Niu Huang (Cattle Gallstone or Calculus Bovis)

What Is Niu Huang

Niu Huang commonly known as Cattle Gallstone, Ox Gallstone, or Calculus Bovis is the stone in the gallbladder, bile duct, and liver duct of Bos taurus domesticus Gmelin, which is a vertebrate belonging to the family Bovidae. It is rare and precious animal medicine, which first appeared in <Shennong Ben Cao Jing> in the late Western Han Dynasty (around 100 BCE).

Bos taurus domesticus Gmelin represents common domestic cattle. They are widely distributed all over the world and almost all are farmed. Among them, some cows are regarded as dairy cows and edible cows. In some Asian countries, they are used as farm labor.

When slaughtering cattle, the butcher will look for stones in the gallbladder, bile duct, and liver duct of the cattle, filter out the bile, take out the stones, remove their outer membrane, dry them in the shade, and make them into Chinese herbs. In bovine animals, gallstones from yak and bison can also be used as Niu Huang.

Bos taurus domesticus Gmelin

Niu Huang contains free bilirubin, conjugated bilirubin, biliverdin, choleic acid, deoxycholic acid, chenodeoxycholic acid, lithocholic acid, glycocholic acid, taurocholic acid, tauro-ursodesoxycholic acid, glycochenodeoxycholic acid, taurochenodexycholic acid, glycodexycholic acid, taurodeoxycholic acid, cholesterol, fatty acids, lecithin, protein, amino acids, carotenoids, vitamin D and some inorganic elements.

Generally, brownish-yellow, crispy Niu Huang with a golden-yellow cross-section is preferred. Chewing good quality Niu Huang will feel cool and not sticky to your teeth.

The probability of calculus disease in cattle is low, and the yield of cattle gallstones is not high. Because it could not meet the needs of clinical medication, a large number of scientists began to look for its substitutes.

In 1956, Tianjin Pharmaceutical Factory developed artificial calculus bovis by studying the ingredients of natural calculus bovis, using beef gall powder, cholic acid, hyodeoxycholic acid, taurine, bilirubin, cholesterol, and trace elements.

According to the formation principle and biochemical process of natural calculus bovis, scientists have also developed Cultural Calculus Bovis and Calculus Bovis Sativus(also referred to as in-vitro Cultured Calculus Bovis).

The Calculus Bovis Sativus is made by adding deoxycholic acid, cholic acid, compound bilirubin calcium, etc., with bovine bile as the mother liquid.

Cultural Calculus Bovis is made by surgically inserting a calculus-causing factor into the gallbladder of the cow by using the body of a living cow.

Although natural calculus bovis, artificial calculus bovis, Calculus Bovis Sativus, and Cultural Calculus Bovis have great similarities in chemical composition and pharmacological effects, there are also certain differences.

The China Food and Drug Administration stipulates that it can be replaced by Cultural Calculus Bovis and Calculus Bovis Sativus for clinical acute and severe illness drugs containing natural calculus bovis, but artificial calculus bovis should not be used instead of natural calculus bovis.

According to the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, the medicinal nature of Niu Huang is relatively cool, with a bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the heart and liver meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is often used to dissipate phlegm for resuscitation, cool the liver to extinguish wind, clear heat and remove toxins, and treat convulsions, epilepsy, mouth and tongue sore, sore throat, toothache, redness, swelling, and pain of the eye, furunculosis, scrofula, herpes zoster, Japanese encephalitis, ulcerative colitis, chronic hepatitis B, stroke, coronary heart disease, acute pancreatitis, upper respiratory tract infection, and essential hypertension.

There are about 700 kinds of Chinese medicine prescriptions containing it. Among them, most of natural calculus bovis in traditional Chinese medicine prescriptions have been replaced by artificial calculus bovis, such as Niu Huang Jie Du Pian, Niu Huang Shang Qing Wan, and Niu Huang Qing Wei Pian.

At present, only 42 kinds of Chinese medicine prescriptions prohibit the use of artificial calculus bovis, such as Angong Niuhuang Wan, Niu Huang An Xin Wan, and Xi Huang Wan.


