In fact, in traditional Chinese medicine there are about 4 herbal formulas named Gui Pi Tang, which literally means “Restore the Spleen Decoction” in Chinese. Among them, the most popular one was from Ji Sheng Fang (Formulas to Promote Well-Being), a classic Chinese medicine book compiled by Yan Yonghe (1253 A.D.). Sometimes it is also known as Ginseng and Longan Combination since these are the two major components. When it is available in other forms, it is also called Gui Pi Pian and Gui Pi Wan. Thanks to its high medicinal value, it has been highly regarded by successive generations of physicians. So, as a result, today its indications have been expanded and thus it applies to a huge range of different ailments, from insomnia to depression.
What is Gui Pi Tang?
The formula by Yan Yonghe is mainly used for overthinking, injured heart and spleen due to overwork, forgetfulness, and arrhythmia. Xue Ji, a famous Ming Dynasty gynecologist, later added Dang Gui and Yuan Zhi to this prescription in order to strengthen its nourishing and nerve-soothing effects, extending its indications at the same time. Similarly, other successive generations of physicians kept improving this formula and at the end make what it is now.
So, it consists of Ren Shen (Rx. Ginseng), Huang Qi (Rx. Astragali), Bai Zhu (Rz. Atractylodis Macrocephalae), Fu Ling (Poria), Suan Zao Ren (Sm. Zizyphi Spinosae), Long Yan Rou (Arillus Longan), Mu Xiang (Rx. Aucklandiae), Zhi Gan Cao (Fried Rx. Glycyrrhizae), Dang Gui (Rx. Angelicae Sinensis), Zhi Yuan Zhi (Fried Rx. Polygalae), Sheng Jiang (Rx. Zingiberis Recens), and Da Zao (Fr. Jujube).
This formula is mainly designed to invigorate spleen, supplement Qi, nourish the heart, and enrich the blood. When it comes to ingredients, they play a different role respectively in this formula. Huang Qi strengthens the spleen and augments Qi; Long Yan Rou augments spleen-Qi and nourishes heart-blood; Ren Shen and Bai Zhu augment Qi; Dang Gui nourishes the blood; Fu Ling, Suan Zao Ren, and Yuan Zhi work together to tranquilize the mind; Mu Xiang mobilizes clumped Qi; Gan Cao tonifies Qi and mediates among herbs; Sheng Jiang reconciles the spleen and stomach; Da Zao tonifies both Qi and Blood.
Gui Pi Tang benefits
This formula is mainly formulated for the syndrome due to heart-spleen and Qi-blood deficiency. Its clinical manifestations can be divided into two groups.
On the one hand, it is characterized by the symptoms due to heart-blood deficiency and malnutrition of heart spirit, accompanied by palpitations, arrhythmia, insomnia, forgetfulness, night sweats, asthenic fever, and sallow complexion. And the patients may still suffer from spleen deficiency induced fatigue, loss of appetite, pale tongue with thin coating, and so on.
On the other hand, it is characterized by the symptoms of frenetic movement of the blood caused by deficient spleen’s failure on governing blood, including hematemesis, hematochezia, bruises and blood spots under the skin, advanced menstruation, metrorrhagia and metrostaxis, and the like. In comparison, the former one is more common. So, it means that the application of Gui Pi Tang should go with the syndrome differentiation clinically.
Modern pharmacological actions of Gui Pi Tang
1. Antidepressant effects. It can counteract the abnormal secretion of serum corticosterone and maintain normal secretion of Estradiol (E2) in model rats. Besides, its antidepressant effects may be related to the maintenance of normal secretion of corticosterone and E2.
2. Anti-ulcer effect. The experimental results show that it has an inhibitory effect on stress ulcer, reserpine-induced ulcer and indomethacin-induced gastric ulcer. And it has no obvious influence on gastric acid secretion.
3. Action on the blood system. It improves the microcirculation of the bone marrow, increases the hematopoietic tissue of bone marrow, promotes the proliferation and differentiation of pluripotent stem cell and the maturation of immature neutrophils, extends the life of neutrophils, and so on. In addition, it promotes albumin synthesis, increases the amount of hemoglobin, and replenishes a variety of vitamins and trace elements.
According to modern pharmacological studies, this herbal formula can still increase blood sugar, prevent burns and thermal shock, increase hemoglobin, improve blood coagulation, strengthen and excite nervous system and endocrine function, and so on. Thanks to these complex pharmacological effects, it has a wide range of indications, including gastric and duodenal ulcers, functional uterine bleeding, aplastic anemia, thrombocytopenic purpura, hematuria, neurasthenia, menstrual psychosis, heart disease, and on son. Once again, the treatment with this decoction should presuppose that the diseases are caused by heart-spleen or Qi-blood deficiency.
Gui Pi Tang side effects and contraindications
1. It does not apply to patients with a cold or excessive internal heat;
2. Children, pregnant women, and patients with high blood pressure or diabetes should take it under the guidance of a physician;
3. It may cause dry mouth. The patients often feel thirsty but have no desire to drink water.
4. It may cause nasal dryness. It is more due to dryness-heat injuring lung, excess heat in lung channel, or excessive stomach heat. Besides, sometimes it can be the result of lung deficiency too.
5. It may cause reduction of stool frequency and constipation, or occasionally digestive tract symptoms, dry skin, and abnormal liver function. But these symptoms will disappear after stopping medication.
6. It is a good idea to always ask a doctor before using Gui Pi Wan (teapills), Tang (Decoction) or Pian (Tablets) if the patients are taking other drugs too.