Treatment of Prostatic Hyperplasia with Zhēn Wǔ Tāng

Lú Chónghàn [卢崇汉]

From ‘The Complete Interpretation of Case Studies from Chinese Medicines’ Fire Spirit School’


Case: Eto, 58 years old, Japanese patient, presented with prostatic hyperplasia, which manifested with frequent, urgent and difficult urination for six years. Symptoms had been increasing over the last two to three years. Symptoms were worse in the afternoon with an inability to hold his urine in and frequent urination. In addition, he suffered from nocturia up to fifteen-sixteen times a night, scanty urine and and a weak flow. Every time he would urinate, he would have to wait three to five minutes and this was accompanied by lower abdominal swelling and distention. 

Doctor Lu always treats based on the tongue, coating and pulse. [This patients] tongue body was pale and swollen with teeth marks along the edges, tongue coating was white, slippery and slimy, and pulse was deep and moderate with a lack of strength on deeper palpation. Doctor Lu felt that this was due to kidney yang weakness and debilitation as well as the settling and obstruction of water-dampness. Treatment method involved warming yang and disinhibiting water with Zhen Wu Tang [真武汤]. 

Zhi Fu Pian 75g (pre-cooked for two hours) 

Sheng Bai Zhu 15g

Fu Ling 25g

Yin Yang Huo 20g

Sheng Jiang 60g


After one package, his urine volume increased, frequency decreased, and flow was smooth. After three packages, his urination was very smooth, nocturia reduced to two times, but he still felt that the strength of his urination was not good. 

At the second consult, 25g of Gui Zhi was added, which had increased the strength of urinary flow. 

At the third consult, 15g of Sha Ren was added in order to absorb the qi of the five viscera into the kidneys. All together thirty packages were taken, at which point the condition had completely improved, urination was normal, nocturia occurred once a night, and urination felt more vigorous. 

Lu Chonghan believes that prostatic hyperplasia, occurs in middle aged and elderly patients, because middle aged and elderly patients’ yang qi has declined and qi transformation is deficient. Because qi transformation is deficient, this results in stoppage and obstruction of water-damp, which follows the Shaoyang triple warmer, descends, and settles in the anterior yin, eventually resulting in prostatic hyperplasia and swelling, leading to difficult urination. When serious this can cause blockage and stoppage which can result in dribbling urinary block. From the perspective of the root and branch, kidney yang vacuity and debilitation and deficient qi transformation are the root, while the pressure in the urinary tract, obstruction and lack of flow are the branch. Therefore, by grasping the root, we must warm yang, transform qi, disinhibit water and drain turbidity. Zhen Wu Tang is Zhongjing’s formula for Shaoyin yang vacuity, with water-damp collecting internally. When used for middle-aged and elderly patients with prostatic hyperplasia, the results are typically quite ideal. 


In clinical practice, Zhen Wu Tang is commonly used with variations, here using Yin Yang Huo as a substitute for Bai Shao. Acrid and majorly hot Fuzi is used to strengthen kidney yang, and is able to support and overcome kidney water, which causes the exuberance of the qi of true yang, so that qi transformation moves and turbid yin can be dispelled. Shengjiang can warm the stomach and dissipate water, as well as open and diffuse lung qi, which opens the upper water-gate, achieving the objective of opening the source of water (the lungs are the upper source of water). Baizhu can move the spleen and eliminate dampness. When the spleens’ function of moving dampness is improved, water can be properly controlled. Fuling is used to blandly percolate and disinhibit water, which regulates the middle burner. This leads to the outward expelling of turbid dampness. Yin Yang Huo guides yang into yin, frees and disinhibits the blood vessels and resolves hypertonicity in the sinews, thereby achieving the objective of freeing the waterways. When these medicinals are combined, the functions of the five viscera are all regulated and rectified, the yang of qi transformation is strengthened, and the qi transformation mechanism is initiated. 


How do we determine if the disease is caused by a yang vacuity? We can [diagnose it] based on the tongue, [tongue] coating, and pulse. If the tongue body is swollen and pale, with teeth marks, and the coating slippery, slimy, and white, or if the coating is white underneath and dry and yellow at the surface. From the perspective of the pulse, when the pulse is deep-slow, deep-moderate, or deep-weak, these all belong to Shaoyin yang vacuity and it can be determined that there is water-damp obstruction, which is yin cold obstruction. This is an extremely reliable pattern indicator. If turbid yin is not transformed and resolved, this easily causes settling and obstruction, which can manifest in the tongue. As a result, the tongue will commonly have teeth marks. If the tongue coating is white and slippery, this is a manifestation of a yang vacuity and loss of the warming and transformation function of true yang. When the tongue coating is white and slimy, this is a manifestation of yang vacuity cold damp obstruction in the lower burner. When the coating is white underneath and dry and yellow at the surface, this indicates that enduring damp depression is beginning to transform into heat. Although there is transformation into heat, the patient’s root pattern is still one of yang vacuity insufficiency, and in clinical practice, one must be aware of this. A deep pulse is due to yang vacuity. If all these tongue, [tongue] coating, and pulse signs exist, we can determine that the underlying patho-mechanism is one of yang vacuity damp obstruction. 

Gé Gēn Tāng Case – Liú Dùzhōu

Selected Clinical Case Histories of Liu Duzhou《刘渡舟临证验案精选》

Li X, a 38-year-old male.

He had suffered with persistent migraines for 2 years that remained unresolved despite long periods of treatment. He was introduced to Doctor Liu by a good friend and brought in for a consultation.

Chief complaint: right sided headaches, which commonly extended to the forehead and supraorbital ridge. This was accompanied by an absence of sweating, chills, a runny nose with clear mucus, irritability, a red complexion, dizziness, and poor sleep. The range of motion in his back was limited and he reported tightness in his neck and occipital area that became more severe during his headaches. His tongue was pale with a white coat, and his pulse was floating and slightly rapid.

This was differentiated as being cold pathogen lodged in the taiyang channels, resulting in symptoms of inhibited flow of channel qi.

