On Gé Gēn 葛根

Gé Gēn (Radix Puerariae)

《神农本草经》: 味⽢,平。主消渴,⾝⼤热,呕吐,诸痹,起阴⽓,解诸毒。
[Shén Nóng Běn Cǎo Jīng]: Sweet flavour, and neutral Qi. Governs dispersion thirst, major body heat, vomiting, and various kinds of impediment. It raises the Yīn Qì and resolves all toxins.

[Míng Yī Bié Lù (Táo Hǒngjǐng – 456-536)]: “[It] has no toxicity. It governs the treatment of cold damage and wind strike headache; [it] releases the muscles, effuses the surface and promotes sweating; [it] opens the interstices, heals metal sores, stops pain and [treats] subcostal wind pain.”

Lǐ Dōngyuán (1180-1251) said: “Gé Gēn is sweet, neutral and warm; common people, at the onset of a taiyang disease pattern, give Gegen Shengma Tang, this is incorrect.”

(Wáng) Hǎogǔ (1200-1264) said: “It’s qi is neutral and flavour sweet, [for it] ascends, and is yang. Gé Gēn is a medicinal which moves the Yangming channel.”

Zhāng Zhìcōng (1616-1674): “sweet and acrid, white when powdered, therefore enters Yangming; the skin is black and flower red, and so unites with Taiyang. Therefore, Gé Gēn is able to diffuse and outthrust the qi of yangming center earth, and unite the taiyang channel on the exterior.”

[Essentials of the Materia Medica (Wáng Āng 1664)]: “[Gé Gēn] Lightly effuses and resolves the muscles, ascends yang, and scatters fire.”

(唐宗海 : “根深能引⽔⽓上达苗叶,故兼能升津液也.”
Táng Zōnghǎi (1846-1897): “[The] Deep roots [of Gé Gēn] are able to carry water qi upwards into the sprouts and leaves, [and is] therefore able to ascend fluids.”

According to Professor Huáng Huáng, patients that respond well to Gé Gēn formulas have the following characteristics.

  • Big, strong patients with thick, strong muscles
  • Slightly overweight
  • Heavy, cumbersome bodies
  • Coarse, thick skin
  • Hairy
  • Lazy appearance
  • Sallow, dark complexion

These patients have the following propensities:

  • Stiff neck and back due to tight muscles (tension in traps, levator scapula, sub-occipitals, etc.)
  • Headaches (Taiyang – Yangming)
  • Heavy Head (cloudy, foggy, etc.)
  • Dizziness
  • Loose Stools
  • Heavy and Cumbersome body

To learn more about Ge Gen and its various formulas, click here to check out my Gé Gēn class

Huáng Yuán-Yù on Wú Zhū Yú Tāng

Wú Zhū Yú (吳茱萸): Acrid and bitter flavor, warm nature; enters the foot Yángmíng stomach, foot Tàiyīn spleen, and foot Juéyīn liver channels. Warms the centre, drains dampness, opens depression, breaks congealment, descends turbid yin to stop vomiting, and ascends clear yang to stop diarrhea. 

Cold Damage’s Wú Zhū Yú Tāng

Wú Zhū Yú (吳茱萸) 1 shēng

Rén Shēn (人蔘) 3 liǎng

Shēng Jiāng (生薑) 6 liǎng

Dà Zǎo (大棗) 12 pieces

Treats Yángmíng cold damage with a desire to vomit after eating. Normally, stomach qi descends, [which results] in the absence of vomiting on the intake [of food]. [When] stomach qi adversely ascends, this results in vomiting and reduced [food] intake. Rén Shēn and Dà Zǎo bank the earth and supplement the center; Wú Zhū Yú and Shēng Jiāng warm the stomach and descend counterflow. [This] treats Juéyīn disease with dry retching, vomiting of foamy drool, and headaches. 

Due to deficiency of the earth, wood becomes stagnant, centre qi is harmed, the stomach ascends as opposed to descending, and turbid qi is upthrusted, resulting in headaches and dry retching. 

When damp qi is congealed and stagnant, this results in vomiting of foamy drool. Rén Shēn and Dà Zǎo bank the earth and supplement the center; Wú Zhū Yú and Shēng Jiāng descend counterflow and course wood. [This] treats Shàoyīn disease with vomiting, diarrhea, reversal cold of the extremities, vexation, agitation and a desire to die. 