  • Anti-inflammation, inhibiting mouse ear swelling induced by croton oil and rat foot swelling induced by carrageenan.
  • Reducing the body temperature of rats with fever caused by 2,4-dinitrophenol or yeast.
  • Increasing the pain threshold and reducing the number of writhing reactions in mice caused by acetic acid.
  • Anti-oxidation, enhancing the activity of superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and reducing the content of malondialdehyde.
  • Antagonizing morphine-induced tail erection in mice, and cooperating with pentobarbital sodium to delay sleep time in mice.
  • Antagonizing the convulsions induced by cocaine, caffeine or pentylenetetrazol, and prolonging the incubation period of convulsions.
  • Reducing the blood pressure of anesthetized animals, enhancing the myocardial contractility of the heart failure model heart, and slowing down the heart rate of the isolated toad and spider heart.
  • Inhibiting calcium influx in ventricular myocytes, reducing cellular calcium overload, and resisting arrhythmia.
  • Promoting red blood cell production and inhibiting platelet aggregation induced by adenosine diphosphate, arachidonic acid, and collagen.
  • Dilating the bronchus, relieving tracheal smooth muscle spasm caused by pilocarpine, acetylcholine, or histamine.
  • Promoting bile secretion, relaxing the common bile duct and biliary sphincter.
  • Reduce liver damage induced by CCL4 and protect the liver.
  • Improving the phagocytic function of macrophages in the peripheral blood of mice, increasing the serum lysozyme content, and enhancing the body’s non-specific and specific immunity.
  • Dissipating phlegm for resuscitation, treating coma, delirium, high fever, dysphoria, trismus, sluggish tongue, abundant accumulation of phlegm and drool caused by phlegm-heat blocking the heart orifices.
  • Cooling the liver to extinguish wind, treating children’s acute convulsions and epilepsy.
  • Treating mouth and tongue sore, throat swelling and pain, toothache caused by fire toxins stagnation.
  • Treating superficial infection, furunculosis, furunculus, mammary cancer, bubo, deep multiple abscess, scrofula, and malignant sore.
  • Inhibiting the proliferation of colon cancer HT29 cells and inducing apoptosis of liver cancer HepG2 cells.
  • Inhibiting Staphylococcus aureus, streptococcus, micrococcus tetragenus, and bacillus pertussis.


  • It can be used in combination with She Xiang (Moschus), Bing Pian (Borneol), Zhu Sha (Cinnabaris), Huang Lian (Rhizoma Coptidis), Zhi Zi (Fructus Gardeniae) to treat coma, delirium, high fever, dysphoria, trismus, sluggish tongue, abundant accumulation of phlegm and drool caused by phlegm-heat blocking the heart orifices.
  • It can be used in combination with Zhu Sha (Cinnabaris), Quan Xie (Mesobuthus Martensii), Gou Teng (Ramulus cum Uncis Uncariae), etc. to treat acute convulsions in children.
  • It can be used in combination with Zhen Zhu (Pearl), Yuan Zhi (Radix Polygalae), Dan Nan Xing (Arisaema cum Bile), etc. to treat epilepsy caused by phlegm blocking upper orifices.
  • It can be used in combination with Huang Qin (Radix Scutellariae), Xiong Huang (Realgar), Da Huang (Radix et Rhizoma Rhei), treat mouth and tongue sore, throat swelling and pain, toothache caused by fire toxins stagnation.
  • It can be used in combination with Jin Yin Hua (Flos Lonicerae), Chong Lou (Rhizoma Paridis), Gan Cao (Licorice Root), etc. to treat superficial infection, furunculosis, and furunculus.

Side Effects

  • Modern research shows that Niu Huang is relatively less toxic.
  • Overdose may cause diarrhea, muscle cramps, lower blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, coma, or respiratory failure.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Niu Huang should be controlled at 0.15-0.35g.
  • It can be made into pills, powders, or ground for external use.
  • People who are allergic to Niu Huang should not take it.
  • It should not be used with medicines containing morphine, phenobarbital, urethane, tetracycline, Long Gu (Fossilia Ossis Mastodi), Sheng Di Huang (Radix Rehmanniae), Chang Shan (Radix Dichroae), Niu Xi (Radix Achyranthis Bidentatae), or Gan Qi (Resina Toxicodendri).
  • Patients without syndromes of excess heat should not take it.
  • Patients with weakness of the spleen and the stomach should not take it.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take it.
  • Children, the elderly, and the infirm should take it under the guidance of a doctor.