Treatment required the promotion of sweat to expel pathogens, and unblock taiyang qi, so Kudzu Decoction (gé gēn tāng) was given:

Ephedrae Herba (má huáng) 4g
Puerariae Radix (gé gēn) 18g
Cinnamomi Ramulus (guì zhī) 12g
Paeoniae Radix alba (bái sháo) 12g
Glycyrrhizae Radix praeparata (zhì gān cǎo) 6g
Zingiberis Rhizoma recens (shēng jiāng) 12g
Jujubae Fructus (dà zǎo) 12 pieces.

Ephedrae Herba (má huáng) and Puerariae Radix (gé gēn) were to be decocted first with the froth removed before adding the other ingredients. After taking the decoction, the patient was covered up so a slight sweat could be obtained. He was to avoid drafts and cold.

After taking 3 packets, his back felt warm, which was followed by a mild sweat throughout the body, and a reduction in his headache and neck tension. 15 packets of the same formula were prescribed again, which completely resolved his headaches and neck tension.

A Cháihú jiā lónggǔ mǔlì tāng case – Huáng Huáng

Wang, 58-year-old male, 186cm/64kg. 

Initial consultation on June 11, 2019. 

History: Patient had a history of stomach disease for over 30 years, accompanied by an inability to eat much food, stomach distention following meals, poor appetite, no desire to eat, coldness in the lower abdomen, a fear of cold, constipation, difficulty falling asleep, and a shallow, dream-disturbed sleep.  

Lab results: Gastroscopy on May 2, 2019, which revealed intermediate chronic atrophic gastritis with intestinal metaplasia in the lesser curvature of the gastric antrum and mild chronic atrophic gastritis with intestinal metaplasia in the greater curvature of the gastric antrum.  

Signs: Sallow complexion, distinct abdominal pulsations, a long face, indifferent expression, slightly thin build, red tip of the nose, and a thin-slippery pulse. 


Bupleuri Radix (chái hú) 15g, Scutellariae Radix (huáng qín) 10g, ginger-fried Pinelliae Rhizoma praeparatum (jiāng bàn xià) 10g, Codonopsis Radix (dǎng shēn) 15g, Cinnamomi Ramulus (guì zhī) 10g, Poria (fú líng) 15g, prepared Rhei Radix et Rhizoma (zhì dà huáng) 5g, Fossilia Ossis Mastodi (lóng gǔ) 15g, Ostreae Concha (mǔ lì) 15g, Zingiberis Rhizoma (gān jiāng) 5g, Jujubae Fructus (dà zǎo) 20g; 10 packets, 1 packet for 2 days. Taken right before bed. 

Second consultation on July 2, 2019: Patient now had a desire to eat, daily bowel movements, and decreased coldness in his lower abdomen. If he overate then he experienced abdominal distention, still had a fear of cold, woke easily due to a dream-disturbed sleep, and was fatigued. 

Prescription 1: Same formula; 1 packet to be taken over 2 days. 

Prescription 2: Bupleuri Radix (chái hú) 15g, Paeoniae Radix alba (bái sháo) 15g, Aurantii Fructus (zhǐ ké) 15g, Glycyrrhizae Radix (gān cǎo) 5g, dried Lilii Bulbus (bǎi hé gān) 30g; 10 packets of each, to be taken on an alternating basis. 

What is a Formula Presentation 方证?

The formula presentation is a theoretical model of herbal formula application that lies between the herbs and formulas on one hand, and the disease pattern on the other. It is the arrow aiming for the target in relation to disease treatment. The formula presentation is the guiding principle behind how a formula is selected. ‘Zheng’(证) refers to evidence, proof, results or efficacy (证验), and also symptoms (症状). Therefore, when all these definitions are taken together, the formula presentation refers to a formula’s key presentation, or instance where a formula displays its main efficacy or results.

Currently in China, many consider the earliest recording of this concept to be found in the Wu Shi Er Bing Fang (五十二病方, Prescriptions for Fifty-Two Diseases), yet many scholars believe that it wasn’t until Zhang Zhongjing’s (张仲景) writings that the concept really took hold, only to be further developed by later generations of physicians. The idea of a formula correspondence (方证相应) is seen in the postscript for line 317 of the Shang Han Lun (伤寒论, Treatise on Cold Damage) which states:

[Only when] the disease corresponds to the formula [can the formula] be taken.


This line offers the most succinct explanation and definition of a formula presentation and implies that all diseases have a corresponding formula, a ‘formula presentation.’ The Shang Han Lun also refers to specific ‘herb presentations’ (药证) such as a ‘Chai Hu (Bupleuri Radix) presentation’ (柴胡证), or a ‘Gui Zhi (Cinnamomi Ramulus) presentation’ (桂枝证). In addition, line 16 of the Shang Han Lun states: 

Observe the pulse and signs, know what error [you] have committed, [and then] treat according to the signs. 


The Shang Han Za Bing Lun (伤寒杂病论, Treatise on Cold Damage and Miscellaneous Diseases) was arguably the first text to suggest not just the concept of a formula presentation, but also the principle that became known as ‘determining treatment by patterns identified’ (辨证论治), which lays importance on not just simply knowing which formula treats specific signs, but also on having a clear understanding of the underlying pathomechanism involved. Once the pattern is clearly understood, the choice of the correct formula can be made. According to Professor Huang Huang (黄煌教授), once a formula presentation is clearly identified, not only will the formula be safe to use, but the treatment will also be effective. Following Zhang Zhongjing, physicians such as Sun Simiao (孙思邈), Zhu Gong (朱肱), Xu Lingtai (徐灵胎), Ke Qin (柯琴) and Yu Jiayan (喻嘉言) were highly influential in the ‘school of formula types’ (方类证派), adhering to the concept of ‘formula presentations with similar clauses’ (方证同条).  Song dynasty Zhu Gong referred to a formula presentation simply as a ‘herb presentation.’ The Japanese physician Todo Yoshimasu (吉益东洞) was a strict adherent to the model laid out by Zhang Zhongjing, and was a major contributor to the Japanese Classical Formula School (日本古方派). Although many of these physicians adhered to the formula presentation model, there are some differences in their overall approach and in the method with which they arrived at the presentation. For example, Ke Qin wrote: “Patterns are differentiated from the conformations, therefore the pattern is named after the formula” (证从经分,以方名证), referring to the six conformations (六经), while Xu Lingtai wrote: “In order to [determine] the formula presentation type, [one must] not differentiate according to the conformations” (以方类证,方不分经). While both used the formula presentation model as their method to choose a formula, Ke Qin recorded signs and symptoms exactly as they appear in the Shang Han Lun’s six conformations, while Xu Lingtai worked with general signs and symptoms.  Essentially, a formula presentation is experience: the experienced usage of herbs and formulas over thousands of years. 

