Chinese Herbal Formulas

From the perspective of a complete outsider, ancient Chinese herbal formulas and applications may be so mysterious. But if you ever visited a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner, you would know well how it goes. Typically the Chinese herbalist will give you a herbal prescription that contains a variety of Chinese herbs attached dosage after the four traditional methods of diagnosis – observation, listening, interrogation, and pulse-taking.

Chinese herbal formulas’ treatment principles and composition strategies

So here comes the question. How can I tell is it a good or bad prescription? It is a very good question but unfortunately you won’t get that answer until it was taken as a patient. But from an experienced herbalist’s eyes, this group of herbs reveals a lot of useful information although to some others it is just put together randomly. Generally the reasons for a good prescription are twofold. Firstly, it pinpoints the condition. Secondarily, it has a reasonable compatibility structure according to a certain law. It is this fundamental law that is behind the formulas and rules this kingdom. TCM wise, it is also known as monarch, minister, assistant and guide – each herb plays a role respectively to keep the healthy system running smoothly.

  • Monarch drug refers to the herb that plays the leading role in the treatment. It is the foremost one and should be used in larger dosage compared as ministerial drug. In other words, it is primary and indispensable in a prescription.
  • The roles of ministerial drug are twofold. Firstly, it assists monarch drug to reinforce its effect in therapy. Secondarily, it mainly targets the auxiliary conditions or symptoms, in which it is used in a less dosage compared to monarch drug.
  • The purposes of adjuvant drug are threefold. Firstly, it helps monarch and ministerial drugs to strengthen the efficacy or treat secondary symptoms and signs. Secondarily, it is used to neutralize or mitigate the toxicity and violence of monarch and ministerial drugs. Thirdly, monarch drug and it supplement each other although they are in opposite nature. Generally it has less impact and should be used in less dosage than ministerial drug.
  • The applications of conductant drug are twofold. Firstly, it is a guiding drug that ushers all other herbs to the lesions. Secondarily, it reconciles all herbs involved. Its effect is least so that it is used in least dosage compared to other three.

The treatment principles and composition strategies in Chinese herbal remedies make sense because they come from hundreds of thousands of years of field experience directly. Take the commonly used recipe of Liu Wei Di Huang Wan (Pill of Six Ingredients with Rehmannia) as an example. In this formula mainly for nourishing yin and tonifying kidney, Shu Di Huang (Rehmannia, Chinese Foxglove Root) is used up to 24g, which is the monarch drug to replenish vital essence, tonify kidney-yin and nourish the bone marrow; Shan Zhu Yu (Asiatic Cornelian Cherry Fruit) and Shan Yao (Chinese Yam) are ministerial drugs in 12g . The former tonifies liver-kidney and arrests seminal emission and the latter nourishes spleen Yin and controls nocturnal emission; there are three adjuvant drugs in 9g. Ze Xie (Water Plantain Root) promotes diuresis to discharge kidney turbidness while offseting the greasy property of rehmannia. Mu Dan Pi (Tree Peony Root Cortex) clears away hyperaction mingmen fire while reining the warm and astringent nature of Shan Zhu Yu. Fu Ling (Poria) induces diuresis while assisting the transforming and transporting of Shan Yao.

Essential Chinese herbal prescriptions

There are tremendous amount of herbal formulas out there. It is painful and impossible to finish them all. Mastering those essential ones is totally enough to tailor your own formulas after perusal and getting the hang of them. So, here are our recommended herbal formulas categorized by functions.

Formulas that release the exterior

Formulas that relieve summerheat

Formulas that drain downward

Formulas that clear heat

  • Clear heat and reduce fire
  • Clear heat and eliminate toxins
  • Clear heat and purge lung fire
  • Cleanse liver and resolves toxicity
  • Clear dampness-heat in liver and bladder
  • Clear dampness-heat in intestines and stomach

Formulas that warm interior

  • Warm the Middle and Dispel Cold
  • Rescue Devastated Yang and restore pulse

Formulas that relieve cough and asthma

  • Warm and transform cold-phlegm
  • Clear heat and transform phlegm
  • Moisten lung dryness and transform phlegm
  • Relieving asthma

Formulas that open orifices

  • Clear heat and open the orifices
  • Transform phlegm and open the orifices with aromatic herbs

Formulas that induce astringency and arrest discharge

Formulas that tonify

  • Tonify the Qi
  • Tonify the Blood
  • Nourish and Tonify the Yin
  • Warm and Tonify the Yang

Formulas that calm spirit

Formulas that regulate blood

  • Arrest Bleeding
  • Tonify the deficient blood
  • Cool the heat in blood
  • Promote blood circulation by removing blood stasis

Formulas that eliminate blood stasis

  • Benefit Qi to activate blood circulation
  • Nourish blood to invigorate the blood
  • Remove blood stasis and relieve chest tightness
  • Remove blood stasis to promote coronary circulation

Formulas that regulate the Qi

  • Disperse stagnated liver Qi
  • Soothe liver Qi and regulate stomach

Formulas that help digestion

Formulas that dispel wind

  • Dispel wind pathogen
  • Suppress hyperactive liver to calm endogenous wind
  • Extinguish wind and dredge collaterals

Formulas that drain dampness

  • Disper cold-dampness and dredge channel blockade
  • Clear damp-heat and dredge channel blockade
  • Dispel wind-dampness and dredge channel blockade
  • Reduce edema by diuresis
  • Clear damp-heat and free stranguria

Formulas that reconcile

Formulas for dryness

  • Gently disperse and moisten dryness
  • Enrich the Yin and moisten dryness

Formulas that lower cholestrol

Formulas for tumors

  • Treat tumors
  • Adjuvant therapy after chemoradiotherapy

Formulas for external therapies

  • Treat lithangiuria
  • Resolve carbuncle and expulse boil
  • Eliminate haemorrhoids
  • Eliminate scrofuloderm

Formulas for women

  • Regulate Qi and nourish the blood
  • Promote blood circulation for removing blood stasis
  • Clear heat
  • Support spleen-stomach

Formulas for ophthalmology

  • Clear heat
  • Support spleen-stomach

Formulas for ENT

  • Ear
  • Nose
  • Throat

Formulas for orthopedics

Formulas for skin disorders

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