Shen Qu (Medicated leaven) in Chinese Medicine

English: Medicated leaven

Chinese: 神曲

Parts used: This is a fermented combination of wheat flour, Artemisia annua, Xanthium, Polygonum hydropiper and other herbs.

TCM category: Herbs that relieve Food Stagnation

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): PungentSweet

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach

Scientific name: Massa fermentata

Use of Shen Qu (medicated leaven) 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: Typically, medicated leaven consists of a mixture of wheat flower, artemisia annua, xanthium, polygonum and other herbs. Sometimes, it is made with mashed apricot kernels and artemisia. The mixture is covered, fermented for a period of one week, cut into small pieces, then dried in the sun.

Dosage: 9 - 15 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Assists the Stomach in removing Food Stagnation. Harmonizes the Earth element and improves digestion.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Shen Qu may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Abdominal pain Abdominal colic Abdominal bloating Loss of appetite Diarrhea Stomach rumble

Contraindications*: This product should not be used by pregnant women nor by those with Stomach 'Fire.

Common TCM formulas in which Shen Qu is used*

Bao He Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Reduces food stagnation. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Conditions targeted*: GastroenteritisChronic gastritis and others

Shen Qu is a deputy ingredient in Bao He Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Bao He Wan, Shen Qu is especially useful in reducing the stagnant accumulation of alcohol and food. It directs Qi downward to transform Phlegm, warms the Stomach to transform thin mucus, and strengthens the Spleen to alleviate diarrhea and distention.

Read more about Bao He Wan

Zhi Shi Dao Zhi Wan

Source date: 1247 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Reduces and guides out stagnation and accumulation. Drains heat. Dispels dampness.

Shen Qu is a deputy ingredient in Zhi Shi Dao Zhi Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Zhi Shi Dao Zhi Wan, Shen Qu reduces the stagnant accumulation of alcohol, one of the main causes of Damp-Heat. It also directs Qi downward to transform Phlegm, warms the Stomach to transform thin mucus, and strengthens the Spleen to alleviate diarrhea and distention.

Read more about Zhi Shi Dao Zhi Wan

Yue Ju Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Releases all types of Stagnation (Qi, Blood, Phlegm, Fire, Food and Dampness).

Conditions targeted*: Peptic ulcersIrritable bowel syndrome and others

Shen Qu is an assistant ingredient in Yue Ju Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Yue Ju Wan, Shen Qu helps clear food Stagnation and it harmonizes the Stomach.

Read more about Yue Ju Wan

Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan

Source date: 1817 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Resolves Dampness and Phlegm.

In Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, Shen Qu helps digestion and dissolves food accumulation in the Stomach, which will help to resolve Phlegm.

Read more about Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan

Key TCM concepts behind Shen Qu's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shen Qu belongs to the 'Herbs that relieve Food Stagnation' category. These herbs typically possess digestive and Food moving properties as they relate to the Stomach and Spleen. Some of these herbs are high in digestive enzymes and have varying specific abilities to help with the digestion of food.

Furthermore Shen Qu is Warm in nature. This means that Shen Qu tends 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 Shen Qu can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Shen Qu also tastes Pungent and 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. Pungent ingredients like Shen Qu tends 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. On the other hand Sweet ingredients 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 Shen Qu is thought to target the Spleen and the Stomach. 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.