Cáo Yǐngfǔ on the Use of Xiǎo Jiàn Zhōng Tāng 

Master Cao was a pivotal force in the classical formulas school (经方派) and was a true master in using the underlying principles and formulas found in the Shang Han Lun and Jin Gui Yao Lue. Master Cao felt that the medical texts, which followed were too insignificant to study and discuss, and therefore he attached great importance to the thorough study of these texts to his students, and felt that Zhang Zhongjing’s theories and formulas were the perfect framework for successful medical practice. In addition to being skillfully versed in these medical canons, Cao Yingfu was also an accomplished poet, often interweaving the two when attempting to convey his thought process in clinic, often instructing his students to compose a poem and matching it with a relevant line from the classics. This kind of inquiry and thought process truly shows the breadth of his skill and how his mind rarely waivered from the classical Chinese medicine concept of the human body being a reflection of his environment, the microcosm of the macrocosm.
However, master Cao was not completely strict in his formula choices and would often use formulas like Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, Xiao Yao San, and Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, in addition to herbs such as niu bang zi, qian hu and various others. This shows that he was obviously well read and did not quickly write off more modern formulas. His use of these non Zhang Zhongjing formulas displayed his deep understanding in the formula constructions and where they were applicable. He advocated that students must understand and study the root of the medical philosophies and not just pick the flowers, and it’s from this same feeling that he encouraged his students to read the Yue Fu (乐府诗集) poetry of the Han and Wei dynasties and specifically the poet Wang Yuyang (王漁洋).

When the Japanese invaded the south, his hometown of Jiangyin, Jiangsu province fell into enemy hands and on December 7th, 1937, he died heroically resisting the invaders. While master Cao died a hero, the world lost a great Chinese medicine master. We are very fortunate to have several of his books available in order for subsequent generations to learn from not just in China, but also around the world. It is my hope in translating some of his cases that this knowledge can spread. We are also very fortunate to have scholar-physicians like my teacher Dr. Huang Huang uphold this love and dedication to master Cao’s work and to classical literature.

Case 1
Female. Since delivering a child her cycles come every forty days, which are accompanied by distending pain in the epigastrium following meals. When the cycle arrives, there is pain extending from the stomach to the lower abdomen. During the pain she experiences a strong desire to have a bowel movement. After the bowel movement the pain would typically stop. Pain would return the following afternoon and stop during the menstrual flow, and once again come and go the following day. Both pulses were wiry.
This is liver and gall-bladder exploiting deficiency of the spleen viscera. In this case Xiao Jian Zhong Tang with Chai hu and Huang Qin is appropriate.

Gui Zhi 3 qian
Sheng Bai Shao 5 qian
Zhi (Gan) Cao 2 qian
Sheng Jiang 5 pcs
Hong Zao 12 pieces
Yi Tang 2 liang
Chai Hu 3 qian
Jiu (Huang) Qin 1 qian
Tai Wu Yao 1.5 qian

After one package, her pain stopped and the menses ceased. Patient continued with two more packages, after which the condition resolved.
The master (Zhang Zhongjing) in his great classic said:

“In cold damage, (when) the yang pulse is choppy and the yin pulse is wiry, as a rule there should be urgent pain in the abdomen. First give Xiao Jian Zhong Tang; if it does not reduce, Xiao Chai Hu Tang governs.”

Cao Yingfu (曹颖甫): Now here (in this case) I feel it goes without saying that there had not been a reduction and I immediately added Chai Hu and Huang Qin to treat her, why not? This woman’s situation was a menstrual disease and many belong to Chai Hu patterns, and so it was clearly obvious (to add it). The following day it was reported that the disease had resolved.

Case 2
Abdominal pain which liked pressure. During episodes of pain a distressing sensation of cold air was felt moving up and down (the body). Pulse was wiry-deficient. In addition there was an aversion to cold.
This is due to the liver exploiting the spleen and Xiao Jian Zhong Tang governs.
Gui Zhi 9g
Bai Shao 18g
Sheng Jiang 9g
Zhi Gan Cao 6g
Da Zao 6g
Yi Tang 30g

Liáo Shēng annotation: “This case is a pattern of abdominal pain (due to) central yang insufficiency with interior deficiency. The patient experienced abdominal pain, which liked pressure, the pulse was wiry-deficient and an aversion to cold was present. This signifies the overabundance of yin cold-qi, central yang insufficiency, and liver wood exploiting spleen (earth). Therefore Xiao Jian Zhong Tang was used to treat and resolve the condition.
The function of this formula is to supplement deficiency, quiet the center, moderate urgency and stop pain. The name of this formula is center fortifying (decoction). Fortify means to establish or set up, and because central qi is insufficient, it is very important to ‘establish’ or ‘set it up’. The formula contains sweat inducing (herbs) and not central effusing (herbs). It is referred to as a ‘minor’ (decoction) and only half (of the formula) resolves the exterior, so it does not completely secure the center. Xiao Jian Zhong Tang uses a heavy dose of Yi Tang, which is sweet, warm and serves as the sovereign to supplement the center. Bai Shao is the minister, which is sour and sweet to tonify yin. The assistant Gui Zhi is acrid-warm, which effuses and scatters. Combined with Bai Shao it regulates the nutritive and defense. In addition, Gan Cao, Da Zao and Sheng Jiang, which are sweet moderating and acrid warm, nourish the stomach and harmonize the center. Therefore (this formula) is able to warm and nourish central qi, calm and supplement yin and yang and regulate the nutritive and defense.”

