis ovina Gmelin; Haliotis ruber (Leach); Haliotis asinina Linnaeus; Haliotis laevigata (Donovan)
- Part(s) of herb used: Shell
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Guangdong, Hainan, Shandong, Fujian, Liaoning
- Taste(s) & Properties: Salty; Cold; Administrates the Liver meridian
- Actions: Relieves symptoms experienced in hypertensive individuals such as headaches or dizziness; Eases eye discomforts and blurred vision; Aids in relieving bleeding symptoms, or gastric discomforts (when processed)
Dong, H., Zhang, S., Du, W., Cong, H., & Zhang, L. (2020). Pharmacodynamics and metabonomics study of Tianma Gouteng Decoction for treatment of spontaneously hypertensive rats with liver-yang hyperactivity syndrome. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 253, 112661. [Accessed on 22nd October 2022]
Xue, J., Xu, Y., Jin, L., Liu, G., Sun, Y., Li, S., & Zhang, J. (2008). Effects of traditional Chinese medicine on immune responses in abalone, Haliotis discus hannai Ino. Fish & Shellfish Immunology, 24(6), 752-758. [Accessed on 22nd October 2022]
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