E Jiao is commonly used animal product in Chinese medicine. Its main action and application is to tonify and nourish the blood and to stop bleeding. As it’s cloying and heavy in nature, we use it to replenish the yin as well.
Yin compared to yang, is the quality that is heavy and sticky. In this respect, E Jiao – we receive it as a block of gelatine and dissolve it into a decoction – has the perfect yin quality. Yin does need to control and anchor yang, hence E Jiao can be used for insomnia particularly in combination with other herbs such as Huang Lian. The combination of E Jiao and Huang Lian harmonises the axis of fire (heart) and water (kidney) that is so vital for an optimal function of our mental capabilities. As part of a perfect mental state, enough rest and sleep has to obtained and maintained.
E Jiao is derived from boiling and concentrating donkey hide. Animals are skinned (and hence are killed) for us to obtain the valuable product. With increasing awareness around the treatment and slaughter of animals, veganism and vegetarianism we found it essential to investigate the sources for E Jiao (available in granule only at Safflower).
Our findings are encouraging, because we have learnt that donkeys are bread not only for their skin but also for their meat. This is a new practice and apparently our supplier’s source has 18 stations across the North Eastern region of China. At these stations, donkeys are cultivated and both the skin and the meat is utilised.
Our supplier informs us that around 400g of dried donkey skin is needed to produce 270g of granulated extract. The amount of dried skin that one donkey produces has not been reported to us but we assume its probably about three times 400g and hence around 800g of granulated extract. Consider the daily dosage of between 3 – 9g raw herbs and approximately 1/5 in granules, it means that one donkey skin goes a long way.
E Jiao is very specific in its quality and therapeutic effect. As not to only depend on donkeys and the increasing need of Chinese medicinals in general, investigations are on the way to determine if a potential substitute (animal or plant) could be used with equally effective therapeutic results. The Chinese pharmacopoeia only specifies donkey and hence it will require regulatory updates before other substitutions can be considered. The reason why E Jiao is only available as granule and not as liquid extract is that animal products are limited in Europe.
As a practitioner it’s important that you are aware of the complexities of using E Jiao in your herbal practice. It’s critical that you ask your current supplier for a certificate of analysis. This way you can make an informed decision about prescribing or dispensing E Jiao for your patients. If you are a practitioner prescribing E Jiao via our dispensary, you can be assured, that each batch is tested and free of contamination. Please bear in mind that pollution and contamination of products are more and more an issue and it’s critical to use products which are free of contamination.
We hope this article will help you to be prepared for some of the questions that patients might ask you.