*Xióng Liáo-Shēng (熊廖笙) style name Yǐ Xíng (以行) was born in 1905 in Ba County in Chongqing, Sichuan Province. Master Xióng was well versed in the classics, primarily the Nei Jing, Nan Jing, Shang Han Lun, and Jin Gui Yao Lue. The author of several books, Dr. Xióng possessed a deep and profound scholarship of the Shang Han Lun and was highly skilled in distilling the essence and precise details of various ancient doctors cases, which were found in his various annotations.

Don’t forget to join the Classical Chinese Medicine community by adding your email address to the bar on the right to be notified of any future publications, translations and writings!

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. 

Huáng Yuán-Yù on line 80 of the Shāng Hán Lùn

“伤寒,医以丸药下之,身热不去,微烦者, 栀子干姜汤主之。”

“In cold damage, (which was) treated with a great purging pill; (if) the fever has not abated (and there is) slight vexation, Zhī Zǐ Gān Jiāng Tāng governs”.

This formula treats cold damage following major purgation (manifesting with) body heat and slight vexation.
(Here) major purging has injured center qì, with turbid yīn ascending counterflow, and the generation of stasis, (which) injures the bowels (fǔ organs); this results in obstruction to imperial fire, which is unable to descend, therefore there is body heat and heart vexation. Zhī Zǐ Gān Jiāng Tāng is used, as gān jiāng descends counterflow and warms the center, while zhī zǐ ejects stasis and eliminates vexation.

Zhī Zǐ

Bitter flavor, cold nature; enters the hand shào yīn heart, foot tài yīn spleen, foot jué yīn liver, and foot tài yáng bladder channels.
Clears heart fire and eliminates vexation depression, drains spleen earth and eliminates damp heat. (It) ejects turbid stasis from the chest and diaphragm and cools smokey-yellowing from the skin.

Gān Jiāng

Acrid flavor, warm nature; enters the foot yáng míng stomach, foot tài yīn spleen, foot jué yīn liver, and hand tài yīn lung channels. (Gān Jiāng) dries dampness, warms the center, moves depression, downbears turbidity, supplements and boosts fire (of the) earth, breaks up the absorption of water and grains, warms the spleen, stomach and extremities; regulates yīn and yáng and settles nausea and vomiting; downbears turbid counterflow, calms coughing, lifts desertion and sinking and stops efflux diarrhea.

**Above medicinal info translated from ‘Huáng Yuán-Yù’s Interpretation of Medicinals’ (黄元御药解)

Huáng Yuán-Yù on line 100 of the Shāng Hán Lùn


“In cold damage (where) the yáng pulse is choppy, and the yīn pulse is wiry, as a rule there should be urgent abdominal pain; first give Xiǎo Jiàn Zhōng Tāng. If it is not reduced, Xiǎo Chái Hú Tāng governs.”

The liver and gall-bladder are from the same qì. If the gall-bladder fails to descend the cùn pulse will be choppy; if the liver fails to ascend, then the chǐ pulse will be wiry. (When) gall-bladder qì ascends counterflow, and restrains stomach-earth, abdominal pain will be seen in the chest and diaphragm. (If) the liver descends and restrains spleen-earth, abdominal pain will be seen in the abdomen and rib-sides. When wood qì is desiccated and dry, then pain will be urgent. When pathogenic factors are in both the liver and gall-bladder, wind-fire will be depressed, injuring central qì. Xiǎo Jiàn Zhōng Tāng is first used; Yí Táng, Gān Cǎo, and Dà Zǎo supplement spleen essence and moderate urgent pain. Shēng Jiāng, Guì Zhī and Sháo Yào outthrust wood depression and clear wind-fire. If it is not reduced and remains, give (Xiǎo) Chái Hú (Tāng) in order to drain ministerial fire.

Dr. Féng Shì-Lún on Tài Yīn Presentations

Classical Formulas Interior Yīn Presentations (Tài Yīn disease)%E5%86%AF%E4%B8%96%E7%BA%B6.jpg

  1. The Concept of Interior Yīn Presentations

Clause 273 in the Shāng hán lùn (傷寒論 Discussion of Cold Damage) says:

“In Tài Yīn disease, there is abdominal fullness and vomiting, inability to get food down, severe spontaneous diarrhea, and periodic spontaneous abdominal pain, and if purgation is used, there will be a hard bind below the chest”.

This is the essential outline of a Tài Yīn and interior yīn presentation, which is describing an interior vacuity with accumulation of rheum, therefore manifesting with abdominal fullness and vomiting, and an inability to get food down, not only because there is cold rheum in the stomach, but also because (the stomach) is unable to receive it, thus also manifesting with severe spontaneous diarrhea.  (When) cold qì descends into the lower abdomen there will be spontaneous abdominal pain, and when cold does not descend, pain will spontaneously cease. Tài Yīn disease should be treated with warmth, and not with purgation. If one fails to heed to these words and erroneously purges, this will increase the vacuity of the stomach and the rheum accumulation, which will result in the transformation of cold, manifesting with a hard bind below the chest. This is the general characteristics of a Tài Yīn disease, and any disease manifesting with these signs, can be deemed a Tài Yīn disease, and if (one) uses the methods of treatment for a Tài Yīn disease, all errors would be avoided.

  1. Treatment Principles for Interior Yīn Presentations

Clause 277 of the Shāng hán lùn (傷寒論 Discussion of Cold Damage) says:

“When there is spontaneous diarrhea and an absence of thirst, this belongs to Tài Yīn disease; because there is cold in the viscera, a warming treatment should be used, and a Sì Nì type (of formula) is suitable”.

