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Pipe Fish (hai long)

What is pipe fish? What is it used for?

Pipe fish is a type of fish that is closely related to the sea horse. There are an estimated 200 varieties of pipe fish, including a few varieties that live in fresh water.

The typical pipe fish ranges between five and six inches in length (although some have been known to reach a height of 18 inches), with long, slender bodies encased in segmented plates and a four-sided tail. Some pipe fishes have a small hump located just behind the eyes; others have long snouts. The whole fish is used as a medicinal. It is caught, cleaned, then dried in the sun and used either whole, or as a powder.

According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, pipe fish has sweet, salty and slightly warm properties, and is associated with the Kidney meridian. Its main function is to strengthen the kidney. It is also considered an aphrodisiac; the larger the pipe fish, the more potent its properties. Pipe fish is often incorporated into kidney yang tonics. Studies conducted in China suggest that pipefish may be beneficial in reducing the growth of some cancerous tumors, but this research has yet to be conducted on a large scale.

How much pipe fish should I take?

The typical dosage of pipe fish is between 1.5 and 3 grams, taken up to three times per day, usually powdered and decocted in water for oral use.

What forms of pipe fish are available?

Whole, dried pipe fish can be found at some herbal shops, but is extremely rare and quite expensive. Powdered pipe fish is also available from some vendors, but it is also extremely expensive.

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

Pipe fish should not be taken by patients diagnosed with yin heat deficiency. As of this writing, there are no known side-effects or drug interactions associated with pipe fish. As always, however, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking pipe fish or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Ashley-Ross MA. Mechanical properties of the dorsal fin muscle of seahorse (hippocampus) and pipefish (syngnathus). J Exp Zool November 1, 2002;293(6):561-77.
  • Li SM, Wu XD, Zeng S, et al. Study on anticancer activity of syngnathus in vitro. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi March 2001;26(3):198-200.
  • Teeguarden R. Radiant Health: The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs. New York; Warner Books, 1998, p. 212.
  • Wang L, et al. A comparative study of six different kinds of gelatins. Chinese Journal of Chinese Medicine 1992;17(1):48-50.
  • Watanabe S, Kaneko T, Watanabe Y. Immunocytochemical detection of mitochondria-rich cells in the brood pouch epithelium of the pipefish, syngnathus schlegeli: structural comparison with mitochondria-rich cells in the gills and larval epidermis. Cell Tissue Res January 1999;295(1):141-9.
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