When cold water rebels against the earth, the spleen sinks and the stomach [runs] counterflow, which leads to both vomiting and diarrhea. [When] center qi is depleted, the four limbs lack warmth, resulting in reversal cold of the extremities. [When] yang departs from its root, it disperses and strays without returning, resulting in vexation, agitation and a desire to die. Rén Shēn and Dà Zǎo bank the earth and supplement the center; Wú Zhū Yú and Shēng Jiāng descend counterflow and ascend that which is sinking. 

In the Jīn Guì [this formula] treats vomiting and chest fullness. [When] the center is deficient and the stomach runs counterflow, turbid qi becomes congested in the chōng vessel, resulting in vomiting and chest fullness. Rén Shēn and Dà Zǎo bank the earth and supplement the center; Wú Zhū Yú and Shēng Jiāng descend counterflow and drain fullness. 

Zé Xiè from Zhāng Zhì-Cōng’s Běn Cǎo Chóng Yuán (本草崇原)

Zé Xiè from Zhāng Zhì-Cōng’s Běn Cǎo Chóng Yuán (本草崇原)
The Qi and flavor of Zé Xiè are sweet, cold and non-toxic. It treats wind, cold, damp impediment, difficult lactation; [it] nourishes the five viscera and boosts qi and strength, makes one plump and healthy, and disperses water. Taken for extended periods of time, the ears and eyes will become sharp and bright. It reduces hunger, extends the years [life], lightens the body, brightens the complexion, and [gives one] the ability to walk on water. [1]
Zexie is a water medicinal, which is sweet and cold. It is able to ascend the qi of water-yin upwards and nourish center earth. It governs the treatment of wind, cold, damp impediment, by initiating the water-fluids in the lower body, which then from center earth irrigate the muscles, interstices and skin. Breast milk is the fluid of the middle burner, so by the nourishment of water-fluids in center earth, it is able to treat difficult lactation. The five viscera receive the essence of food and grains, and since zexie flows and pools in center earth, it can therefore nourish the five viscera. The kidneys are the unyielding official, whose water essence supports the upper, and therefore boosts qi and strength. By irrigating the muscles and interstices from center earth, [zexie] is able to make one plump and healthy. Water qi first ascends then descends, therefore [zexie] disperses water. The sharpening and brightening of the ears and eyes after being taken over an extended period of time are the result of water assisting fire. Decreasing hunger and extending the years is due to water nourishing the earth. Lightening the body and brightening the complexion is due to the outward flow of water. With [giving one] the ability to walk on water, it can be said that [when one’s] ears and eyes are sharp and bright, and hunger is reduced, the years are extended, the body is lightened, and the complexion is bright, [they feel as if] they can walk on water!

[1] This last line is very interesting and can be translated and interpreted a couple different ways. The first translation, which is the most common interpretation and the one that makes sense according to later commentaries, is “the ability to walk on water.” Based on Zhāng’s reasoning it makes the most sense. However when first reading the line from the Běn Cǎo, I read it as “[zexie] is able to move water upwards.” This is a common function of the plant and the justification used for many of the positive effects experienced from taking this medicinal, therefore it would make sense. As there is no actual commentary found after the original entry, it’s impossible to know for sure what Shén Nóng meant with this string of characters.

Zhāng Zhì-Cōng on Bái Zhú

Huáng Lián assists sleep- A case by Huáng Huáng (黄煌)

One early morning last week as I had just turned on my cell phone, I received information about a patient from northern Jiāng Sū province that had suffered with insomnia. He had been here nine months previously for a formula and had taken seven packages. He recently returned, and after taking one package had completely recovered. This was quite remarkable!!

Now that he had finished his formula, he was asking how this was dealt with. 

He was a forty year old male that was suffering with severe insomnia which started last year in December. He found it difficult to sleep for the entire night, and had repeatedly taken western medications all to no avail. 

The formula he was given consisted of the following; 

Huáng Lián 5g, Ròu Guì 10g, Zhì Fù Zǐ 10g, Gān Jiāng 10g, Shēng Gān Cǎo 5g. 

This is Jiāo Tài Wán combined with Sì Nì Tāng. Now why would, these formulas be considered for this case? Let’s take a look at this patient. The man had a strong, robust physique; his skin was a dark color, he had no trouble eating, and his stools lacked shape. Now although he felt cold on the inside, he suffered from agitation and insomnia. This is what the ancients called ‘non-interaction of the heart and kidneys’, which is the ‘tried and true’ Jiāo Tài Wán formula pattern. Sì Nì Tāng harmonizes the body, and Huáng Lián and Ròu Guì treat the disease. 