Not only is this line expounding on the characteristics of a Tài Yīn disease, but also mentions its treatment principle. It is saying that all diseases manifesting with spontaneous diarrhea with an absence of thirst, belong to Tài Yīn disease. Here, there is no thirst due to cold rheum in the stomach, and in order to treat it, a sì nì type of formula is suitable to warm the center and expel cold. In short, both Yáng Míng and Tài Yīn diseases are located in the interior, with the former being a yáng presentation and the latter a yīn presentation.  Interior yáng Yáng Míng presentations manifest with copious heat and excess, while interior yīn Tài Yīn presentations manifest as cold and vacuity. Diarrhea can occur in both Yáng Míng and Tài Yīn diseases, however, with heat there is thirst, and with cold there is an absence of thirst. This is the key in differentiating these two patterns.  Sì Nì types of formulas warm the center, and expel cold, and not only do they treat Tài Yīn disease diarrhea, but they are also the standard formulas for addressing Tài Yīn diseases in general.

  1. The Major Formula Presentations in Interior Yīn patterns

In the Shāng hán lùn (傷寒論 Discussion of Cold Damage), it is said that in order to treat Tài Yīn disease, a warming strategy is appropriate, and a sì nì type of formula should be used.  However, there is not one specific formula for the multitude of presentations, and according to the concept of  “cold in the viscera” the following are the formulas used to address these patterns.

(i) Gān Jiāng Fù Zǐ Tāng (Dried Ginger and Aconite Accessory Root Decoction) Category of Formulas:

Gān Jiāng Fù Zǐ Tāng (Dried Ginger and Aconite Accessory Root Decoction):

gān jiāng (Zingiberis Rhizoma) 3 liǎng

fù zǐ (Aconiti Radix lateralis preparata) (used fresh) 3 liǎng

Cooking method: Use three glasses of water, boiling until reduced to one cup, and take warm.

Indications: Both gān jiāng (Zingiberis Rhizoma) and fù zǐ (Aconiti Radix lateralis preparata) are center warming, cold expelling medicinals. However, gān jiāng is mainly used to treat ascending counterflow of cold rheum, while fù zǐ is used to address cold rheum distressing the lower body. Combining these two medicinals to warm the upper and lower, creates a strong formula that will invariably warm the center and expel cold. It is used to treat cold extremities, generalized body coldness, and a deep-faint pulse.

Other similar formula presentations:

Sì Nì Tāng (Frigid Extremities Decoction):

zhì gān cǎo (Glycyrrhizae Radix preparata) 2 liǎng

gān jiāng (Zingiberis Rhizoma) 1 ½ liǎng

fù zǐ (Aconiti Radix lateralis preparata) (fresh) 1 piece

There are over ten detailed clauses in the Shāng hán lùn (傷寒論 Discussion of Cold Damage) describing the use of this formula, however, the main presentation of this formula is severe interior cold vacuity manifesting with cold extremities and a faint pulse verging on expiry.

Tōng Mài Sì Nì Tāng (Vessel Freeing Frigid Extremities Decoction):

This formula is sì nì tāng with increased dosages of gān jiāng and fù zǐ. It is used for a sì nì tāng presentation with more extreme vacuity cold.

Tōng Mài Sì Nì Jiā Zhū Dǎn Zhī Tāng (Vessel Freeing Frigid Extremities Decoction Plus Pig’s Bile:

This formula is tōng mài sì nì tāng with the addition of zhū dǎn zhī (pig’s bile). It is indicated for a more severe tōng mài sì nì tāng presentation with a faint pulse verging on expiry, or an imperceptible pulse.

Sì Nì Jiā Rén Shēn Tāng (Frigid Extremities Decoction plus Ginseng):

This is sì nì tāng with rén shēn (Ginseng Radix). It is indicated in cases of stomach qì vacuity with a weak pulse following vomiting or purgation.

Fú Líng Sì Nì Tāng (Poria Frigid Extremities Decoction):

This formula is sì nì jiā rén shēn tāng with fú líng (Poria). It is typically used in a sì nì jiā rén shēn tāng presentation with additional signs of palpitations below the heart, vexation, agitation, and inhibited urination.

(ii) Fù Zǐ Tāng (Aconiti Radix lateralis preparata Decoction) Category of Formulas:

Fù Zǐ Tāng (Aconiti Radix lateralis preparata Decoction):

fù zǐ (Aconiti Radix lateralis preparata) [blast fried] 1 piece

fú líng (Poria) 3 liǎng

rén shēn (Ginseng Radix) 2 liǎng

bái zhú (Atractylodis macrocephalae Rhizoma) 4 liǎng

sháo yào (Paeoniae Radix) 3 liǎng

Indications: stomach vacuity with cold rheum manifesting with inhibited urination, generalized body pain, joint pain, and possible abdominal cramping pain.

Other similar formula presentations:

Zhēn Wǔ Tāng (True Warrior Decoction):

This formula is fù zǐ tāng with the rén shēn removed, and the addition of shēng jiāng. It is used for a fù zǐ tāng presentation with dizziness, palpitations, edema in the lower extremities, and possible pain.

Fù Zǐ Jīng Mǐ Tāng (Aconite Root And Glutinous Rice Decoction):

fù zǐ (Aconiti Radix lateralis preparata) [blast fried] 1 piece

jīng mǐ (Glutinous Rice) ½ shēng

bàn xià (Pinelliae Rhizoma preparatum) ½ shēng

zhì gān cǎo (Glycyrrhizae Radix preparata) 1 liǎng

dà zǎo (Jujubae Fructus) 10 pieces

This formula is indicated for patterns of interior vacuity cold with abdominal pain, intestinal noise, nausea, and retching counterflow.

Chí Wán (Red Pill):

fú líng (Poria) 4 liǎng

bàn xià (Pinelliae Rhizoma preparatum) 4 liǎng

wū tóu (Aconiti Radix) [blast fried] 1 piece

xì xǐn (Asari Herba) 1 liǎng

This is indicated for cold natured abdominal pain accompanied by counterflow qì.

Dà Wū Tóu Jiān (Major Aconite Main Tuber Brew):

This formula is simply 5 large pieces of wū tóu (skin removed) boiled with honey added afterwards. It is used for cold mounting abdominal pain, reversal counterflow in the four extremities, and a deep, wiry pulse.

