Nacre (Mother of Pearl)
What is Nacre (Mother of Pearl)?
Nacre (zhen zhu mu, 珍珠母), also known as Mother of Pearl, is the shell of Hyriopsis cumingli, more commonly known as Freshwater Mussel to us. This iridescent layer of the Mollusk shell is traditionally harvested in the coastal areas of Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan provinces for usage in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). When in whole, Nacre is roughly scalene, with ridges of unequal length, and is quadrangle in shape.
These shells can be harvested anytime during the year. Once the Nacre is harvested, flesh and blood will then be removed from the shell before it is washed clean. Afterwards, Nacre will be rinsed in fresh water, having its outer black skin scraped off, and then dried under the Sun or other source of heat. Finally, it can then be grounded for future medicinal usage.
Cold in nature, Nacre can help individuals who have too much ‘Heat’ in their body, such as those experiencing Yang Excess or Yin Deficiency, to restore a healthy yin-yang balance. Salty in taste, this herb tends to have a draining effect on the human body by clearing accumulations, removing phlegm and softening hard lumps. In particular, this herb targets the Heart and the Liver.
The Heart is believed to control the flow of blood, the blood vessels and to house the Spirit (shen). On the other hand, The Liver is believed to be in charge of regulating the movements of qi and body fluids in the human body. Also, the Liver takes the lead when it comes to balancing our emotions.
Functions and Benefits of Nacre (Mother of Pearl)
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Nacre has the following 3 main functions:
Firstly, Nacre can help to address syndromes of Liver yang hyperactivity. By pacifying the Liver, subduing yang and clearing Liver Heat, this herb can help to tackle symptoms such as dizziness, dizzy vision and flu, which are usually caused by Liver-Kidney Yin Deficiency. This herb is also great at calming the Heart and inducing tranquilization in it to calm one’s mind down. Thus, it is also frequently used to address symptoms such as irritability.
Secondly, Nacre can relieve eye discomfort. By clearing Liver Fire and nourishing Liver yin, it is one of the key herbs that are used to treat eye diseases. For example, to treat blood-shot eyes and Nebula, Nacre is often combined with other Liver-clearing, vision-improving and nebula-removing herbs, such as Chrysanthemum. For dim vision and blurred vision caused by Liver Deficiency, Nacre is often combined with Liver-nourishing and vision-improving herbs, such as Barbary Wolfberry Fruit and Black Sesame and so on.
Thirdly, Nacre can calm down restlessness in the Heart-mind. By clearing Liver and Heart Fire, it can induce sedation in the Heart and Liver meridians that it enter. Hence, this herb can be combined with other sedation-inducing and tranquilizing herbs such as Hu Po and Long Gu to treat symptoms such as restlessness, palpitation and insomnia.
Recent studies have also demonstrated that Nacre is effective in helping to regenerate skin cells, tighten skin and pores. Hence, it can also be smashed into fine powder to be used on sores and pruritus by drying Dampness and healing wounds.
Furthermore, as the shell contains many minerals including calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron and amino acids, it provides the human body with anti-ageing and antioxidant effects. It can help to treat skin problems such as eczema, dry skin and acne.
How to Use Nacre (Mother of Pearl)
Nacre can either be consumed or used on skin. For consumption, Nacre is usually available in forms such as powder and capsules. It can also be found in supplements that can be taken anytime, anywhere for your convenience. These products are usually available in herbal stores.
For consumption, the recommended daily dosage of Nacre in powder or pill form is 1-3g.
When it comes to external application, Nacre can be found in many healing products and skin care products. Simply look out for Nacre or Mother of Pearl on the product’s ingredient table to find it!
Cautions and Side Effects of Nacre (Mother of Pearl)
While many consider Nacre to be a very safe herb, it is still best practice to consult your healthcare provider before deciding if you should add it to your diet. This is especially so if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. This is to be safe for your little one!
Also, if you are currently experiencing Spleen issues or Stomach issues with weak digestive abilities, it is best to avoid this herb for the time being.
Here is a summary for Nacre:
- Herb name (Chinese): 珍珠母
- Herb name (Pin Yin): zhēn zhū mǔ
- Herb name (English): Nacre
- Herb name (Botanical): Concha Margaritifera
- Origin of species: Hyriopsis cumingii (Lea); Cristaria plicata (Leach); Pteria martensii (Dunker)
- Part(s) of herb used: Shell
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Hainan, Guangdong, Guangxi
- Taste(s) & Properties: Salty; Cold; Administrates the Liver and Heart meridians
- Actions: Helps to ease symptoms of dizziness or giddiness; Calms the mind to improve quality of sleep; Eases painful eyes or blurred vision; Relieves symptoms of ulcers and skin irritations.
Baumann, L. S. Mother of pearl: The power of pearl powder. [Accessed on 27th September 2022]
Li, Y. C., Chen, C. R., & Young, T. H. (2013). Pearl extract enhances the migratory ability of fibroblasts in a wound healing model. Pharmaceutical biology, 51(3), 289-297.[Accessed on 27th September 2022]
Zhang, G., Brion, A., Willemin, A. S., Piet, M. H., Moby, V., Bianchi, A., … & Rousseau, M. (2017). Nacre, a natural, multi‐use, and timely biomaterial for bone graft substitution. Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, 105(2), 662-671.[Accessed on 27th September 2022]
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