English Name: sulfur
Pharmaceutical Name: Sulfur
Medica Category: Substances for Topical Application
Properties: Liu Huang is sour in nature and warm in temperature; it considered to be toxic.
The Chinese Herb Liu Huang is the mineral sulfur, which is usually processed with heat to minimize toxicity and prevent arsenic poisoning. While sulfur can be taken internally in small doses to tonify the Kidney, it is most commonly used externally to kill parasites and relieve itching.
Liu Huang kills parasites and relieves itching and especially effective at killing sarcoptic mites and is regarded as primary herb to cure scabies. It can be used singly in powdered form (mixed with sesame oil) for topical application, or it can be combined with Da Feng Zi (chaulmoogra seed) and Qing Fen (calomel) and other sarcoptic mite killers to reinforce the actions of killing parasites and relieving itching. Other clinical (topical) applications include eczema, ringworm, pruritis, yin sores, damps sores, and carbuncles.
Liu Huang tonifies ming mien (life gate) fire and strengthens Kidney yang and can be used clinically to address yang vacuity (devastated yang), impotence, weak, cold limbs, and constipation from deficiency and cold.
General comments about TCM substances for topical application: these substances are categorized differently because many of them are toxic and so should not be used internally; nor should they be used for prolonged periods or at large dosages. This word of caution extends to using these substances over damaged or broken skin, or near sensory orifices through which they can be absorbed and do damage to sensitive/specialized tissues and mucosa. Furthermore, many of these substances are no longer used in TCM and have been added to this glossary for informational and academic purposes.
Liu Huang is toxic; thus, it is contraindicated in pregnant women. It is also contraindicated for persons showing heat signs from yin-deficiency.
Long-term use should be avoided.
Large doses should be avoided—the toxic dose for humans is 10 – 20g, and adverse reactions can occur within the first few minutes of exposure; the warning signs are such symptoms as poor appetite, abdominal distention, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms of overdose range from light sensitivity and runny nose in mild cases to delirium, convulsions, and death in the most severe poisonings.