Huáng Lián is beneficial for insomnia. The Huáng Lián in Huáng Lián Ē Jiāo Tāng is used to treat “vexation in the heart, with an inability to sleep”. Huáng Lián Tāng uses equal parts Huáng Lián and Ròu Guì along with (Rén) Shēn, (Bàn) Xià, (Shēng) Jiāng, (Dà) Zǎo, and (Gān) Cǎo to treat “heat in the chest, evil qi in the stomach, abdominal pain, and a desire to vomit”. The heat in the chest is commonly expressed as heart vexation with an inability to sleep. Jiāo Tài Wán only contains two medicinals, Huáng Lián and Ròu Guì and is originally from the Míng dynasties ‘Comprehensive Medicine According to Master Han’ (韩氏医通, Hán Shì Yī Tōng). The author Hán Fēi-Xiá said;

“brew numerous times, add honey, take on an empty stomach, and this will instantly bring forth the interaction between the heart and kidneys”.

Yú Tīng-Hóng (余听鸿) had written about a patient from Zhè Jiāng County that had suffered with an inability to sleep the entire night for many years. He had taken over two hundred spirit calming, blood nourishing formulas which offered him no relief. The famous Mèng Hé physician Mǎ Shěng-Sān (马省三) prescribed; 

Huáng Lián 8 fēn, Shān Zhī 3 qián, Zhū Dǎn Zhī 1 qián (mix fried), decocted. That night he slept soundly. 

In the past, I have given patients equal parts powdered Huáng Lián and Ròu Guì infused in boiling water, and taken prior to going to sleep. This has indeed helped with sleep difficulties. 

However, Huáng Lián is bitter and cold, and many people are unable to take it. Huáng Lián’s strength by itself is quite weak, and it is incapable of treating all stubborn cases of insomnia. Nevertheless, we always want to select the corresponding formula according to the body constitution. For example, with a red, oily facial complexion, heat vexation, headaches, and constipation, we can use Sān Huáng Xiè Xīn Tāng. With pale skin, red lips, red tongue, and heart vexation, me may use Huáng Lián Ē Jiāo Tāng. In a thin patient with dark lips, abdominal pain and insomnia, Huáng Lián Tāng may be used. With dry retching, epigastric focal distension, and mouth ulcers, we use Bàn Xià Xiè Xīn Tāng. With strong pain in the back and nape, diarrhea, chest oppression, vexation, palpitations, and insomnia, use Gé Gēn Qín Lián Tāng. 

Originally, because Huáng Lián and Ròu Guì were combined with Sì Nì Tāng, we know that it is applicable in cases of a cold body with a hot disease. This is commonly seen in strong, robust men with a yellowish-dark skin color, and insomnia. After taking these medicinals, not only will insomnia improve, but enduring cases of abdominal pain and diarrhea, can be ameliorated.

Using high dosages of Bai Hua She She Cao in the treatment of Acne

Chinese Medical department affiliated with Ning Xia medical school
Ma Xiao-Yong, Ding Yu-Mei

Journal of Traditional Chinese medicine, 2008, Vol. 49, No. 8

Bai Hua She She Cao (Herba Hedyotidis Diffusae) 白花蛇舌草 is slightly bitter, sweet and cold. This medicinal enters the stomach, large intestine and small intestine channels. Its main functions are to clear heat, disinhibit dampness, resolve toxicity and disperse abscesses. This year we have been employing Bai Hua She She Cao quite often in combination with other medicinals in the treatment of acne. The following are a couple of case studies representing the positive results we have experienced.

Case 1: Wang, a 26 year old male presented in December 2006 with red papules on his face that had been present for 3 months. The papules were pus filled, nodular, painful and quite itchy. This was accompanied with a bitter taste in the mouth, dry stools, red tongue, slippery-yellow tongue coat, and a wiry-slippery pulse. The diagnosis was acne with the pattern belonging to accumulation and exuberant toxic heat in the Lungs and Stomach. The formula prescribed was:

Bai Hua She She Cao 60g
Sheng Shi Gao 45g (cooked first)
Huang Qin 15g
Bai Xian Pi 15g
Pu Gong Ying 15g
Sheng Di Huang 10g
Kun Bu 10g
Chi Shao 10g
Hong Hua 12g
San Leng 12g
E Zhu 12g
Yan Hu Suo 12g
Dan Shen 20g
Da Huang 10g
Gan Cao 6g

After taking 7 packages of the above formula the papules along with the pus were beginning to recede and were more of a pale color. The nodules were slightly softer, bowel movements were smoother and the bitter taste in the mouth, pain and itching were pretty much resolved. The tongue coat was now thin slippery-yellow. The above formula was given with Da Huang reduced to 5g and with the additions of Cang Zhu 12g and Sha Ren 6g. After taking 30 packages of this formula, the papules and pustular nodules had receded. The patient was advised to eat less acrid, spicy and greasy foods. On a two month follow up, the patients’ condition had completely resolved.

