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Cuttlefish Bone (hai piao xiao)

What is cuttlefish bone? What is it used for?

Cuttlefish bone refers to the internal cartilaginous shell of the cuttlefish, a relative of the squid and octopus. Cuttlefish bone is typically smooth and white, with small, wavy lines or ridges.

The shell is rich in minerals such as calcium and carbon, and contains more than a dozen amino acids. It is usually boiled, then dried and prepared as a powder for herbal remedies.

In traditional Chinese medicine, cuttlefish bone has salty and warm properties, and is associated with the Kidney, Liver and Stomach meridians. Its functions are to stop bleeding, harmonize the stomach and improve kidney deficiency. Internally, it is taken to help stop bleeding of the uterus, enuresis and premature ejaculation. Some patients with stomach problems may take it to combat acid reflux disease and some intestinal disorders. Topically, cuttlefish bone can be used as a poultice to treat skin rashes, ulcers and lesions.

How much cuttlefish bone should I take?

The typical dose of cuttlefish bone is between 6 and 12 grams, boiled in water for oral use. Larger amounts may be used when it is being applied topically.

What forms of cuttlefish bone are available?

Cuttlefish bone is available as a powder, and can be found at most herbal shops and Asian markets. Some pet stores also sell cuttlefish bone supplements for animals.

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

Cuttlefish bone should not be used by patients who are diagnosed with deficient yin or excessive heat, and should be taken with caution by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with cuttlefish bone. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking cuttlefish bone or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Veterinary Botanical Medical Association. White paper on use of animals in herbal medicine. Available online.
  • D'Alberto A. Gui pi tang, restore the spleen decoction. Available online.
  • Fisher P, Ward A. Complementary medicine in Europe. British Medical Journal 1994;309:107-111.
  • Norman M. Cephalopods: A World Guide. ConchBooks, Germany, 2000.
  • Ong JE, Gong WK (eds.) The Encyclopedia of Malaysia, Volume 6: The Seas. Didier Millet, Malaysia, 2001.
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