Substitutes for Wildlife-Origin Materials in TCM

Teresa Williams recently presented at the Wildlife Protection in TCM conference in San Francisco with Qifei Hu, CEO of Tianjiang. Their topic, Wildlife Protection in TCM: Fauna & Flora, introduced resources that help practitioners make more sustainable choices. This article summarizes their presentation as it relates to endangered species of fauna while resources related to sustainable flora will be discussed in a future article.

We’re pleased to share recommendations provided by TCM Alternatives to Wild Animal Preparations (TAWAP). This resource provides an extensive list of recommended substitutions for 26 varieties of animal herbal medicines, including the highly endangered Chuan Shan Jia (Pangolin scales), Xi Jiao (Rhino horn), and Hu Gu (Tiger bone). 

Each herb shows its medical function and plant-based alternatives for that function. For example:

Plant substitutes to replace wild-origin pangolin scales (Chuan Shan Jia)

Herb function Plant substitutes
Reduce swelling and
promote discharge of pus
Ban Lan Gen, Da Qing Ye, Ren Dong Teng, Quan Shen, Bai Hua She She Cao, Chuan Xin LianLian Qiao
Descends milk Wang Bu Liu Xing
Dispersing blood stasis Dan Shen, Chuan Niu Xi, Yan Hu SuoSan Leng, Tao Ren, Yue Ji
Expelling wind and damp Wei Ling Xian, Liang Mian Zhen, Qian Nian JianShen Jin Cao


Plant substitutes to replace wild-origin rhino horn (Xi Jiao)

Herb function Plant substitutes
Cool heat in the blood and stop bleeding Mu Dan Pi, Xuan Shen, Sheng Di Huang, Bai Mao Gen, Zi Cao
Eliminates toxins
Da Qing YeLian Qiao, Jin Yin Hua


Plant substitutes to replace wild-origin tiger bone (Hu Gu)

Herb function Plant substitutes
Dispel wind, relieve pain and strengthen bones Liang Mian Zhen, Qian Nian Jian, Wu Jia PiWei Ling Xian, Shen Jin Cao


Please visit the TAWAP for an extensive listing of substitutes for wildlife-origin materials in TCM.

We hope this resource helps you find the right alternatives to wildlife-origin TCM materials. Let's all do our part to preserve our ecosystem, and to protect endangered species!