Being an integral part of the nature, the rhythm of human body always synchronize the changing seasons in the eyes of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Hence it becomes an unwritten rule that preferred timing for nourishing Yang is in spring and summer while nourishing Yin in autumn and winter. In regards to Chinese herbal remedies for regulating and tonifying yang Qi, Si Jun Zi Tang Wan, Four Gentlemen Decoction or Teapills, is one of essential herbal formulas any TCM Practitioners can’t afford to ignore.
What is Si Jun Zi Tang?
As many as 7 prescriptions with the same name recorded in Chinese medical literature, the most widespread one is from Taiping Huimin Heji Jufang, also known as Pharmacopoeia of the Taiping Welfare Dispensary Bureau.
Being a well-known traditional basic recipe mainly for Qi deficiency in spleen and stomach, this famous prescription inspires many subsequent herbalists and invigorating-spleen-and-replenishing-qi formulas, such as Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Tonify the Middle and Augment Qi Decoction), Shen Ling Bai Zhu San (Ginseng, Poria and Atractylodes Powder), and Liu Jun Zi Tang (Six Gentlemen Decoction), etc. Similarly, it is commonly believed that this prescription was derived from Li Zhong Wan (Rectify the Center Pill), which was included in Zhang Zhong-jing’s Shang Han Lun (Treatise on Cold Damage) in Han dynasty.
Composed of following four Chinese herbs, this formula is considered mild in nature, no less cold and no more heat. Ren Shen, Bai Zhu, Gan Cao, and Fu Ling, as herb doctors have seen, are impartial in quality, just like nobleman with moderate virtue. So it is named of The Four Gentlemen because of that reason.
- Ren Shen – Ginseng Root;
- Bai Zhu – Atractylodes Macrocephala;
- Gan Cao – Licorice Root;
- Fu Ling – Poria, China Root.
Main usage and indications
Si Jun Zi Tang is an expert to tonify Qi and invigorate the spleen. Main usage and indications are syndromes of deficient Qi in spleen and stomach, which are characterized by a series of symptoms and signs like pale face, soft weak voice, loose stools, short of breath, fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness in the limbs, light-colored tongue with white coating, and feeble pulse, etc.
Modern medicine studies also show that this prescription has following functions.
- Improve gastrointestinal function, often used in CG (Chronic Gastritis) and gastroduodenal ulcer due to deficient spleen Qi; (1)
- Strengthen the body’s immune function; (2)
- Improve bone marrow hematopoietic function and speed up the production of red blood cells; (3)
- Leverage the repairing of hepatic tissue and improve therapy for shock by promoting the rising of blood pressure. (4)
Mechanism behind this prescription
As stated, this formula originates from Li Zhong Wan and replaces one herb only, Gan Jiang into Fu Ling, which actually changes the nature from warming spleen-stomach for dispelling cold to supplement Qi and tonify spleen. The reason is that Fu Ling is mild in nature while Gan Jiang is famous for its strong dryness by warming. So, the former is good at Qi deficiency of spleen-stomach while the latter deficient cold in middle Jiao.
Spleen being the acquired foundation and source of generation and transforming of blood-Qi, TCM believes that regulating spleen and stomach’s functions tends to be the basic link to cheer up overall yang Qi. Simply four herbs combined, it presents perfectly by the formulating rule of monarch, minister, assistant and guide.
- Ren Shen, the monarch herb, supplements Qi, nourishes stomach, and invigorates spleen by its sweet-warming nature;
- Bai Zhu, the ministerial herb, dries damp spleen to reinforce spleen Qi and improve the functions of transportation and transformation;
- Fu Ling, the adjuvant herb, strengthens spleen to eliminate dampness and join force with the minister to boost the function of clearing damp;
- Zhi Gan Cao, the guiding herb, tonifies Qi, harmonize middle Jiao, and reconcile all the above-mentioned herbs.
The combination of The Four Gentlemen excites the spleen-stomach Qi, restores the spleen functions of transportation and transformation, and nourishes blood-Qi at the same time. Clinically it is widely used in treatments of Chronic Gastritis (CG), Peptic Ulcer, and chronic enteritis causing by spleen-stomach Qi deficiency.
In addition, this prescription can be tailored to the individual patient by adding or reducing some certain herbs. Common variations are as follows:
- Ban Xia (Pinellia Rhizome) added when vomit accompanied;
- Add Zhi Ke (Ripe Fruit of Zhi Shi) and Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel) to activate Qi and relieve distention and fullness in chest and diaphragm;
- Suan Zao Ren (Sour Jujube Seed) added for calming heart and tranquillization when palpitation and insomnia involved;
- Add Gan Jiang (Dried Ginger Root) and Fu Zi (Prepared Aconite Root) to warm middle energizer for dispelling cold when combined with aversion to cold, cold extremities, and stomachache or bellyache.
Possible side effects and contraindications
TCM wise, Si Jun Zi Wan or Tang is a safe formula that has been used for centuries. But attention please, use it according to the related principles mentioned above or simply consult a registered Chinese medicine practitioner when necessary.
(1). Xin Zhong Yi (NEW JOURNAL OF TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE) 1978(5):53, Xin Yi Xue (New Medicine) 1979(7):305;
(2). Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi (Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine) 1984(6):63;
(3). Zhong Yi Yan Jiu Tong Xun (Chinese Medicine Research and Communications) 1963(8):3
(4). Jiao Xue Dong Tai (Teaching Trends) 1979(1):23，Zhong Yi Yan Jiu Tong Xun 1963(8):3;
(5). Taiping Huimin Heji Jufang (Pharmacopoeia of the Taiping Welfare Dispensary Bureau).