(iii) Gān Cǎo Gān Jiāng Tāng (Licorice and Ginger Decoction) Category of Formulas:

Gān Cǎo Gān Jiāng Tāng (Licorice and Ginger Decoction):

zhì gān cǎo (Glycyrrhizae Radix preparata) 6 liǎng

gān jiāng (Zingiberis Rhizoma) 3 liǎng

Indications:  Stomach vacuity cold with ejection of foamy drool and vomiting counterflow.

Other similar formula presentations:

Lǐ Zhōng Tāng or Wán (Regulate the Middle Decoction or Pill):

This formula is gān cǎo gān jiāng tāng with the addition of rén shēn and bái zhú. It treats a gān cǎo gān jiāng tāng presentation with hard epigastric glomus and inhibited urination.

Dà Jiàn Zhōng Tāng (Major Construct the Middle Decoction):

shǔ jiāo (Zanthoxyli Pericarpium) 3 liǎng

gān jiāng (Zingiberis Rhizoma) 6 liǎng

rén shēn (Ginseng Radix) 3 liǎng

jiāo yí (Malt Sugar) 1 shēng

This formula is indicated for stomach vacuity cold patterns manifesting with severe chest and abdominal pain, vomiting counterflow, and an inability to eat.

(iv.) Jú Pí Tāng (Tangerine Peel Decoction) Category of Formulas:

Jú Pí Tāng (Tangerine Peel Decoction):

jú pí (Citri Reticulatae Pericarpium) 4 liǎng

shēng jiāng (Zingiberis Rhizoma recens) 8 liǎng

Indications: Dry retching and poor food intake.

Other similar formula presentations:

Jú Pí Zhǐ Shí Shēng Jiāng Tāng (Tangerine Peel, Unripe Bitter Orange, and Fresh Ginger Decoction):

This formula is jú pí tāng with a higher dose of jú pí and distention clearing, bind breaking zhǐ shí added. It treats a jú pí tāng presentation with more severe counterflow fullness and glomus and congestion in the chest.

Jú Pí Zhú Rú Tāng (Tangerine Peel and Bamboo Shavings Decoction):

This formula is jú pí tāng with a double dose of jú pí and the additions of zhú rú (Bambusae Caulis in Taenia) to treat coughing and counterflow ascent of qì and gān cǎo, rén shēn, and dà zǎo to calm the center and relax tension. It is used to treat a jú pí tāng presentation with stomach vacuity hiccups, retching, cough and counterflow.

Fú Líng Yǐn (Poria Beverage):

This formula is jú pí zhǐ shí shēng jiāng tāng with the addition of rén shēn to strengthen the stomach, and fú líng to disinhibit water. It is indicated for patterns manifesting with epigastric distention and fullness, epigastric glomus, poor food intake, shortness of breath, and inhibited urination.

(v) Bàn Xià Tāng (Pinellia Decoction) Category of Formulas:

Bàn Xià Tāng (Pinellia Decoction):

bàn xià (Pinelliae Rhizoma preparatum) 1 shēng

shēng jiāng (Zingiberis Rhizoma recens) ½ jīn

Indications: water rheum in the stomach with vomiting counterflow and possible headaches and a lack of thirst.

Other similar formula presentations:

Shēng Jiāng Bàn Xià Tāng (Fresh Ginger and Pinellia Decoction):

This formula is xiǎo bàn xià tāng with an increased dosage of shēng jiāng. It treats a bàn xià Tāng presentation with more severe rheum.

Xiǎo Bàn Xià Jiā Fú Líng Tāng (Minor Pinellia Decoction Plus Poria):

This is xiǎo bàn xià tāng with the addition of fú líng, and treats a similar presentation with the additional signs of heart palpitations and dizziness.

Bàn Xià Gān Jiāng Sǎn (Pinellia and Dried Ginger Powder):

This is xiǎo bàn xià tāng with gān jiāng used instead of shēng jiāng.  It treats dry retching, and ejection of foamy drool due to stomach vacuity cold.

Dà Bàn Xià Tāng (Major Pinellia Decoction):

This formula is composed of:

bàn xià (Pinelliae Rhizoma preparatum) 2 shēng (washed)

rén shēn (Ginseng Radix) 3 liǎng

bái mì (honey) 1 shēng

It is used in stomach vacuity cold patterns with epigastric glomus and vomiting.

Gān Jiāng Bàn Xià Rén Shēn Wán (Dried Ginger, Pinellia, and Ginseng Pill):

This formula is a combination of xiǎo bàn xià tāng and bàn xià gān jiāng sǎn, and is used to treat more sever vomiting, and a hard epigastric glomus. The pill form of this medicine is milder, but is safer to use when treating morning sickness in pregnant patients.

Hòu Jiāng Bàn Gān Shēn Tāng (Officinal Magnolia Bark, Fresh Ginger, Pinellia, Licorice, and Ginseng Decoction):

This formula is shēng jiāng bàn xià tāng with a high dose of hòu pò to eliminate distention and fullness, and the additions of rén shēn and gān cǎo to supplement the center; therefore, it treats a shēng jiāng bàn xià tāng presentation with abdominal fullness and distention.

Bàn Xià Hòu Pò Tāng (Pinellia and Magnolia Bark Decoction):

This formula is xiǎo bàn xià jiā fú líng tāng with the addition of hòu pò and sū yè (zǐ). It treats phlegm-rheum qì bind causing chest fullness, throat blockage, coughing and counterflow.

Xuán Fù Dài Zhě Tāng (Inula and Hematite Decoction):

This formula is hòu jiāng bàn gān shēn tāng with hòu pò removed and xuán fù huā, dài zhě shí, and dà zǎo added.  It is indicated in patterns of stomach vacuity cold with vomiting counterflow.

(vi) Zhū Líng Sǎn (Polyporus Powder) Category of Formulas:

Zhū Líng Sǎn (Polyporus Powder):

This formula is composed of equal parts zhū líng, fú líng, and bái zhú. It treats stoppage and depression of fluids in the stomach transforming into heat with symptoms of vomiting, thirst, and inhibited urination.

