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Cicadas in Chinese Medicine

Brood X is here! By now we are getting used to the droning chirp in the background and cicadas everywhere! Whether you find them annoying or fascinating, a large number of cicadas will be with us for the next week or two. And they even have an important use in Chinese Medicine!

Did you know that traditionally Chinese Herbalists use the discarded exoskeleton to treat respiratory disorders? Their Chinese name is Chan Tui, which literally means “cicada molt”. They do not use the insects themselves though, just the molted skins that the nymphs discard after they emerge. You’ve probably seen the empty shells left on grass and trees, even littering the ground. Because of the way the shells resemble yellow-brown flower petals, an alternate Chinese name is Chan Hua “cicada flower”.

Chan Tui has many uses in Chinese medicine. Traditionally it’s often combined with mint to treat sore throat and hoarse voice. It can also generally treat “wind-heat” which include symptoms like red, itchy eyes, itchy skin, rashes, and general upper respiratory issues . It is a common ingredient in many allergy formulas. It can also be found in formulas to treat the throat and vocal polyps.

So next time you see cicadas remember all the healing benefits they provide!

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