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Maltose (Yi Tang) in Chinese Medicine


Chinese: 饴糖

Pinyin: Yí Táng

Parts used: The sugar

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach Lung

Scientific name: Saccharum Granorum

Other names: Maltobiose, Malt sugar

Use of maltose (Yi Tang) 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: Maltose is a special form of sugar commonly made from malted barley.

Dosage: 30 to 60 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Fortifies Qi and tonifies the Spleen. Soothes and tonifies the Middle Warmer. Lubricates the Lungs.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which maltose may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Fatigue Loss of appetite Abdominal pain Dry cough Wheezing

Contraindications*: Not to be used for symptoms of Dampness and Heat.

Common TCM formulas in which maltose (Yi Tang) are used*

Xiao Jian Zhong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and tonifies the Middle Burner (Spleen and Stomach). Tonifies Qi. Relieves spasmodic pain.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic gastritisPeptic ulcers and others

Yi Tang is a king ingredient in Xiao Jian Zhong Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Xiao Jian Zhong Tang, Yi Tang Tonifies both the Qi and Blood, generates Fluids, alleviates thirst, and moderates abdominal pain. 

Records of Thoughtful Differentiation of Materia Medica describes Maltose as the "quintessence of a quintessence" because it is distilled from grains such as rice, wheat, or barley, all of which are associated with sweetness and earth. Containing the very essence of earth makes it ideally suited to tonifying the Middle Burner.

Read more about Xiao Jian Zhong Tang

Key TCM concepts behind maltose (Yi Tang)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), maltose are plants that belong to the 'Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Qi tonics are typically sweet and they tend to enter the Spleen and Lungs because these Organs are most involved with the production of Qi.

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

Maltose also taste Sweet. 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. Sweet ingredients like maltose tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such maltose are thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. 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. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.

Use of maltose (Yi Tang) as food

Maltose are also eaten as food.