Other similar formula presentations:

Zé Xiè Tāng (Alismatis Decoction):

This formula is zhū líng sǎn, with both zhū líng and fú líng removed, and zé xiè added. It treats water rheum in the stomach with inhibited urination and dizziness.

Fú Líng Zé Xiè Tāng (Poria and Alismatis Decoction):

This is líng guì zhú gān tāng with the addition of zé xiè and shēng jiāng, and treats vomiting, inhibited urination, and thirst with a desire to drink water.

Gān Cǎo Gān Jiāng Fú Líng Bái Zhú Tāng (Licorice, Dried Ginger, Poria, and Atractylodes Decoction):

This is gān cǎo gān jiāng tāng with the addition of fú líng and bái zhú. It treats lumbar cold and heaviness, and spontaneously uninhibited urination.

The above-mentioned formulas all treat Tài Yīn disease interior vacuity cold presentations. Tài Yīn disease is an interior yīn pattern, where pathogens have entered the interior, which will present with interior yīn signs. When a persons’ right qì is insufficient, and the right and pathogens contend with each other in the interior for an extended period of time, this can result in a whole host of transmuted patterns.

When interior vacuity cold is affected by blood vacuity or vacuity of fluids, blood nourishing or fluid generating formulas should be used, such as, xiōng guī jiāo ài tāng (Chuanxiong, Chinese Angelica, Ass Hide Glue, and Mugwort Decoction), dāng guī sháo yào sǎn (Tangkuei and Peony Powder), wēn jīng tāng (Channel-Warming Decoction), zhì gān cǎo tāng (Honey-Fried Licorice Decoction), huáng tǔ tāng (Yellow Earth Decoction), bā wèi wán (Eight-Ingredients Deoction), etc. In addition, when disease pathogens are in the interior and the condition responds differently, we must select different formulas with specific indications to address these changes, such as guā lóu xiè bái bàn xià tāng (Trichosanthes, Long Stamen Onion, and Pinellia Decoction), yì yǐ fù zǐ bài jiàng sǎn (Coix, Aconite, and Patrinia Powder), and several others.  Zhòng Jǐng discussed these fine details quite meticulously, and when we carefully consult his works, we can achieve positive (clinical) results.

  1. The Position of Tài Yīn Disease Amongst The Six Channels

In regards to classical formulas, generally speaking, when pathogens are in the exterior, the disease is easy to resolve and the disease nature is quite mild.  If pathogens are located in the interior, then the disease is difficult to cure, and the nature is more serious. This can be seen clearly from the analysis of formula presentations. With an interior disease, regardless if it is a yáng presentation or a yīn presentation, they are all more serious patterns.  For example, in an interior yáng Yáng Míng presentation, we see; “late afternoon tidal heat effusion, no aversion to cold and soliloquy as if the person is seeing ghosts, and if serious the person will not recognize people, will pick at the bedclothes, feel fear and disquietude, pant slightly and stare forward”.  “Delirious speech and tidal heat” is a dà chéng qì tāng (Major Order the Qi Decoction) presentation; Another example is; “abdominal fullness, generalized heaviness, difficulty turning sides, insensitivity of the mouth, grimy face, delirious speech, and enuresis. If sweating is promoted, there will be delirious speech, and if purgation is used, sweat will arise on the forehead, and there will be reversal cold of the extremities”.  This is a bái hǔ tāng (White Tiger Decoction) presentation.

These are all interior yáng presentations, which are quite serious and have already affected the mind. These are the interior signs that appear when right qi is still vigorous and can resist pathogenic qì, and if it becomes too weak, it must be treated otherwise it would threaten (one’s life). With interior yīn presentations, right qi is originally vacuous, and when pathogens are exuberant in the interior, right qì is unable to overcome these pathogens and they become dangerous in a very short time. By looking at the yáng returning and counterflow stemming effect of the sì nì formulas, this concept becomes quite clear. For example, clause 388 says:

“When there is vomiting and diarrhea, sweating, heat effusion, and aversion to cold, hypertonicity of the limbs, and reversal cold of the extremities, sn sì nì tāng (Frigid Extremities Decoction governs”.

Clause 389 says:

“When there is vomiting as well as diarrhea, then uninhibited urination, and great sweating, clear food diarrhea, internal cold and external heat, and the pulse is faint and verging on expiry, sì nì tāng (Frigid Extremities Decoction) governs”.

Clause 390 says:

When the vomiting has ceased and the diarrhea has stopped, yet there is sweating and reversal, unresolved hypertonicity of the limbs, and a pulse that is faint and verging on expiry, tōng mài sì nì jiā zhū dǎn zhī tāng (Vessel Freeing Frigid Extremities Decoction Plus Pig’s Bile governs”.

Clause 309 says:

“When in Shào Yīn disease there is vomiting and diarrhea, counterflow cold of the extremities, and vexation and agitation, as if the person is about to die, wú zhū yú tāng (Evodia Decoction) governs”.

In all these presentations, the bodies right qì and yáng qì are both vacuous, and pathogenic qì is strong and exuberant in the interior, already posing a risk and threatening life. One cannot hesitate with treatment, and for there to be a gleam of hope in survival, a major formula to return yáng and stem counterflow must be used.  Now, of course in clinical practice, not all Tài Yīn cases are this critical and severe, but most are chronic conditions, which are basically interior vacuity cold patterns, as seen with the xiǎo bàn xià tāng, dà bàn xià tāng, xuán fù dài zhě tāng, fú líng yǐn, wú zhū yú tāng, lǐ zhōng tāng, dà jiàn zhōng tāng, gān jiāng fù zǐ tāng, fù zǐ tāng, and sì nì tāng presentations. These formulas treat relatively mild Tài Yīn patterns, but from the perspective of the classic formulas categories we can see that many Tài Yīn disease are commonly quite dangerous, and many deaths occur in the Tài Yīn stage, hence the adage “when there is stomach qì, there is life, and the absence of stomach qì bodes death”. Because Tài Yīn patterns are commonly seen, we need to be knowledgeable about the Tài Yīn classic formulas.

