There are a few different versions of Liu Jun Zi Tang (Six Gentlemen Formula) in Chinese herbal remedies. But it is generally acknowledged that the version from Yi Xue Zheng Zhuan (Orthodox Medical Record) is the most used one. So, the following discussion will start with it only.
What is Liu Jun Zi Tang?
It has a few different names like Liu Junzi Tang, Six gentlemen Teapills, Six Gentlemen Decoction, and Six Noble Combination because of the translation differences.
The earliest recorded use of this formula was in 16th century. A herbalist named Chen Zi Ming in Song dynasty compiled a medical book of Jiao Zhu Fu Ren Liang Fang (Collation and Annotation of Effective Prescriptions for Women), in which then it was incorporated. Later Liu Jun Zi Wan and Tang were also mentioned in a few other famous TCM works like Yi Xue Zheng Zhuan. That is to say, its history begins more than six hundred years ago. It is one of the few highly-regarded TCM prescriptions so that a lot of insightful researches have been done to verify its remarkable functions on a series of conditions like dyspepsia.
Ren Shen – Radix Ginseng
Zhi Gan Cao – Honey Fried Licorice Root
Fu Ling – Poria
Bai Zhu – Atractylodes Macrocephala
Chen Pi – Tangerine Peel
Ban Xia – Pinellia Rhizome
Main functions of this herbal prescription are to tonify spleen, benefit vital energy, eliminate dampness, and transform phlegm. Main usage and indications include dyspepsia, loss of appetite, excessive amount of phlegm due to Qi deficiency, cough, weak limbs, abdominal distension, and loose stools, or accompanied with belch occasionally.
Today’s research shows that it is capable of regulating gastroenteric movement and releasing spasm of gastrointestinal smooth muscle. And it also regulates abnormal intestinal motility due to chills and fever. In addition, it also inhibits gastric mucosal lesion, regulate gastrointestinal secretory function, and regulate body immunity function.
Mechanism behind this formula
According to the theory of monarch, minister, assistant and guide, different Chinese herbs perform different jobs.
(1). Ren Shen in this formula is the monarch herb as it reinforces vital energy and tonifies spleen;
(2). Bai Zhu is the ministerial drug, which is to tonify spleen and dry dampness due to spleen preferring dryness to dampness. Strength of tonifying spleen is thus enhanced with the combination with Ren Shen;
(3). Fu Ling, Ban Xia, and Chen Pi are adjuvant drugs to improve the function of the spleen to increase the excretion of water;
(4). Gan Cao is a guiding drug to harmonize all the herbs used above.
Probably you will find that only two more herbs of Chen Pi and Ban Xia are added, compared with Si Jun Zi Tang, which is the foundation of plenty of subsequent Chinese herbal formulas exclusively for deficiency of spleen and stomach Qi, such as BU PI Yi Chang Wan (Tonify Spleen and Invigorate Intestines Formula) and Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Ginseng and Astragalus Combination) mentioned in previous posts.
But they are not exchangeable as they have different priorities respectively.
(1). Liu Jun Zi is suitable for weakness of spleen and stomach accompanied with obvious phlegm and retained fluid;
(2). Si Jun Zi prefers Qi deficiency with light phlegm and retained fluid;
(3). Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang (Six Gentlemen Decoction with Aucklandia and Amomum Combination) is specialized at stomachache and diarrhea due to deficient cold;
(4). Qi Wei Bai Zhu San (Seven Flavors Atractylodes Powder) is good at fever, thirst, and diarrhea due to spleen deficiency.
Possible side effects and contraindications
This formula is quite mild and considered with no side effects. It is suitable for a variety of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract even though in long-term use. But some believes that its adverse reaction remains unclear yet. TCM wise, it should not to be taken in Yin deficiency of spleen-stomach and during pregnancy. If taken improperly, main clinical manifestations like dryness of the mouth, red tongue with little saliva, and constipation may follow.
- Yi Xue Zheng Zhuan (Orthodox Medical Record) (Volume 3);
- Shi Yi De Xiao Fang (Effective Formulas Tested by Physicians for Generations) (Volume 5);
- Song Ya Zun Sheng Shu (Volume 8);
- Zhu Shi Ji Yan Fang (Volume 11);
- Dan Xi Xin Fa (Dan Xi’s Experiential Methods) (Volume 4).