Fù zî (附子) : Bringing Your Formulas to Life ( I )

Dr. Daniel L. Altschuler
Among all the herbs in the common Chinese materia medica, fù zî (Aconiti Radix lateralis) is one of the most important herbs. It is also one of the most ignored or avoided herbs. Several concerns and fears that have perpetuated through the Chinese medical tradition over the centuries, has resulted in fù zî being sidelined by many practitioners. Lack of use results in an inability to appreciate its clinical potential and potency; lack of experience results in an inability to know how and when to apply it appropriately.

In this short essay, I will introduce some clinical applications of fù zî and propose a few dosing and safety guidelines.
At the outset, I must state that my experience of fù zî comes mostly from my years of observations and studies under my teacher, Dr. Lee Chen Yu (李政育), in Taiwan. Taiwan is a southern, subtropical, hot and humid climate, and most practitioners there have traditionally relied on the Wen Bing school’s maxim of shying away from such hot and moving herbs in summer or southern environments or, more crucially, for any diseases that manifest heat signs (such as fever). Dr. Lee is one of the few practitioners in Taiwan that commonly uses fù zî and other yang (warming) or kidney yang natured herbs and formulas (such as You Gui Yin). Fù zî is an important herb he relies on for treating difficult cases.

More western based, or perhaps more appropriately, scientific based practitioners, may look to the chemical toxicity of fù zî (aconitine), as a reason for avoiding including it in a formula. Aconite is, after all, famous throughout much of the world as a toxic plant. One can see historical accounts and literary passages of aconite poisoning. Nevertheless, proper sourcing, proper clinical application and proper preparation makes fù zî quite safe.

Note: because of its toxicity and because of its infamy, any practitioner using fù zî should be well informed of its potential clinical side effects. These are well documented in classical Chinese literature, textbooks and modern scientific studies and will not be addressed in detail in this article.

Upcoming : Fù zî (附子) : Clinical Applications ( II )

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