What Is Xiong Dan (Bear Gall or Bear Bile)

Xiong Dan is also known as Bear Gall or Bear Bile and is the dry bile of Ursus arctos or Ursus thibetanus, which is a vertebrate belonging to the family Ursidae. It is rare animal medicine, which first appeared in <Tang Ben Cao> in 659 AD.

Ursus arctos is commonly known as the brown bear or grizzly bear, which is one of the largest living terrestrial members of the order Carnivora on land. It has strong adaptability and often inhabits coniferous forests or mixed coniferous and broad-leaved forests in mountainous areas. It is distributed in Eurasia and most parts of North America.

Ursus thibetanus (previously known as Selenarctos thibetanus) is commonly known as the Asiatic black bear, moon bear, or white-chested bear. It is an omnivorous woodland animal that feeds mainly on plants. It has the habit of vertical migration. It often inhabits high mountains in summer, and gradually moves to lower altitudes before winter. It is distributed in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Iran, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

In the early days, people hunted Ursus arctos or Ursus thibetanus, quickly took out their gallbladders, dried them, removed the gallbladder membrane, ground them into powder, and made them into Chinese herbs.

After hunting was banned, some farms in Asia began to keep Ursus arctos or Ursus thibetanus in captivity. They collect the bile of Ursus arctos or Ursus thibetanus through a variety of techniques. However, this type of technique requires a certain degree of surgery on the bear and may leave a permanent fistula or catheter in the bear.

In 1983, the Ministry of Health of China organized hundreds of pharmaceutical experts to develop artificial bear bile. Artificial bear bile was successfully developed in 1997, but it has not yet been marketed.

The main component of Xiong Dan is ursodeoxycholic acid. It also contains chenodeoxycholic acid, cholic acid, deoxycholic acid, tauroursodeoxycholic acid, taurochenodeoxycholic acid, cholesterol, bilirubin, protein, fat, peptides, amino acids, and inorganic salts.

With the development of modern medicine, the medical value of Xiong Dan has been gradually proven to be replaceable. In 1954, ursodeoxycholic acid was synthesized successfully for the first time in Japan.

The generic drug name of ursodeoxycholic acid is ursodiol. it is now being widely produced under brand names such as Actigall, Urso, Ursofalk, Ursogal, and Ursotan. It is widely used in the treatment of gallstones, primary cirrhosis, autoimmune hepatitis, colon cancer, and other diseases.

In Asia, the consumption of synthetic ursodeoxycholic acid far exceeds that of natural bear bile. The world consumes about 200 tons of synthetic ursodeoxycholic acid annually. Some throat lozenges, shampoos, toothpaste, wine, tea, eye drops, and supplements contain it.

According to <Compendium of Materia Medica>, the medicinal property of Xiong Dan is relatively cold, with a bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the liver, gallbladder and heart meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Xiong Dan is often used to clear heat and remove toxin, relieve spasm and improve vision, treat hepatitis, gallstones, angina pectoris, acute iridocyclitis, herpes zoster, whooping cough, suppurative otitis media, cholangitis, Jaundice, and burns.

According to the information of China’s State Food and Drug Administration in 2011, there are 243 kinds of medicines containing Xiong Dan. So far, the number of drugs containing Xiong Dan has been reduced to 147. Among them, the famous Chinese patent medicines include Xiong Dan Zhi Chuang Gao, Fu Fang Xiong Dan Di Yan Ye, and Xiong Dan Jiu Xin Wan.

Health benefits of Xiong Dan (Bear Bile)

  • Anti-inflammation, anti-oxidation, and anti-allergy.
  • Anti-hepatitis C virus, having antipyretic and analgesic effects.
  • Inhibiting dimethylnitrosamine-induced hepatocyte fibrosis.
  • Reducing liver damage caused by CCL4 or ethanol, and protecting the liver.
  • Reducing myocardial oxygen consumption and anti-arrhythmia.
  • Inhibiting platelet aggregation, preventing thrombosis and cerebral ischemia-reperfusion injury.
  • Promoting bile secretion, reducing the content of cholesterol and mucus in bile, and preventing gallstones.
  • Lowering blood pressure and blood sugar, promoting the digestion and absorption of fats, lipids, and fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Cooling the heart and clearing the liver, treating high fever, convulsion, epilepsy, eclampsia caused by hyperactivity of liver fire or excessive heat generating wind.
  • Removing heat toxins, relieving swelling and pain of throat and hemorrhoids, treating sores and carbuncles caused by heat toxins accumulation.
  • Clearing liver heat, treating redness and swelling of the eyes, photophobia, and nebulae caused by liver heat.
  • Relieving eye muscle fatigue and improving vision.
  • Treating infantile malnutrition and jaundice.
  • Inhibiting the proliferation of HpeG2 lung cancer cells, K562 cells, myeloma cells SP20, and HCT-116 human colon cancer cells.
  • Inhibiting Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus cereus, Bacillus brevis, diplococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae.
  • Studies have confirmed that cholic acid, deoxycholic acid, and chenodeoxycholic acid have antitussive, expectorant, and antiasthmatic effects.
  • The topical application of it can treat burns and scalds.

Xiong Dan is used with other Chinese herbs

  • It with Niu Huang (Calculus Bovis), Yin Chen (Capillary Wormwood), and Zhi Zi (Fructus Gardeniae) can treat subacute severe hepatitis.
  • It with Chan Su (Venenum Bufonis), Ren Shen (Radix Ginseng), Zhen Zhu (Pearl), She Xiang (Moschus), Niu Huang (Calculus Bovis), Shui Niu Jiao (Cornu Bubali), and Bing Pian (Borneol) can treat chest tightness, heartache, shortness of breath, and palpitations caused by insufficiency of heart qi.
  • It with Shi Jue Ming (Concha Haliotidis), Ju Hua (Flos Chrysanthemi), Gou Qi Zi (Fructus Lycii), Ze Xie (Rhizoma Alismatis), Long Dan Cao (Radix Gentianae), and Chong Wei Zi (Fructus Leonuri) can treat acute iridocyclitis.
  • It with Bing Pian (Borneol), Lu Gan Shi (Calamine), Zhen Zhu Mu (Mother of Pearl), and egg yolk oil can treat hemorrhoids bleeding and anal sinusitis.
  • It with Jin Yin Hua (Flos Lonicerae), Qing Dai (Indigo Naturalis), Jie Geng (Radix Platycodi), Gua Lou (Fructus Trichosanthis), and Gan Cao (Licorice Root) can alleviate headache, cough, thirst, and sore throat caused by wind-heat.

Side effects of Xiong Dan

Studies have confirmed that Xiong Dan has mild side effects. Taking it for a long time may cause liver and kidney damage.

It has a bitter taste. Taking it may cause nausea, vomiting, upper abdominal discomfort, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Individual patients taking it may have an allergic reaction such as rash, itching, etc. Using chlorpheniramine can relieve these symptoms.

Its injection has a certain irritation, and subconjunctival injection may cause pain. It is recommended to anesthetize and then inject.

Precautions of Xiong Dan

  • The dosage of Xiong Dan should be controlled at 0.25-0.5g.
  • It can be made into powder, pills, capsules, eye drops, or injections.
  • People with deficiency-cold in the spleen and stomach should not take it.
  • Pregnant women and children should not take it.