English: Gentian roots

Chinese: 秦艽

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Gallbladder Stomach Liver

Scientific name: Gentiana macrophylla, Gentiana straminea, Gentiana crassicaulis or Gentiana dahurica

Other names: Large Leaf Gentian

Use of Qin Jiao (gentian roots) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Clean the root and dry it, ideally under the sun

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears either acute or chronic, Cold or Hot Wind-Damp conditions. Clears Heat from Yin Deficiency. Lubricates the Intestines and promotes bowel movements.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Qin Jiao may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Rheumatoid arthritis Joint pain Fever Hepatitis Jaundice

Contraindications*: Not for conditions of frequent urination and pain in weak and Deficient individuals, especially when there is Spleen-Deficient diarrhea.

Common TCM formulas in which Qin Jiao is used*

Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 15 herbs

Formula key actions: Anti-rheumatic, clears Wind, Cold and Damp Stagnation. Strengthens the function of the Liver and Kidney. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic lower back painSciatica and others

Qin Jiao is a deputy ingredient in Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang, Qin Jiao relaxes the sinews and expels the Wind and Dampness.

Read more about Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates Blood. Unblocks painful obstruction. Relieves pain. Invigorate Qi. Dispels Blood Stagnation. Unblock Channels.

Conditions targeted*: Muscle crampsArthralgia and others

Qin Jiao is a deputy ingredient in Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang, Qin Jiao expels Wind Damp

Read more about Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang

Jia Wei Xiang Su San

Source date: 1732 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Promote sweating . Releases the Exterior .

Conditions targeted*: Common coldInfluenza and others

Qin Jiao is a deputy ingredient in Jia Wei Xiang Su San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Jia Wei Xiang Su San, Qin Jiao dispels Wind-Cold and relieves pain from the muscles and channels. 

Read more about Jia Wei Xiang Su San

Shu Zao Yin Zi

Source date: 1253 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Purges and drives out Water. Clears Wind. Releases from the Exterior .

Conditions targeted*: Nephritis with EdemaIncreased intracranial pressure and others

Qin Jiao is an assistant ingredient in Shu Zao Yin Zi. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Shu Zao Yin Zi, Qin Jiao clears the Channels and Exterior, opens the pores and interstices, as well as promotes sweating. This results in draining the water clogging the skin and muscles and facilitates the Qi dynamic. 

Read more about Shu Zao Yin Zi

Key TCM concepts behind Qin Jiao's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Qin Jiao belongs to the 'Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness' category. These herbs typically help treat what's called 'bi pain' (i.e. painful obstruction) in TCM. This roughly corresponds to arthritic and rheumatic conditions with pain, stiffness and numbness of the bones, joints and muscles.

Furthermore Qin Jiao is Cool in nature. This means that Qin Jiao tends to help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition Qin Jiao can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Qin Jiao also tastes Bitter and Pungent. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like Qin Jiao tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients tend to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Qin Jiao is thought to target the Gallbladder, the Stomach and the Liver. Similar to modern medicine, in TCM the Gallbladder stores and releases bile produced by the Liver. It also controls the emotion of decisiveness. The Stomach on the other hand is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.