Xiǎo Qīng Lóng Tāng from the Zhù Jiě Shāng Hán Lùn

Line 40:

“In cold damage when the exterior has not yet resolved, and there is water qì below the heart, with dry retching, heat effusion, and cough, and possibly thirst or diarrhea, or dysphagia, or inhibited urination and lesser abdominal fullness, or panting, xiǎo qīng lóng tāng (Minor Bluegreen Dragon Decoction) governs”.

In cold damage when the exterior has not yet been resolved and there is water qì below the heart, this will result in the contention of water and cold with cold qì counterflow in the lung manifesting with symptoms of dry retching, heat effusion, and cough. The Acupuncture classic says, “Physical cold with cold rheum damages the lungs”. What this means is that there is contraction of two kinds of cold, and both the center and exterior are damaged, which results in the upward movement of counterflow qì. By administering xiǎo qīng lóng tāng (Minor Bluegreen Dragon Decoction) sweat is effused and water is dissipated. With the steeping of water qì in the interior, several signs can manifest, and therefore it must be resolved and transformed. Cheng Wu-ji.jpeg

Xiǎo Qīng Lóng Tāng (Minor Bluegreen Dragon Decoction)

má huáng (Ephedrae Herba) 3 liǎng (remove nodes), flavor is sweet and warm

sháo yào (Paeoniae Radix) 3 liǎng, flavor is sour and slightly cold

wǔ wèi zǐ (Schisandrae Fructus) ½ shēng, flavor is sour and warm

gān jiāng (Zingiberis Rhizoma) 3 liǎng, flavor is acrid and warm

zhì gān cǎo (Glycyrrhizae Radix preparata) 3 liǎng, flavor is sweet and neutral

guì zhī (Cinnamomi Ramulus) 3 liǎng (remove the bark), flavor is acrid and warm

bàn xià (Pinelliae Rhizoma preparatum) ½ shēng (washed), flavor is acrid and slightly warm

xì xǐn (Asari Herba) 3 liǎng, flavor is acrid and warm.

When cold evils are present in the exterior, without the use of acrid and sweet (medicinals), one would be unable to dissipate them.  Má huáng (Ephedrae Herba), guì zhī (Cinnamomi Ramulus), and gān cǎo (Glycyrrhizae Radix) are acrid and sweet, and can therefore effuse and dissipate cold evils. When there is stoppage of water qì below the heart that fails to move, then the kidney qì will become dry. The Nèi Jīng says, “When the kidneys suffer from dryness, swiftly eat acrid to moisten them”. Gān jiāng (Zingiberis Rhizoma), xì xǐn (Asari Herba), and bàn xià (Pinelliae Rhizoma preparatum) are acrid and can (therefore) move water qì and moisten the kidneys. Coughing counterflow and panting are (the result of) counterflow lung qì.  The Nèi Jīng says, “(When) the lungs desire to be collected (astringed), swiftly eat sour in order to collect them”.  Sháo yào (Paeoniae Radix) and wǔ wèi zǐ (Schisandrae Fructus) are both sour and can collect (astringe) counterflow qì and calm the lungs.

Use one dǒu of water for the eight ingredients above.  First boil the má huáng to reduce the water by two shēng.  Remove the foam collecting on top and add the other ingredients.  Boil until reduced to three shēng, remove the dregs, and take one shēng warm. 


If there is slight diarrhea remove the má huáng and add a piece of ráo huā (Wikstroemia Flos) the size of a chicken egg, and dry fry until red.

With diarrhea one cannot attack the exterior, as when sweat is issued, this will result in distention and fullness. Má huáng effuses yáng, which can lead to the steeping of water into the stomach, inevitably resulting in diarrhea. Ráo huā is able to purge water, and once water is removed, diarrhea will cease. 

If there is thirst, remove bàn xià and add three liǎng of guā lóu gēn (Trichosanthis Radix).

Acrid dries, and bitter moistens. Bàn xià is acrid and can therefore dry fluids, so without thirst it is appropriate.  (Here) there is thirst, and it is therefore eliminated. Guā lóu gēn is bitter and can generate fluids therefore it is added.  

If there is dysphagia, remove má huáng and add one piece of blast-fried fù zǐ (Aconiti Radix lateralis preparata).

The classics say, “when water obtains cold qì, there will be mutual contention amongst them and the person will experience dysphagia”.  Fù zǐ is added to warm and dissipate cold water.  When a person has cold, and sweat is repeatedly effused, this will leave the stomach cold, which will result in the vomiting of roundworms, therefore má huáng is removed out of fear of effusing sweat. 

If urination is inhibited and there is fullness in the lesser abdomen, remove má huáng and add four liǎng of fú líng (Poria).

When there is water amassment in the lower burner that fails to move resulting in inhibited urination and fullness in the lesser abdomen, má huáng is inappropriate as it effuses fluids into the exterior; fú líng discharges amassed water out through the lower, and is therefore used instead. 

Line 40:

If there is panting, remove má huáng and add ½ shēng of xìng rén (Armeniacae Semen amarum), removing the skin and tips.

The Jīn Guì Yào Lüè says, “When a person (suffers) from generalized swelling, one should not add má huáng but instead use xìng rén”.  The reason is that má huáng effuses the yáng. With panting and generalized swelling, water qì is the branch and root of the disease.

Line 41:

“In cold damage when there is water qì below the heart, cough, mild panting, and heat effusion without thirst, (but with) thirst after taking the decoction, this means cold is leaving and (the disease) is about to resolve; xiǎo qīng lóng tāng (Minor Bluegreen Dragon Decoction) governs”.

Cough and mild panting are due to cold water shooting into the lungs. Heat effusion and an absence of thirst are due to an exterior pattern, which has not yet ceased. Xiǎo qīng lóng tāng is given to effuse the exterior and dissipate water. (If) after taking the decoction there is thirst, this means that the interior has been warmed, water qì has been dissipated, and (the disease) is about to resolve.