Case 2: A 21 year old female patient presented in January 2006, with small red facial papules, that had been present for 2 years. The papules were slightly itchy and were accompanied with a sticky bitter taste in the mouth, slightly dry stools, a slightly red tongue with a thin slippery-yellow coat and a slippery pulse. She had previously used an external cream with no effect. The diagnosis was acne with the pattern belonging to heat exuberance in the lungs and stomach. The formula prescribed was:

Bai Hua She She Cao 30g
Huang Qin 15g
Sheng Di Huang 10g
Chi Shao 10g
Mu Dan Pi 10g
Bai Xian Pi 10g
Hong Hua 12g
Sang Bai Pi 12g
Dan Shen 20g
Da Huang 6g
Gan Cao 6g
Zhu Ye 6g

After taking 7 packages of this formula, the papules were clearly improving. The bitter-sticky taste, and itchiness were relieved to some extent but she was experiencing thin and watery bowel movements occurring twice daily. Da Huang was removed from the above formula, while Bai Hua She She Cao was increased to 60g and 10g each of Sha Ren and Huo Xiang were added to the formula. After taking 14 packages of the formula the papules had disappeared and the condition had resolved.

In Traditional Chinese medicine acne is commonly seen in conditions of the Lungs and Spleen. The ‘Orthodox Lineage of External Medicine’ says “Acne belongs to the lungs, while red sores on the nose belong to the spleen. This is caused by the non scattering of depressed and stagnant blood heat”. According to this passage in order to treat acne we must clear and diffuse heat in the lungs and stomach. Due to Bai Hua She She Cao’s functions, it is commonly combined with heat clearing, blood cooling medicinals in order to soften hardness, clear heat in the lungs and stomach, harmonize Qi and blood and resolve papular eruptions.

Tian Hua Fen is good for treating Jaundice

Tian Hua Fen is good for treating Jaundice
Cheng Du University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Department of Chinese Herbs

By: Yang Ai
Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Vol. 47, September 2006, page 651

Tian Hua Fen (天花粉): cold nature; sweet, bitter, sour flavor. Has the action of engendering liquid, transforming stasis and dispersing swelling.
The herbs sweet and sour taste is able to generate liquids, the bitter cold nature is able to clear heat with further functions of generating liquids, moistening dryness, alleviating thirst, transforming inflammation, dispersing swelling and draining pus. It is used quite often in clinical practice for heat disease with damage to liquids, vexing thirst, dispersion thirst, dry heat coughing and in toxic, swollen sores and abscesses.
In addition, my father Chief Doctor Yang de Ming with years of clinical practice uses Tian Hua Fen in the treatment of jaundice with liver inflammation and obtains comparatively good results.

For example, on March 2nd of 2003 a 25 year old male came in for a consultation. He was suffering from yellowing of the eyes and skin for 6 days, accompanied by an aversion to food, especially oily foods, dry retching, unsettling heart palpitations, dry and bound stools for 6-7 days, red tongue tip, dry, yellow tongue coating and a wiry fine pulse.
Liver function tests revealed bilirubin (TBil) at 60.84 umol/L, the Aspartate Amino Transferase (AST) at 112U/L and the Alanine Amino Transferase (ALT) at 119U/L.
The diagnosis was chronic jaundice with liver inflammation. The medicinals used were:
Tian Hua Fen 60g
Long Dan Cao 15g
Chai Hu 10g
Sheng Di Huang 20g
Zhi Zi 10g
Shi Hu 15g
Zhi Mu 20g
Dan Dou Chi 12g
Sheng Da Huang (added at the end of the decoction)
Taken in decoction, 1 package per day.

After 5 packages the yellowing and the aversion to food was clearly changing for the better, in addition there were 2 bowel movements a day. The patient was instructed to take another 20 packages of the above formula. Afterwards all symptoms were gone and the liver function tests were normal.

This medicinal is bitter, sweet, sour, slightly cold, moistens dryness and generates liquids and can be used in patterns of jaundice with depletion of fluids and constipation.
Around 50-100g can generally be used when prescribing large doses of Tian Hua Fen.