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: Remove impurities, wash and dry.
Dosage: 9 - 30 grams
Main actions according to TCM*: Expels true or Internal Heat and cools the Blood. Tonifies the Yin. Reduces inflammations and drains Fire toxicity. Reduces hard nodules, especially associated with the lymph.
Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Spleen or Stomach Deficiency or Dampness especially when there is diarrhea.
Source date: 1798 AD
Number of ingredients: 3 herbs
Formula key actions: Nourishes Yin and Essence. Lubricates Dryness.
Xuan Shen is a king ingredient in Zeng Ye Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.
Source date: 1573 AD
Number of ingredients: 10 herbs
Formula key actions: Nourishes Lung and Kidney Yin. Lubricates the Lung and clears phlegm.
Xuan Shen is a deputy ingredient in Bai He Gu Jin Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.
Source date: 16th century
Number of ingredients: 14 herbs
Formula key actions: Nutritive tonic: Nourishes Yin, Blood and Vital Essence of the Heart and Kidney. Clears away pathogenic Heat, clears Deficient Heat. Sedative.
Xuan Shen is a deputy ingredient in Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Xuan Shen belongs to the 'Herbs that cool the Blood' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Internal Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an Excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that cool the Blood treat the latter and as such tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.
As suggested by its category Xuan Shen is Cold in nature. This means that Xuan Shen typically helps people who have too much 'Heat' in their body. 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 Xuan Shen can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.
Xuan Shen also tastes Bitter. 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 Xuan Shen tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.
The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Xuan Shen is thought to target the Large intestine, the Liver and the Stomach. In TCM the Large Intestine receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. The Liver on the other hand 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. The Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine.
Extracts of the rhizomes of Picrorhiza scrophulariiflora Pennell (Scrophulariaceae) showed potent inhibitory activity towards the classical pathway of the complement system, the respiratory burst of activated polymorphonuclear leukocytes, and mitogen-induced proliferation of T-lymphocytes. Furthermore, such extracts showed anti-inflammatory activity towards carrageenan-induced paw edema.1
1. HF Smit, BH Kroes, AJJ Van den Berg et al. (2000). Immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory activity of Picrorhiza scrophulariiflora. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 73(1–2), p. 101-109, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-8741(00)00268-3