When I think of oysters my next thought is of the painting the Birth of Venus by Botticelli. A beautiful young nude woman……standing on a scallop shell. Venus, the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. The oyster was similarly honored throughout Asia with its various components; the shell, the meat, and the pearl being valued for their beautifying, rejuvenating, and invigorating properties. Let’s take a deeper look at this time honored crustacean through the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine. As you read through this keep in mind that when I list organs with a capital letter I am referring to the Traditional Chinese Medical energetics of that organ. This is not always a 1:1 conversion to what we see as the biological organ.
Pearl, Zhen Zhu in pinyin, is considered sweet, salty, and cold and resonates with the Liver and Heart meridians. In Traditional Chinese Medicine Heart heat and Liver heat are both linked to insomnia and emotional disturbances such as anxiety, being easily frightened, and irritability. By cooling these meridians pearl powder can help to restore a sense of peace. Topically pearl powder has the property of promoting the healing of ulcers of the skin and gums, burns, and eczema. Its ability to reduce inflammation and generate healthy skin makes it a popular facial mask ingredient. A mixture of 3 grams of pearl powder with 1 teaspoon of milk applied to the face can nourish aged dry skin and fade freckles and sun spots. Dragon Herbs is one of my favorite providers of Traditional Chinese Herbal Tonics. They offer a pearl powder in capsules that can be taken as a supplement, or opened to use the powder topically.
Mu Li, oyster shell, is salty, astringent, and cool and influences the Liver and Kidney meridians. Like pearl powder, it cools Liver heat to benefit insomnia, irritability, and restlessness. When processed with vinegar it can soften lumps and masses, including a goiter. It holds in fluids, countering night sweats and spontaneous sweating, as well as excessive uterine bleeding and vaginal discharge. While pearl powder is more commonly used for ulcerations of the skin, oyster shell can benefit stomach and duodenal ulcers and heartburn. Sometimes people will take oyster shell as a calcium supplement like this one.
My favorite part is the meat of the oyster. Unfortunately I could not find its name in pinyin but its properties are neutral temperature, sweet and salty. Oysters are beneficial for nurturing yin and building blood. This can result in relief from symptoms such as nervousness, dryness, insomnia, and indecision. Oysters are a good source of zinc and are one of my top recommendations for anyone on a fertility journey. There is an oyster formula that contains mussels so I would like to discuss the properties of mussels as well. Mussels are considered warming & salty and strengthen the Liver and Kidney. They tonify qi, jing and build blood. By supporting Kidney jing, improvements in impotence and low back pain may be noticed. Mussels also benefit excessive uterine bleeding, swellings such as goiter, and vertigo. By building blood they nourish our organs, muscle, and skin.
As we age we tend to burn through yin and Kidney jing which contributes to the physical signs and symptoms of aging. Kidney jing is what I like to refer to as our source energy. How much Kidney energy we have influences our virility and fertility, as well as how much source energy we provide our offspring. Yin substances are those that moisten; such as the fluid of our joints and that which keeps our skin soft and supple. Blood nourishes our tissues and when there is not enough our organs do not function as well and we have poor stamina. Blood stagnation is a source of pain according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Like an empty streambed, inadequate blood to keep fluids moving is one of the causative factors of blood stagnation. By nourishing yin, building blood and Kidney jing, an oyster & mussel supplement could be considered a powerful anti-aging formula!
This is the part where I say this is not medical advice and is for educational purposes only. (But have fun experimenting!) I may receive compensation for qualifying purchases. (and I appreciate you supporting my efforts)
Resources used include:
Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford
Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology by John and Tina Chen
As well as notes from a seminar with Dr. Jamie Wu at the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin now called AOMA School of Integrative Medicine.