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Abalone Shell (shi jue ming)

What is abalone shell? What is it used for?

Known in some circles as the "sea ear," the abalone is a type of mollusk that grows predominantly in the waters in and around California.

There are nine types of abalone in North America, each somewhat different in size and appearance. Each has a one-pieced shell, which is rounded or oval-shaped, with a dome on one end. While the meat of the abalone is considered a delicacy in many cultures, the shell is used in herbal remedies. Abalone shell contains a variety of elements, including calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium and silicon, and several chemical compounds, including aspartic acid and glutamic acid. The shells are collected in the summer and autumn, then dried in the sun and broken into pieces for use, either raw or after being calcined.

In traditional Chinese medicine, abalone shell has salty and cold properties, and is associated with the Liver meridian. Its functions are to pacify the liver and subdue yang, and to clear fire in the liver. Abalone shell is used to treat conditions such as vertigo, dizziness, blurred vision, headaches, and eye-related pain, and to improve visual acuity. Abalone shell is often combined with other substances, such as oyster shell and white peony.

How much abalone shell should I take?

The typical dosage of abalone shell is between 15 and 30 grams, crushed and decocted with water. If abalone shell is being combined with other items, it should be added to the decoction earlier than the other ingredients.

What forms of abalone shell are available?

Powdered abalone shell can be found at many Asian markets and specialty stores. Raw abalone shell should be used to calm the liver, while calcined shell (refined with water) can be used to treat eye conditions.

What can happen if I take too much abalone shell? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Abalone shell should be given with caution to patients with indigestion or cold in the spleen and stomach caused by insufficiency. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions or side-effects associated with abalone shell. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking abalone shell or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Chen YZ, et al. Journal of Fujian College of TCM 1999;9(3):28-30.
  • Huang SW, et al. Journal of Chinese Patented Medicine 1997;19(9):30-31.
  • Li XJ, et al. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine Material 1997;20(10):521-523.
  • Zhou BH, et al. China Journal of Hospital Pharmacy 1997;17(11):505-507.
  • Editorial Committee of Chinese Materia Medica. State Drug Administration of China. Chinese Materia Medica. Shanghai: Science and Technology Press, 1998.
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